The whole Republican National Convention has been an unwatchable disaster, including a range of self-inflicted mistakes ranging from Melania Trump’s plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, to right-wing talk radio host Laura Ingraham closing her speech with a Nazi salute, to a bunch of grieving mothers basically accusing Hillary of murdering their children, to Donald Trump’s delusional, narcissistic, openly fascist, fear-mongering acceptance speech. (I don’t even have jokes about the Trump campaign anymore. This is beyond joking. Trump has reached full Political Satire Inception Mode.) But perhaps the lowlight (or highlight?) of the whole week was when Ted Cruz got booed off the stage on prime time national television after issuing a pointed non-endorsement of Donald Trump.
Lots of people have been offering grudging praise to Ted Cruz for his speech, but let’s not go overboard—yes, it took guts for Cruz to do what he did, and he deserves some credit for not completely mindlessly falling in line behind this combover-wearing madman like all of the other jerks in his party—but Ted Cruz is not a national hero. Ted Cruz is just doing what he’s always done: he’s looking out for Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz is not some defiant martyr standing up to Trump when no one else would; he’s just being the same hyper-ambitious hustler he’s always been.
His speech was really aimed at picking up the pieces of the GOP after Trump loses in November. Even before this election is over, Cruz is already gearing up for the next election! Cruz is trying to position himself— already!—to be the heir apparent for the 2020 GOP nomination. Is that noble or selfless? Hardly. I think it’s just Ted Cruz playing the percentages: he knows that Trump hates him, and even if Trump somehow won the election in November, Cruz would have no role in Trump’s new world order. So why not make it clear to the Republican Party that Ted Cruz is not going to be part of the Party of Trump?
And frankly, if his goal was to insult and humiliate Trump, Ted Cruz’s speech didn’t go far enough. During the campaign, Trump insulted Cruz’s wife (by insinuating that she was ugly and that Trump had some dirt on her) and father (by suggesting that Cruz’s Cuban father was involved in the assassination of JFK) and called him “Lyin’ Ted” on Twitter for months, but now the best Cruz can do is a milquetoast speech where he never actually insulted Trump by name and instead just limply told the RNC delegates to “vote your conscience?” Yes, it took courage for Cruz to stand in front of Trump’s braying mob and refuse to endorse their Fuhrer, but this is still pretty weak stuff. If you’re going to get booed off the stage on national TV, make it count! Get in some personal insults! Raise the stakes!
Also: why did Trump invite Cruz to speak at the convention in the first place, especially if he knew that Cruz wasn’t going to endorse him? None of this makes any sense. It’s as if Trump wanted Cruz to create drama; like Trump thrives on conflict and chaos, like he needs people to slight him and insult his ego so he can overreact and lash out in angry, stupid ways. Donald Trump is a 70-year-old man with the temperament and attention span of a particularly unpleasant, spoiled 10-year-old rich boy. His convention, like his campaign, has been run in a jaw-droppingly amateurish fashion, but somehow he is now in position to possibly win America’s most powerful office and ruin all of our lives in ways we can’t begin to imagine. And yet…we’re supposed to cheer for Ted Cruz to save us? If Ted Cruz becomes the Republican nominee for president in 2020, we’re going to be right back here having this same conversation, except maybe with less plagiarism from Cruz’s wife. Ted Cruz is no better than Trump. The entire Republican Party is a smoldering pile of toxic waste.
The RNC has been an unwatchable disaster, but perhaps the biggest disaster has been seeing Ted Cruz exploit his moment in the spotlight to burnish his future campaign credentials while getting praised as a sympathetic figure. Because Ted Cruz doesn’t deserve massive applause here—he didn’t do anything seriously brave, he did the bare minimum. He did something that every decent, thinking person in his party should have done long ago: he refused to endorse Donald Trump. You know your political party is doomed when Ted Cruz is the last remaining voice of reason.