On Wednesday night, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke before the Republican National Convention. Cruz received a long standing ovation, then led off by congratulating Donald Trump on winning the Republican nomination. This received another standing ovation. “Like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November,” Cruz said. But it was as close to an endorsement as Cruz would get.
Cruz began by talking about Michael Smith, a police sergeant murdered in Dallas. He said that he had no idea whom Smith backed in the election, but Smith’s life was a testament to devotion. “He protected the very protesters who mocked him,” Cruz said, “because he loved his country and his fellow man.”
Cruz continued by decrying the lives destroyed by evil in Dallas, Orlando, Paris, and Baton Rouge. “What if this, right now, is our last time – our last moment to do something for our families and our country?” Cruz asked. “Did we live up to the values we believe? Did we do all we really could?”
Cruz said that we were fighting for something beyond a candidate or campaign, but because “we want to be able to say that we did our best for their future and our country.” Freedom matters, said Cruz – that is the basic idea of America. Speaking glowingly of American exceptionalism, Cruz said, “Our nation is exceptional because it was built on the five most beautiful and powerful words in the English language: I want to be free.”
Cruz said that America is a nation divided, and citizens are “rightly furious at a political establishment that cynically breaks its promises and that ignores the will of the people. We have to do better. We owe our fallen heroes more than that.”
Then Cruz got aggressive.
Cruz said Obama and Clinton said they cared about our children’s future, but there is a difference in vision for the future. “Theirs is the party that thinks ISIS is a jayvee team, that responds to the deaths of Americans in Benghazi by asking, ‘What difference does it make?’ And that thinks it’s possible to make a deal with Iran, which celebrates as holidays, ‘Death to America Day’ and ‘Death to Israel Day.’ My friends, this is madness."
Cruz accused the Obama administration of exporting jobs and importing terrorists. “Enough is enough,” he concluded. “And I am here to tell you that there is a better vision for our future: a return to freedom.”
That meant rejection of Obamacare, lowering taxes, keeping the internet free, avoiding political correctness, said Cruz. “Whether you are Christian or Jew, Muslim or atheist,” said Cruz, freedom of religion matters. “Whether you are gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience.” Freedom, said Cruz, means the right to keep and bear arms and to protect your family. Freedom means protection of the unborn; Supreme Court justices who follow the Constitution; states’ rights and local values.
In any normal year, this would be rote rhetoric. Thanks to Donald Trump, it’s a near-revelation.
“Hillary Clinton believes government should make virtually every choice in your life,” Cruz said. “But something powerful is happening...Voters are overwhelmingly rejecting the establishment, and voters are overwhelmingly rejecting big government. That is a profound victory, and it is one earned by each and every one of us. People are fed up with politicians who don’t listen to them.” And, said Cruz, we must build a wall to keep America safe.
“Freedom will bring back jobs and raise wages,” said Cruz. “Freedom will lift people out of dependency to the dignity of work.”
Cruz concluded by complimenting various Americans: soldiers, the victims in Charleston, the Alton Sterling family for calling for non-violence. “We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values,” Cruz stated, “who cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect from everybody. And to those listening, don’t stay home in November…stand and speak and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
Then, when New York began chanting, “We want Trump,” Cruz quipped, “I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation.”
Cruz finished, “We will be able to say: freedom matters, and I was part of something beautiful. The case we have to make for the American people, the case each person has to make to the American people is to commit to each of them that we will defend freedom and be faithful to the Constitution. We will unite the party, we will unite the country by standing for shared values, by standing for liberty.”
Cruz received extraordinarily loud boos as he exited the stage without endorsing Trump. Cruz's wife, Heidi, had to be escorted from the hall by security.
But Trump already knew what was happening – and he suddenly appeared in the arena to join his family in the middle of Cruz’s conclusion. Zeke Miller of Time reported that the Trump team actively whipped up the boos in the room.
This, in a nutshell, is the conflict: conservatives who still believe in principle, and are therefore either undecided on Trump, against Trump, or unenthused but obliged to vote Trump by anti-Hillary sentiment; and an enthusiastic band of Republicans willing to overturn principle to cheer Trump forward. And that enthusiastic Trumpster crowd is driving legitimate conservative fear that conservatism will be buried by them.