Ted Cruz recently gave his endorsement to Donald Trump citing a fact what every person knows: Hillary Clinton could be worse than Trump as President. In fact, that reality was the reality when Cruz withdrew from the race, when Trump seized the nomination, when Cruz told delegates in Cleveland to “vote your conscience,” and every day between then and now.
When the heat of the battle was on, according to Cruz, Trump was everything from a philanderer, a liar, “utterly amoral,” and a narcissist. For months, Cruz was mocked by Trump calling him “Lyin’ Ted,” insulted his wife’s looks, threatened to “spill the beans” on said wife, and suggested Rafael Cruz was involved in the JFK assassination. He even asserted that Cruz was ineligible to run for the office because he was born in Canada. Trump’s birtherism knows no bounds.
Yet, that is now all water under the bridge. Nothing to see here- it’s just things people say in the heat of the campaign. It’s great that Ted’s family now “forgives” Trump for the insults and accusations, but should Ted Cruz himself?
After all, this is a man whose entire persona and cause was standing up to politics as usual and the “Washington cartel.” He claims that he stands on principle, not petty politics even if that means going against the wishes of his party and it’s leadership. That is all washed away in a Ted Cruz Facebook posting endorsing Trump.
Perhaps those accusations and criticisms against Cruz by some of his opponents, including Trump, were true after all- that Cruz would rather grandstand than play nice even when playing nice meshes nicely with his position. What else explains going to the Cleveland convention and telling delegates to “vote your conscience,” which was a loud non-endorsement of Donald Trump? If Cruz intended to honor that meaningless pledge to support the ultimate nominee, then why not just do it at the convention?
And do Trump’s policies and ideas, such that they exist, have anything in common with the policies, ideas, and beliefs of Ted Cruz? Would a Ted Cruz, for example, be advocating “extreme vetting,” a wall along the Mexican border, or universal paid maternity leave?
This endorsement damaged the Cruz persona and brand. If an endorsement enhances that brand, then it makes sense. But after positioning himself as the ultimate outsider willing to take on the status quo by standing on principle, we find that Cruz is just another politician and sounds like everyone else who jumped on the Trump train. When you sound like everyone else- and his reasons sound like those of everyone else- you no longer have a unique brand.
And, unless they already jumped ship, his endorsement is not going to send the most avid of Cruz supporters into the arms of Donald Trump. Instead, his remaining base whose support was predicated on the Cruz brand will likely split with some leaving and some remaining and excusing away his action. It is happening already. Those that leave will be the dejected ones.
Almost within minutes of the endorsement, the Internet and social media were all over Cruz making fun of his turnaround with memes running from the famed frog Pepe, the Zodiac killer, and quotes from The Princess Bride. In effect, Cruz became a parody. Many have noted the Trump attacks on the Cruz family and questioned how a man who allegedly stood on principle and who called Trump a “sniveling coward” for attacking his wife could now endorse Trump. They have a point.
This is not the action of someone who stands on principle. These are the actions of a political opportunist. Cruz took true principled risk to climb to the top of the political heap. But in the aftermath of the Trump nomination, the possibility that he may face a fight in his Senate reelection bid in 2018, the reality that some of his benefactors had defected, and the polls showing that he may face stiff competition from Mike McCaul or Rick Perry, that potential loss of influence and being knocked from those lofty heights was just to much to fathom.
Once you reach those heights, you just do not want to leave. Cruz looked around and got scared because 2018 is his stepping stone to 2020 (if Trump loses) or 2024. Along the way, he tarnished his brand and has some questioning his principles.
Kendal Unruh, the Colorado delegate who sat on the Rules Committee and tried to pass a “conscience” rule with regards to the nomination (sounds like that Cruz speech), said it best: “Ted Cruz is not my conscience.” That is a more principled stance than that of Ted Cruz.
At least we still have Ben Sasse and Mike Lee to still look up to, and possibly John Kasich. And that is a sad statement on people who stand on principle when John Kasich exceeds Ted Cruz. Or even Jeb Bush. At least we kind of knew Marco Rubio was an opportunistic politician, but then again he never ran around the country declaring himself “the most consistently conservative principled candidate in this race.”
Perhaps this action will help repair the rift between Cruz and party leadership and perhaps to the voters of Texas in 2018 the Trump endorsement will be a long-forgotten footnote on this bizarre year in politics. But, principled conservatism lost another warrior to the forces of political opportunism. Ted Cruz is just another politician.