There will be copious pages of ink spilt over Sen. Ted Cruz’s, R-Texas (A, 97%) dramatic convention speech – with most of the focus centered on his declining to directly endorse Donald Trump. Supporters of Trump will be incensed and blame Cruz for allowing his problems with Trump to sow disunity, tacitly telling his base not to vote for Trump, and helping elect Hillary Clinton.
In reality, the message was much broader than simply a conscience issue with Trump or the 2016 presidential ballot. For better or worse, the binary nature of American politics with the failed two party system is so embedded in the psyche of the bases of both parties that GOP base voters – even those who still admire Cruz – will likely vote for the GOP nominee in November anyway. They always do. Ironically, more of the bleeding of GOP votes will come from the left goalpost of the party, among those who are not so committed to the party and don’t fear Hillary Clinton as much.
The real message of Cruz’s speech was that it is precisely this binary choice – the exclusive focus every four years on the choice between personalities instead of principles or party politics over a worthy, long-term agenda – that has gotten us to this point in the first place. It is a message that even affirmative Trump supporters who will enthusiastically vote for him in November, the ones that are truly committed to restoring our republic and actually shaking up the political oligarchy, should embrace.
How did we get here?
During the milquetoast convention speeches this week, I was listening to the 1988 convention speech of Ronald Reagan in which he “handed off” the mantle to George H. W. Bush, a Rockefeller Republican who was disliked for years by the grassroots. Reagan masterfully summed up the accomplishments of his two terms in bringing back the country from domestic ruin and existential security threats. He then outlined some of the areas where he came up short and needed a new generation of conservatives and Republicans to expand upon his foundation. He was still talking about uprooting the entire premise of the Great Society (not just tweaking a single program) and long-term systemic reforms, such as constitutional amendments to rein in government spending and regulations. Reagan knew he couldn’t accomplish everything, but he hoped that his tenure would begin to finally cement a movement, rooted in the vehicle of the Republican Party, that would actually begin rolling back the liberal agenda.
What struck me in Reagan’s tone and substance in 1988 is that he could never have imagined that 28 years later we’d have long abandoned those fights, and that marriage would be redefined, transgenderism would be codified, religion and private property rights would be criminalized, and every aspect of the Constitution would be ruled unconstitutional. He figured that the movement he left in place would be strong enough to stand up against the relatively mild cultural and economic Marxism of his day. He never could have envisioned a party that would sit idly as the Democrats remade society and overturned every self-evident truth imaginable.
The reason we are in this predicament today, irrespective of who wins this election (even if we did have a different GOP nominee) is because we spent the past few decades myopically focusing on the choice between the lesser of two evils. It began with Reagan’s own VP choice he felt compelled to bring on in 1980, and the cycle of Bush/Clinton leading up to Obama cascaded from there. The GOP never stood for anything positive (aside for the aberration of the 1994 midterm elections) in a meaningful way. Sure, all of our presidential nominees sucked beyond belief and were often the very people who helped Democrats advance their agenda during their respective eras, but by golly, they were always better than the Democrat. I mean, after all, even Susan Collins or Lindsey Graham is better than Hillary Clinton in ideology and in character. Are they not?
Conservative radio host Dennis Prager best demonstrated this cycle of failure – this inability to focus, at least concurrently, on actually building a durable conservative party – when he tweeted:
Taken to its logical conclusion, there is never a time when it’s not worth voting for the Republican, even when they legitimize and validate the Left’s premise. If Republicans are ok with codifying transgenderism into civil rights, well, one could always suspect the Democrat will be worse and support bestiality. This is the attitude so many loyal conservatives – even more so than the moderates – have internalized throughout the eras of two Bushs, Dole, McCain, and Romney. Yet, history doesn’t lie, and the Democrat success in moving the ball on every facet of fiscal and social policy since 1988 is nothing short of breathtaking. Rather than utilizing Reagan’s “new day – our sunlit new day – to keep alive the fire so that when we look back at the time of choosing, we can say that we did all that could be done – never less,” all we did was focus on not electing Democrats.
What happened to ‘Trust but verify?’
All of this brings us to our current state of affairs with Donald Trump as the GOP nominee. It’s not worth re-litigating the debate over Trump on the Right, as time will reveal the truth. Many Republican base voters legitimately believe Trump is indeed that fresh new approach and path towards charting our own destiny we’ve all been waiting for. But any intellectually honest Trump supporter who also wants to build a durable conservative movement that will relegate the existing corrosive party establishment (and failed conservative movement) to the ash heap of history – the same establishment that has saddled us with this 28-year Democrat transformation – should look deep within their hearts and concede the following:
- Trump has been all over the map on many core issues, not just over the past few years, but even since running for president. One of the seminal issues of our time is Obamacare, an issue that has been mentioned at this convention several times. Yet, Trump has praised Canada and Scotland’s single-payer health care system. That is just one issue, but quite a big one. While it’s hard to imagine getting worse than Hillary on any issue, at best there is a lot of uncertainty here, especially after reneging on a number of campaign promises since the primary.
