Conviction in Politics?

by Heather Robinson

Having just come off the 4-day Republican National Convention, I find myself in disagreement with almost everyone – except a few liberals and hard core conservatives and, I believe, people who prize family loyalty above party allegiance.

Disclosure: I actually have yet to watch Trump’s speech, and that of his daughter Ivanka. But I’m still reeling from what I saw yesterday, which I believe was the unlikely sight of conviction in politics.

By now most of the politically aware country knows that Texas Senator Ted Cruz gave a speech in which he declined to directly endorse Donald Trump, saying instead, “Vote your conscience.” This simple maxim prompted some Trump supporters to boo (whether they did so spontaneously or were coached by The Donald’s minions remains in dispute). But the conservative punditocracy have generally condemned Cruz, writing all sorts of pieces decrying his defiance as disloyal to the party, and bad manners.


I’ve seldom been so disappointed in writers I generally respect. Wherefore all this stuffy obsession with perfect manners? Are they kidding? Some of these same pundits have been reluctant to call out Donald Trump on his meanness and viciousness, perhaps for fear of offending his more mob like supporters. (And by the way, I am not wholly anti-Trump. I like a lot about him, and I love a few of his supporters. But he can be a psychological bully and a narcissist, both of which are potentially dangerous qualities if he doesn’t learn to reign them in at least somewhat). At any rate, to complain of someone showing rudeness toward Donald Trump, or toward his hard core supporters, is like complaining about someone demonstrating a lack of modesty to a porn star.

The supercilious scolding taking place generally winds up at the same bottom line: if Cruz couldn’t get on board the Trump train, he should not have attended the convention.  A few quick points about this.

1) Cruz came in second and had every right to be there, as did the other contenders for the nomination, most of whom chose not to attend, which is also their right.

2) Frankly any Republican who could get admission had the right to be there.

3) Since when is “loyalty to the Party” the value that Trumps (forgive the word choice) all others? Is this China? The former USSR?

Again, please. That is downright un-American.

Anyone criticizing Cruz for declining to endorse Trump should ask themselves if they would endorse someone who personally humiliated their life partner/spouse. If Cruz were to endorse Trump after his display of cruelty toward Cruz’s wife, Heidi, what sort of man would Cruz be? Unless I’m very wrong (and if I am I’ll be disappointed and surprised), Cruz will not be endorsing Trump. And unless Trump offered a sincere and heartfelt and full-throated apology (which he won’t), I do not think he should. You don’t endorse someone who attacks your family. End of discussion.

Cruz’s explanation here reflects, I believe, the sincerity of his feeling about this.

It is interesting to me that so many people who generally complain of a lack of authenticity in politics have no respect for what seems clearly a display of authentic conviction, and emotion, on the part of Cruz. Cruz says it is personal, and I believe him. Watch this video in which Cruz speaks today, explaining his decision. I think Trump’s personal retweeting of the vicious image comparing Heidi’s looks to Melania’s really got to him. In fact, assuming Cruz has a real marriage (and it would seem that he, possibly unlike the Donald, does), I know it did. How? Because Heidi Cruz is a woman, and there is no woman – regardless of how secure she is – who would not be hurt by such a thing. It may not be something women are eager to acknowledge, but negative comparison to another woman in terms of beauty and feminine appeal is one of the nastiest blows – possibly other than being a bad mother – someone can level against a woman. It is analogous to publicly comparing a man negatively to another man in terms of his sexual performance and professional success. I’m sure it hurt Heidi plenty, and you can hear the authentic anger in Cruz’s voice in the video.

I think this is about Cruz standing up for his wife. I don’t think he will do a turnaround on this one and if he does I’ll be very disappointed.

Nor do I think it was petty of Cruz to decline to endorse. To the contrary, he was incredibly magnanimous in coming and, in a deft and clever way, in essence telling voters they have his blessing to vote for Trump if their consciences tell them to do so.

In fact, I think Trump is behaving like the petty one today (“I wouldn’t accept his endorsement anyway”). Despite his many accomplishments (and I do not sell him short and I do see what many of his supporters see in him), he has severe ego issues. In reality, I think Cruz did Trump a great favor by standing up to him. If Trump has any hope of being elected and serving as a good President, he needs to start learning to manage his ego so as to be able to hear others and handle the unpredictable without wildly overreacting. Unlike many who fear Trump, I do not think he is insane or in a hurry to push buttons, etc. Common sense tells me that he could not have built and run a multi-billion dollar corporation, dealt with the pressures of his businesses over the course of many decades, etc. if he were unstable. He wants to succeed, is bold in telling the truth (as he sees it), and I respect his remarkable confidence, drive, and vision.

But I do see that Trump has an authoritarian tendency, a short fuse, a loose tongue, and severe ego issues that could be his downfall, and could damage our country. He also undeniably can be a psychological bully, and frankly that is part of how he has gotten so far. (History is replete with examples of such men who seized power). Yet in general, Americans – with our respect for other virtues along with that of raw drive and power – have not been easily seduced by this type of strongman. Whether Lincoln, Reagan, or FDR, we have preferred our strong leaders to speak, and act, with greater restraint, even if – and perhaps because – they had access to big armies, weapons, and nuclear codes.

As the Bible says, “Pride goeth before the fall.” History and classical literature are replete with examples, from Oedipus to Macbeth, from Hitler to Stalin to Saddam Hussein, of ruthless men of naked ambition – untempered by softer virtues – who took over big parts of the world and attained the heights of power, eventually brought to terrible humiliation and defeat. No one wins all the time, and handling disappointment, defeat and dissent, on a grand scale, is something every great man must be able to do – without demonizing others, and without wild overreaction. Trump has a lot learn – in a hurry. Such as, sometimes the imperative to promote unity and harmony demand one set ego aside, and to do so is not weak, but reflects strength of character. Personally, I’m hoping he can learn. It seems like a tall order, but Trump has, at age 70, attempted the almost impossible, and he has a real chance of winning the Presidency. In my opinion, his more awesome task will be to actually grow and become a better man in the next few months. Perhaps his Evangelical Christian and Orthodox Jewish supporters – and I mean this with great seriousness and respect – can pray for him to do so. At any rate, if there is any chance,  I believe Ted Cruz did Trump a great service by coming to the convention and providing a teachable moment yesterday.

I wonder if the pundits, including the usually great Charles Krauthammer, who weighed in calling Cruz’s speech the “longest suicide note in U.S. political history” have ever really loved a woman, because he seems to have missed the point. The anger in Ted Cruz’s voice was the anger of a man who loves his wife, who prioritizes family above “party,” and who places conviction above naked ambition.

It was authentic, which is what the American people have claimed to want in their politicians.

I believe – and hope – the American people will respect Cruz for it.



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