Conservatives, If We Want Unity, We Have To Unite Around Our Principles

I’ve been re-reading the transcript of Ted Cruz’s convention speech on Wednesday night and I can’t quite find the controversial part of it.

He congratulates the nominee. He urges everyone to go to the polls and vote for the candidates who will defend the Constitution. He articulates, quite brilliantly, the principles of conservatism. He calls for conservatives to come together. He talks about freedom, liberty, and the preciousness of human life. And for that, he was booed off the stage.

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Establishment Republicans have been competing over who can condemn the “disgraceful” Ted Cruz in the harshest terms.

Rep. Peter King, a gaseous belch cloud of a man, may have taken home the prize. Sarah Palin tried to outdo the Belch Cloud by blasting Cruz on Thursday morning, telling him to “delete [his] career.” One has to wonder what Palin knows about careers, considering she hasn’t had one since she packed her bags and fled the governor’s mansion in Alaska. Many of my own readers have been so infuriated by Cruz’s speech that they’ve sworn to stop reading me just because I liked it. But I look at the transcript again and I find not a single word, sentence, or phrase that any conservative could possibly protest.

No, he didn’t explicitly endorse Donald Trump, but, despite the frantic claims to the contrary, Cruz never “pledged” to stand on stage at the convention and endorse the nominee. He did pledge to support the nominee — a pledge that Trump himself renounced on more than one occasion —  but nothing he did or said constituted breaking that pledge. And if he did break it, he only broke it because his pledge to support his wife and father — both of whom were viciously attacked and slandered by Donald Trump — supersedes a pledge to a political party. But this is all sort of irrelevant to the point. The real point is that the whole embarrassing charade last night was a production staged by the Reality TV Celebrity himself.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz debate in Coral Gables, Fla. on March 10. (AP/Wilfredo Lee)
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz debate in Coral Gables, Fla. on March 10. (AP/Wilfredo Lee)

The Daily Wire has the full story on the events leading up to Cruz’s address, but suffice it to say that nothing that happened was a surprise to the Trump camp. The RNC and the Trump people saw the script ahead of time. Cruz was honest about his intentions. He told them he would not be offering a specific endorsement. They approved the speech anyway. They approved everything that happened on Wednesday night. It turns out the backstabbing weasel in this situation was, as usual, Donald Trump.

Trump invited Cruz to give his speech, knowing exactly what it would and would not contain, and then ordered his team to whip up the crowd into a frenzy of boos. Trump decided to use his convention to exact revenge against Ted Cruz. That was Trump’s doing, not Cruz’s. The Trump team could have simply applauded Cruz’s remarks and made it seem like an implicit endorsement of Trump, thanked Cruz for urging his followers to go to the polls and vote for the most conservative candidates, and been done with it. It would have been a win for everyone involved. Instead, Donald Trump sacrificed a chance at unity for another chance to exact petty retribution against his political opponents. We should not be surprised by that.

Nonetheless, critics of Cruz insist that his speech wasn’t unifying. Clearly they’re correct in that assessment, and that’s precisely the problem. Cruz spoke exclusively about the principles of conservatism. He offered the Republican Party a chance to unite again around those principles. But it was made clear, once and for all, that many Republicans are not interested in uniting around principle. They aren’t interested in the principles at all.

The only principle in the new party is Donald Trump. The only positions that should be taken are the ones Donald Trump takes. The only speeches that should be given are ones centered around Donald Trump. This was precisely the fear of the Never Trump camp; that Trump would devour conservatism and leave only himself standing in the gap; that the new conservatism would be Trumpism, and the old conservatism would be anathema. It seems those fears have been realized.

[sharequote align=”center”]But it was made clear that many Republicans are not interested in uniting around principle.[/sharequote]

Trump became the nominee on Tuesday. On Wednesday, conservatism was finally kicked to the curb. It was made official when Ted Cruz and his wife had to be escorted out of the building by security simply because he gave speech that profoundly defended the principles of conservatism without kissing the ring of the Godking. A speech that featured lines like:

…America is more than just a land mass between two oceans, America is an ideal. A simple, yet powerful ideal. Freedom matters.