- Many of us were hoping, that although on many issues Trump wouldn’t be aligned with traditional conservatives, at least he’d vanquish the detestable D.C. establishment and party elites and chart his own course with fresh blood. The developments of the post-Indiana primary until now, beginning with his choice of a foreign lobbyist RINO as his top strategist, should raise a number of red flags. This convention has showcased a RINO freak show that has fused Trump in an unbreakable bond with the RNC – not a new and revitalized RNC, but one led by the same bottom-feeders, such as Henry Barbour, the man behind the race-baiting Mississippi campaign against Chris McDaniel who was implementing Soviet-style rules changes at the convention.
- No conservative should ever place all their eggs in one man, nor genuflect to a cult of personality. Any real conservative who is not an Obama “Greek column” zombie recognizes that even in the most optimistic scenario, Trump cannot do this alone (neither could a man like Cruz), certainly not with the existing duplicitous party structure in the states and on a national level. The reality is that not a single incumbent has lost his seat (except for ones redistricted out of their home district) and every single party leader – the very people that fueled the rise of Trump – remains in place. Yet, they have not changed their ways. And these leadership elites are now empowered more than ever. We need a bench of candidates down the ballot that will knock these guys off their perches. While Cruz has been campaigning for several of them, Trump is all about himself, with the only exception being his endorsement of Rep. Renee Ellmers, a rabidly pro open-borders Republican. And again, that was all personal: quid pro quo. Even a consistent and reliable conservative will be hamstrung by the current party structure.
- The clear messaging from the convention is that the most important thing is to beat Hillary. Okay, so beat Hillary. What is so circular about this logic is that Trump has stepped on his own messaging and has sabotaged his own campaign when presented with the opportunity to capitalize on Hillary’s worst moments in politics. He needs to begin running a serious campaign. Cheering him on without pressuring those around him to get with the program will result in Hillary winning anyway.
- One issue that Trump will not even pander on is religious liberty. He has made it clear on a number of occasions that when the sexual identity agenda comes into conflict with religious liberty, he’ll leave it to the courts! The issue of immigration has finally gotten attention, and as a lifelong proponent of sovereignty (see the title of my new book, Stolen Sovereignty) with a particular interest in stopping mass Islamic migration (although Trump has already backpedaled on that too), I’m very thankful for it. But the assault on religious liberty and inalienable natural rights rank right up there with open borders in terms of imminent threats to our society. It was no coincidence that even Trump’s VP pick, Mike Pence, declined to address the issue of religious freedom in his speech last night. But then again, after his capitulation in Indiana on that issue, it’s no wonder. The bottom line is that between the existing party establishment (that remains fully intact) and the new Trump flavor, social conservatives have absolutely no place in the GOP.
These are undeniable facts, even if there are other aspects of Trump that you find appealing. And these are just a few objections so as not to make this a 10,000-word article.
So what should we do? Let Hillary win? Isn’t she worse?
Looking Beyond the Cycle of Insanity and a Terminally Ill Party
Go vote for Trump if you want. Knock on doors and raise money if it suits you. But for goodness sake, let’s not focus exclusively on one binary election choice just at the top of the ticket and continue repeating the same cycle of failure, especially with the existing red flags and uncertainties. So what should conservatives do now that the die has been cast? Hold him accountable, pressure the conservatives within his campaign to stay on message and make the right choices. Move him to the Right. Don’t throw yourself at him and don’t let some of the more hopeful elements of his potential presidency blind you to the challenges and concerns. Certainly, don’t alter your bedrock beliefs to comport with some of his liberal beliefs. We’ve been doing that for the past three decades with GOP nominees who didn’t even command a cult of personality. Let’s not wait six years to utter a word against “the party leader” like we did with Bush and just obsequiously alter our views to conform with the nominee and blindly trust that “Mr. Donald J. Trump” will make America great again.
Moreover, concurrent with voting your conscience, help build a vehicle to actually implement conservative principles. Let’s work down-the-ballot races, let’s find ways to systemically reform the primary system so we don’t continue to be scammed by the establishment, let’s close our primaries, (something Trump and RNC staffers blocked at the convention), let’s work towards changing party leadership, let’s work on judicial reform, 10th Amendment projects and building up state legislatures to fight the judicial and executive overreach, and Article V conventions to create a durable movement in the long-run. Let’s reconstitute a party truly built upon freedom – whether Trump wins in November or not.
We certainly don’t want nor can we afford four more years of this misery. But we certainly cannot afford 28 more years of this misery either. And if we fail to look past the top-of-the-ballot choice for a single election cycle and just cheerlead the jerseys on the field that given day, this entire debate will become moot. Aspiring to nothing more than perennial choices between the lesser of two evils is the golden calf that has kept conservatives in the wilderness for decades.
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