Thursday, July 21, 2016

Heading to the End Zone or The End?

Last month I wrote about the risk in being a Republican politician this year in the wake of Donald Trump's triumph as the party's Presidential nominee.

There is no riskier occupation in America today than Republican politician.
Donald Trump has made it "Risky Business" to be a Republican officeholder.
Every Republican politician has to make a high risk decision whether they are on or off the Trump Train. It is a decision fraught with risk to those in office.
The people are sovereign in our system. Their power is absolute  Unfortunately, too many people don't believe it. The simple fact is that politicians have no power unless the people provide it.
Laws that do not have public backing do not survive over the long term. Lawmakers who make laws that people do not support do not stay in office very long. Politicians who do not do the will of the people soon need to find other employment.

Ted Cruz met his moment on Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention. In my opinion, he messed up the moment when the stakes were the highest for him. I don't say this lightly as Ted Cruz was my preferred candidate during the Republican primary season.  Time will only tell if he made the right decision. However, sitting here today I think he will regret what he did.

Woody Hayes, the famous football coach from my alma mater Miami University (yes, he also later coached at another school in Ohio) used to defend his allegiance to the running game over an offensive passing attack by saying,

"When you pass, only three things can happen, and two of them bad."

Woody Hayes
Head Football Coach, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
"The Cradle of Coaches"

It seems to me that the same kind of thinking could be applied to the decision on whether Cruz should support Trump. There are three possible outcomes and two are bad for Cruz.

If Trump wins, Cruz is going to be a persona non grata with the President of the United States.  In addition, the Republican party he thought he represented will not be the same anymore.

If Trump loses in a close race, Cruz is going to shoulder blame for the loss. GOP voters will very likely point to his failure to support Trump as a contributing factor in a close loss.

Cruz only comes out looking good if Trump gets trounced. That may happen but it does not look like it right now looking at the polls.

Considering all of the above, it seems to me that Cruz "passed" on supporting Trump and he (like Woody Hayes) is looking at two bad scenarios balanced against one positive. I don't like those odds.

What is baffling to me is why Cruz would take the stage and not provide some words of support to Trump's candidacy. I can understand why he might not want to support Trump given the merciless personal attacks on his wife and father. However, why not just stay home like Rubio, Kasich and Bush?

The other problem for Cruz in taking the stage last night and not voicing support for Trump is the fact that Cruz (as did the other 16 candidates) signed a pledge that he would support the Republican nominee. Cruz has tried to build his political brand on being "a man of his word". How does he reconcile the pledge he made at the beginning of the process and what he did last night?

What I don't understand is how easy it would have been for Cruz to navigate between the great speech he gave on constitutional principles and freedom and tying it with Trump.

I would have suggested he say something like this..

You all know that Donald Trump and I had a spirited primary campaign. Wounds from that type of campaign do not heal easily. I think you can understand that it is not easy to get beyond that on a personal level.

However, I have spoken to you tonight how important that our constitutional principles and freedoms are honored and protected.  These are much more important than me or any other person. And the one thing I know for certain is that Hillary Clinton is not the person I want to entrust our Constitution and freedoms to.

I also made a pledge at the beginning of the primary campaign that I would support the Republican nominee. I am a man of my word. Donald Trump is our nominee and he has my support in this election against Hillary Clinton for he is our best hope right now to insure that our constitutional principles and freedoms are protected and preserved.

At the same time, while Donald Trump has my support, and I urge you to support and vote for him as well, I am going to continue to defend freedom and continue to be faithful to our constitution in all that I do. In doing so I also intend to hold anyone to account, including Mr. Trump, should they veer from that path.

If you love our country, and love our children as much as you do, stand, and speak, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom, and to be faithful to the constitution. More importantly, after you elect those candidates be prepared to stand with me to insure that our constitution is more than an election year prop and it actually stands for something.

In doing so we will unite the party; we will unite the country by standing together for shared values by standing for liberty. God bless each and every one of you, and God bless the United States of America.

Ted Cruz may survive his disastrous GOP convention speech. It may actually be considered a Churchillian moment if Trump proves to be a disaster.

However, if he had framed his message as something closer to what I outlined above, I would feel more confident about his political future.

Woody Hayes won a lot of football games with plays designed to give the Buckeyes "three yards and a cloud of dust." It wasn't flashy but they didn't turnover the ball very often and they were always moving towards the end zone.

It is not clear to me that Ted Cruz had a play last night that will get him to the end zone in politics (the White House). To me, he got sacked and lost a lot of yards in that quest. At worst, last night could prove to be the beginning of the end for Cruz. It would be a pity... but he called the play.

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