When NPR hit me up earlier today asking about Cruz’s endorsement of Trump, I was asked to give an opinion before I even knew for certain it was happening. I was hoping that Ted would hold out, and give #NeverTrump the public face it needed to continue to effectively project between now and November.
Needless to say, I was disappointed.
As someone who supported Ted through a number of significant policy disagreements – though I did call him out on them – this disappointment is more personal. When people have bled with you the way we have with Ted, you don’t hang them out to dry six weeks before an election.
Here are my immediate thoughts on Cruz’s endorsement and the future of #NeverTrump.
1) It’s not going to help Cruz.
Ted isn’t going to gain a damn thing from endorsing Trump. Throwing his support to someone he admits is a big-government liberal is confusing at best, and at worst, just as politically-calculated as others have long presumed his decisions to be.
Today Cruz traded in a viable 2020 candidacy and the admiration of principled conservatives across America for the laughing derision of an orange-haired demagogue and a pat on the head from the RNC. Perhaps worst of all, it’s not even going to result in any goodwill from the guy who slandered Ted’s family. Trump didn’t want Cruz’s endorsement for votes. He wanted to emasculate the only significant figure who actually challenged him.
2) It’s not going to help Trump, either.
Those of us who oppose Trump because we’re terrified of the policies he has promised to enact as president, really don’t care how many “conservative” leaders get on board with him. Most of them were on board with Bush, McCain, and Romney too.
Cruz’s endorsement isn’t going to move the dial one point for Trump, because Cruz’s constituency has nothing in common with Trump. The only tangible benefit to Trump is the comfort of knowing he now sits unopposed atop a party that’s rapidly being remade in his own ignorant, quasi-fascist image.
3) I don’t blame Ted – or anyone – for voting Trump for fear of Hillary. But publicly endorsing Trump, after spending months cementing yourself as the leader of a principled resistance to Trump’s brand of liberalism, is a complete betrayal of the people who followed him into that firefight.
Before today, Cruz was poised to be the leader of the conservative underground for the foreseeable future. His gigantic grassroots network, leadership in the Senate, and the enormous nonprofit network being engineered from the structure of his presidential campaign put him in a unique position to form a coordinated opposition to the liberal policies of a Trump presidency from within the legislature and the states. That’s gone now, and conservatives are left with less influence and less positive prospects for the future than we’ve seen in my lifetime.
4) #NeverTrump was never a movement, unfortunately. It was an underground resistance.
When National Review fired the opening volley at Trump with their NeverTrump symposium, the networks scooped it up and Trump vs. NeverTrump became sensationalized.
But nothing will never win against something.
There had to be a goal beyond opposing the Donald, and we failed to properly articulate that goal.
5) Finally, it destroys much hope of a conservatarian revival in the GOP, or the wresting of power from the Priebus/Ryan/McConnell Trumpstablishment.
Prior to Trump, the ludicrous unpopularity of moderate establishment fixtures gave rise to the hope that a conservative surge – like the Tea Party – would displace them and restore conservatives to the forefront of the GOP. Cruz’s presidential campaign was the pinnacle of that hope. With his surrender, there is no longer any large-scale resistance that can be mounted against craven (“cucked” for those of you on the alt-right) GOP leadership – they are safe behind a wall of Trump supporters who have made it their business to defend the very people they set out to displace.
Worse yet, conservatives who aren’t defeated by Trump are being defined out of existence by him.
Ask a Democrat, ask the media, your friends and coworkers what they think Trump’s political views are, and the vast majority of them will tell you he’s a conservative.
If Trump is allowed to define conservatism, his opponents on the right are left ideologically homeless, just as the Anti-Federalists were when the Federalists successfully hijacked that term.
Dark days are ahead for those who value Constitutional rights and individual liberty, no matter who wins in November. All that’s left for us is to hold the line.
We need to start planning around our minority status, and taking a hard look at changing the math to give ourselves a chance to be represented in elections again – and whether there’s a viable way to do that outside of elevating a third party, quickly.
We need to be bold about constitutional, conservative principles, and fight for the definitions that we still hold. We can recover from a lost election far more quickly than a lost ideology.
Finally, we need to be consistently in prayer. If you’re a believer, take hold of the throne and pray that the church would awaken, that believers would get serious about following the Lord, and that we would learn to reshape the culture that is dragging our political process into a tyrannical abyss. And if you’re not a believer, perhaps you can join us with the same reasoning employed by agnostic founding father Benjamin Franklin, who famously exhorted the Constitutional Convention to prayer with these, the final words I shall leave with you.
“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.”