When Ted Cruz took the RNC stage on night no. 3 and refused to endorse Donald Trump, he was playing Crazy Eights for 2020.
Cruz, Senate pariah, never backs away from a fight, especially when he’s
going to get trampled. The Von Trump
family, arrayed in the Royal Box, was stupefied. They stood there slack-jawed,
except for Trump himself, whose face was tightly clenched, like the Death Mask
of someone who died from self-inflicted temporo-mandibular joint syndrome.
Cruz is a smart cookie. He tricked Trump into letting him
speak. While other Republicans cursed
the nominee privately and endorsed him publicly, Cruz did the opposite. He knew that he would be jeered for it, and
he was. He and his wife left the convention, and they didn’t get one of those
wrist bands to get back in. Gone, gone, gone.
The Republican Party used to be about discipline. The smart ones made a deal with the crazy
ones, and they shook on it. The new Republican Party looks as perplexed as the
Democrats used to be. There are wheels within wheels within wheels. Cruz’s stand is a bizarre exercise in
self-interest, not easy to dope out.
Trump is a flawed, perhaps fatally flawed candidate. Cruz and maybe the
party have resigned themselves to a Clinton victory. Cruz is still in the
Senate, where he is loathed. Mitch
McConnell can barely stomach Trump but he is a creature of party loyalty. Cruz’s apostasy won’t sit well with the
Senate Majority Leader or anyone in the Republican caucus. If Cruz was thinking that his enemy’s enemy
is his friend, he didn’t figure that disloyalty itself, a reminder of Cruz’s
power plays last year, would further turn off leadership to him.
Without party leadership, Cruz has only his base to fall back
on. He was the second highest
vote-getter but he fell far short of a mandate.
The Republican Party does not distinguish between Conservatives, like Kasich,
and Reactionaries, like Cruz. Trump has
scooped up those Reactionaries for now. Cruz is betting that they will return
to him when the Trump Tower elevator winds up in the basement. The reactionary wing of the Republican party
may be the rump party coming out of 2016, but it is nowhere near a majority
party for national elections. It may
continue to control the House for a while through gerrymandering. The
Senate and White House will be out of its reach.
It could be that Cruz was falling on his sword. He might recognize that he is at the end of the line electorally. He can continue to be a Senator
for Texas. Loftier ambitions
are probably out of his reach, unless he or circumstances change
profoundly. There is a word for the
pleasure I feel when, in damaging Trump, Cruz destroys himself. Schadenfruede.