Love him or hate him, the future direction of conservatism may well hinge on Ted Cruz’s speech tonight. My colleague Steve Berman writes here that Cruz will get the loudest applause other than Trump. I hope so but I’m not so sure. With the way this campaign season has gone, piped in boos against Cruz are not out of the question (and that’s just counting the recorded boos broadcast by Breitbart).
On a more serious note, I reject any notion (as Newt Gingrich posited last night) that Cruz is somehow obligated to endorse the nominee. Why can’t Cruz simply tout conservatism and the aspects of a fairly conservative GOP platform that he agrees with while skillfully skirting the “endorsement thing”. That type of speech would still strike an upbeat, pro-America, pro-conservatism note, while not offending anyone in the hall and without kissing the orange ring.
One thing is certain, this conservative will be leaning into the screen listening closely to Cruz’s every word, both spoken and unspoken. I continue to believe that Cruz is the most conservative candidate in my lifetime that came so close to the nomination while undergoing attacks from so many quarters within his own party. In my view, his survival of that gauntlet with most of his hard won support intact makes him the de-facto spokesman of American conservatism at the present hour.
Cruz has an opportunity to be Reagan in ’76 here. He has an opportunity to strike a course for conservatives as we move forward into what may prove to be our roughest waters in decades. Because of that, I would posit that this speech is more important to the future than Trump’s will be.
So with all that being said, what if he endorses Trump. I truly don’t know. I will be disappointed, but I will also be listening for qualifiers Cruz might use. If Cruz does endorse, then this columnist is going to have to go to ground for a couple of days and re-think some things. I am going to have to decide if any politician can be trusted for very long after they have assumed office in Washington. Because if have misjudged Cruz as closely as I have followed his career, my confidence in my own ability to evaluate politicians is going to be shaken.
Still, I am far from ready to give up on men like Cruz. I’ll certainly give him a hearing before I jump to any conclusions about his motives. We’re listening Ted. Many of us have worked very hard for you to get as far as you did. Don’t let us down.