The Risk That Will Define Ted Cruz’s Political Career

During a Q&A with the Texas delegation the morning after his controversial speech at the Republican National Convention in which he refused to endorse Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz said:

“What does it say when you stand up and say ‘vote your conscience,’ and rabid supporters of our nominee begin screaming ‘what a horrible thing to say!’ If we can’t make the case to the American people that voting for our party’s nominee is consistent with voting your conscience, is consistent with defending freedom, and defending the constitution, then we are not going to win, and we don’t deserve to win.”

Not only was Cruz’s presser a career defining moment, his candor regarding whether or not we deserve to win was necessary. Cruz brought up what is perhaps the most salient question of this election.

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If our nominee doesn’t share our principles–those of constitutional conservatism–why should we vote for him? Why should we support someone who has no intellectual curiosity, whose positions regarding critical issues shift on a daily basis, whose rhetoric has frequently and rightly been called foolish and bigoted, and whose hostility toward his fellow Republicans burns far more intensely than his desire to beat his general election opponent?

We shouldn’t.

There are those who love Donald Trump. If you are one of those people, then you’ve got your candidate. Do not, however, try to destroy those of us who cannot in good conscience support him. Donald Trump is not a conservative, he’s a European-style populist demagogue. Stop pretending he’s the conservative standard-bearer. Stop lying to yourself and others. Stop trying to tear people down for voting their consciences.

This is not a binary choice. I will not support Hillary Clinton. She is a vile human being (I use the term “human being” with great pause). Her positions are anathema to everything I believe in. However, in a similar fashion, I will not support Donald Trump. He is a dangerously inept megalomaniac whose political philosophy is based on nothing more than his own ego.

We can’t allow conservatism to be erased by a populist demagogue. The prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency is truly frightening, but if Donald Trump is my other choice, I’m willing to take one on the jaw for the next four years.

Time is a funny thing. We tend to think in the short-term, which allows our passion to overcome our sense of reason. This imbalance of passion and reason leads to foolish decisions that have great repercussions in the long-term.

If we put forward Donald Trump as the model for the Republican Party, Americans will erroneously believe that his toxic and confusing beliefs represent conservatism. With that, conservative philosophy will take a massive hit from which it will take decades to recover. Accepting Trump now also means accepting a critical long-term injury. I will not do that. Principle muse come before party.

We’ve seen numerous politicians whose moral fiber has been undone before our very eyes because of Donald Trump. Ben Carson endorsed a man who compared him to a child molester. Rick Perry endorsed a man whom he once called “a cancer.” Chris Christie endorsed a man whom he called “painfully naive.” Christie also endorsed Trump after criticizing the mogul for mocking a reporter’s physical handicap, saying, “it’s just not worthy of someone running for the president of the United States.”

Ted Cruz stands alone as the only one with the backbone to get up in front of millions of people, and simply say “No.”

Sure, some politicians refused to endorse Trump, or attend the convention at all–like Jeb Bush and John Kasich–but Cruz actually did something. He acted, and in doing so, he took a potentially devastating political hit. But here’s the thing–it doesn’t matter. Do you know why? Because doing what’s right is far more important than doing what’s popular.

God bless Ted Cruz. Here’s to 2020.

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