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Column: Doubling down on principle at the Republican convention

WORTHINGTON -- The spluttering vitriol rising from the floor of the Republican National Convention Wednesday night was instructive on a variety of levels, and immensely satisfying, too.

WORTHINGTON -- The spluttering vitriol rising from the floor of the Republican National Convention Wednesday night was instructive on a variety of levels, and immensely satisfying, too.

Ted Cruz, who finished second in the race for the GOP nomination, delivered a nuanced speech heavy on the conservative principles he strictly adhered to during the primary season. But to Donald Trump supporters in the audience, only one thing mattered: Will Cruz explicitly endorse Mr. Trump?

No, he did not, as everyone now knows.

Instead, Cruz spoke about values. He outlined the ideas that should guide voters in the November election, and he did it with well-chosen words that we have come to expect from a man whose entire career has been spent kicking against insiders and sell-outs within and without his party.

When it became clear to the convention-goers that the Texas senator was not going to publicly and unequivocally endorse Trump -- in other words, to drink the Kool-aid that annually gets passed around at these events -- the Trumpinistas responded with loud and vociferous boos. It was so nasty, in fact, that Cruz’s wife had to be escorted out of the arena for her own safety.

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To be a Trump supporter, it seems, all too frequently means insulting anyone who has the audacity to place principle above convenience -- who values issues above personality cults. Say what you will about Donald Trump, but the man loves himself. And too many of his voters tend to cast thoughtfulness to the wind as they grovel at his feet hoping beyond all common sense that he will provide completeness to their lives.

The wonderful irony, of course, is that most of the people drawn to Trump were drawn there because of their understandable distaste for hypocrites within the Republican party. This is what drew people to Cruz, too. But when Trump won the nomination, principles didn’t matter any more. Only blind acquiescence.

Voters interested in re-reading Cruz’s convention speech might be surprised to discover what he actually said. It was worthy of a standing ovation. Did anyone on the convention floor actually hear him when he said, “If you love our country, and love your children as much as I know 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 be faithful to the Constitution.”?

Good words. Words to live by. But Trump supporters responded with cascades of booing, perhaps fully comprehending that many believe the Constitution would be on shaky ground under a Trump presidency. And indeed so. Throughout the campaign, Trump has proven many times over that he doesn’t even know what’s in it.

I find it humorous that immediately following Cruz’s speech, knee-jerk critics accused him of attempting to lift his own 2020 presidential ambitions at the expense of the nominee. They said the speech will backfire on him; that instead of putting himself in the position of picking up the pieces after Trump, it ruined his political future forever.

That may indeed be so. But do they really think that Cruz didn’t realize that before he said what he said? He obviously was well aware of the risks involved to himself. The fact that he did it, anyway, only enhances his reputation among those who value conviction above expediency.

Cruz said his speech was not personal, and in that I think he was being coy. There was obviously a personal element to it. But here, we need to put ourselves in Cruz’s shoes. If your rival planted false stories about you in supermarket tabloids, publicly insulted your wife’s looks, accused your father of involvement in the Kennedy assassination and repeatedly called you “Lyin’ Ted” even after he had the nomination safely sewn up, would you be inclined toward forgiving and forgetting?

Personally, if someone had treated my wife the way Trump treated Cruz’s, I’d be inclined to react in a much stronger way than simply choosing not to make a public endorsement.

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Within Republican circles, it is repeatedly stated that a non-vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary Clinton. That’s a good point. For the last eight years we’ve seen a Democratic president do great harm to the rule of law, to the Constitution, and to the world order. These same Democrats purport to double down on their malfeasance by installing a politician who cannot point to one positive accomplishment in her entire public life, who has sold out her country repeatedly for personal gain, and who -- if she were probably anyone else -- might be behind bars at this very moment instead of basking in the adulation of her party of enablers.

But this column is not about Hillary Clinton. It’s about the one moment (for we certainly won’t see it at the Democratic convention) where somebody actually bucked expectations and stood on principle.

Bravo, I say.

Opinion by Doug Wolter
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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