For much of human history government power has been the unavoidable constant in life. Government decrees and the people obey, but not here. We have no king or queen, we have no dictator, we the people constrain government.

Our nation is exceptional because it was built on the five most beautiful and powerful words in the English language, “I want to be free.”

…Freedom means the right to keep and bear arms, and to protect your family.

…Freedom means that every human life is precious and must be protected.

…We will unite the party; we will unite the country by standing together for shared values by standing for liberty.

…If you love our country, and love our children as much as you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom, and to be faithful to the constitution.

If we all hold the same values and principles, these lines should have been plenty unifying. If they aren’t, that says something about us and about the Republican Party, not about the speech itself.

Look, I have said since the end of the primaries that I understand why conservatives might vote for Trump. I understand why they might not. I can respect both choices at this point. I am not trying to guilt anyone into doing anything. Those who supported Trump in the primary, when there were a myriad of other options, are utter fools and certainly not conservatives. But now we are in a very different and difficult situation, and we must all follow our conscience. If your conscience leads you to Trump in order to stop Hillary, so be it. If your conscience leads you to a third party, so be it. If your conscience leads you to flee into a cave in the desert, so be it. Those are all defensible strategies, as far as I’m concerned. The only choices I don’t understand and can’t respect are, first, voting for Hillary, and second, voting for Trump and then acting like you can’t understand why some conservatives may choose not to.

Conservatives will make their decisions, hopefully after prayer and consideration. Whatever they each decide to do, God be with them. But what we must all do now — whether we vote for Trump or not — is remember our principles and stick fast to them. Whatever happens in November, barring a miracle of some kind, we will end up with a president who is not conservative. We will end up with a president who, regardless of the letter next to the name, abhors many aspects of conservatism. Conservatism will be in exile either way. We will have socially liberal globalism or socially liberal nationalism, and the ideals of small government, liberty, constitutionalism, the sanctity of life and marriage, etc., will be eagerly cast aside either way. This is where we are headed, and nothing short of divine intervention can stop it.

So what are we to do, then? After we vote our conscience, what next? Well, I don’t have a great answer to that question, and I may not have an answer at all, but I do know that our first challenge will be to keep our principles alive in our own hearts and souls. We have to cling to them. We have to rally around them and let the political questions be a secondary concern.

Personally, I don’t care if you vote for Trump or not. I care that you hold onto your beliefs, the beliefs that we both share as conservatives, and never give them up for anyone or for any reason. There have been points in history when better men than ourselves died for their beliefs. With a literal gun to the head or knife to the throat they were commanded, “Renounce your beliefs.” And these better men looked with steely-eyes and answered, “No.” It pains me to consider how so many of us have renounced our beliefs now, not under threat of death, but of mere verbal condemnation and political ostracization.

That’s what disturbed me about the scene last night. It’s what has disturbed me about the entire convention. It’s what has disturbed me throughout this entire election. It’s that we apparently can’t unify around principles anymore. And if we can’t do that, if we can’t all stand for the same goals and cheer for the same truths, regardless of whatever choice we may make in the ballot box, then we will lose. Not just the election, but the culture, the country, everything.

The conservatives who vote for Trump because they feel they must, but hold onto their principles all the while, are not the problem. The conservatives who completely abandon their beliefs, and even grow rapidly hostile to them, all for the sake of the Party and a politician, are the problem. And I fear that the latter camp outnumbers the former.

Vote for Trump if you feel you must, but don’t unite around him. Unite around our principles. Remember them. Stay loyal to them. Accept as your brother or sister in arms anyone who believes and defends them. The litmus test for membership into our movement is not whether they vote as you do, but whether they believe as we do. So we have to keep believing it, and in those beliefs we will find the only kind of unity that matters.

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