The outrage which erupted in response to Ted Cruz addressing the Republican National Convention on Wednesday demonstrates everything wrong with party politics. In case you missed it, here’s the account from the Associated Press:
Undercutting calls for Republican unity, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz stubbornly refused to endorse Donald Trump Wednesday night as he addressed the GOP convention, igniting thunderous boos from furious delegates as he encouraged Americans to simply “vote your conscience” in November.
In a surreal moment, Trump unexpectedly walked into the arena just as Cruz was wrapping up his remarks. Delegates chanted Trump’s name and implored Cruz to voice his support for the businessman, to no avail.
“Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution,” Cruz said. While he backed some of Trump’s policy proposals, including building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, he mentioned the GOP nominee by name only once.
Chris Christie described Cruz’s speech as “totally selfish.” Party loyalists in my newsfeed seem to agree.
But let’s stop and think about this for a minute. Why are so many Republicans outraged by the exhortation to vote according to conscience? Aren’t they confident in the case for Trump? Aren’t they assured that he fits the description of a candidate “who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution”? Shouldn’t this be a moment of affirmation? Shouldn’t Republicans be able to honestly declare their conscientious support for their party’s nominee? Really, what’s the problem here?
The response to Cruz’s exhortation demonstrates in rather unavoidable form what may be the worst problem facing the Trump campaign. His own voters don’t believe in him. So many Republicans backing Trump today are doing so for no other reason than his status as the nominee. That’s it. It’s a completely pragmatic choice based on the alternative of Hillary Clinton, and it’s a choice that goes against their own privately held beliefs. They hate themselves for it. They’ve sold out, and they know it. So when Cruz says “vote your conscience,” they writhe in the shame of their hypocrisy and lash out like the Pharisaical fakes they’ve become.
Of course we should vote our conscience. When did that become controversial? I thought Republicans were the party of conscience. I thought we appealed to reason. I thought we sought to persuade. Apparently, under Trump, we’re now the party of unthinking obligation. What a shame.