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Texans Confront Ted Cruz

Republican National Convention: Day Three

It seems that some Texas Republicans aren’t too thrilled with their junior senator right now. That was clear yesterday morning when, after having publicly flouted Donald Trump’s efforts to bully all Republicans into submission during his remarks to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, Ted Cruz appeared at the Texas delegation’s daily breakfast, where he faced some angry constituents and hostile questions. Some of his critics were, of course, Trump supporters; others, however, were Cruz supporters, and so the question of the day was whether Cruz, who is up for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2018, will face political consequences back home.

This was a question I had been asking myself at the “thank you” event Cruz held for his delegates on Wednesday afternoon, hours before his controversial speech. Since suspending his own campaign for the nomination, in May, he had received no criticism for withholding his support for Trump. He had, in fact, been widely applauded by the Texas grassroots for pointedly avoiding any mention of the 2016 election during his speech at the state convention in May. “I couldn’t be prouder of him if he were my own son,” Robin Lennon, of the Kingwood Tea Party had told me then, during the standing ovation at the end of Cruz’s remarks. At that point, however, Trump was not yet the official Republican nominee. By Wednesday, he was.

The delegates who gathered at Tusker’s, on the edge of Lake Erie, were clearly underwhelmed by their party’s choice. While waiting in line for the venue to open all their murmurs had been mutinous, and inside the event, some delegates made it clear that they still preferred Cruz: they laughed as Trump’s plane appeared on the horizon, beginning its descent over the lake, and broke out into a “2020” chant. On the other hand, Nick Weidenkopf, an alternative delegate from Texas, told me that he had supported Cruz in the primary but was content with the party’s nominee. “The main job of the president is international relations,” he explained, and the Republican nominee would be an effective ambassador for America’s interests. “Everybody’s afraid of Trump.” A number of members of the Texas delegation, it would appear, were in a similar camp: pro-Cruz, but not necessarily anti-Trump; further, as Republicans, they are anti-Clinton.

That would explain the anger at Thursday morning’s breakfast. The choice voters are facing is not a binary one....

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Ted Cruz’s Act of Defiance

Ted Cruz reacts to the crowd after his speech to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Wednesday night.

The third day of the Republican National Convention was a dramatic one. Donald Trump began the day as the party’s official presidential nominee, and apparently, under the impression that stifling dissent is tantamount to achieving unity. Ted Cruz showed him otherwise.

The Texas senator began his speech by congratulating Trump on winning the nomination, and went on to talk about the conservative principles that he would like to see prevail in November. Some delegates, apparently, were expecting this to culminate in an endorsement of Trump’s bid for the presidency. It did not. Rather Cruz called on Republicans to “vote your conscience” in November; to vote for candidates “who you trust” to defend the Constitution. Trump supporters in the arena interpreted those lines as a direct snub of their candidate. Near the end of Cruz’s speech, Trump emerged from backstage with an angry glower on this face as delegates hurled boos at Cruz, who was standing right in front of them refusing to give in to their demands.

Trump and his surrogates spent the rest of the night, and most of this morning thus far, denouncing Cruz on various media outlets as a weasel who lied to the candidate and the country; an ambitious opportunist who could have helped unify the party but decided to prioritize his own ambition; a creep with no friends in Washington who just committed political suicide, and so on. I’m not sure why they consider that a good strategy for Trump, whose campaign was trailing Hillary Clinton’s in polls well before Cruz took the stage. They may be looking to scapegoat Cruz for their defeat in November, but if I were them I’d be focused on avoiding the humiliation of a landslide defeat.

Setting aside the political strategy, Trump supporters’ criticisms of Cruz are wrong. If Trump was banking on Cruz’s endorsement he has only himself to blame for that. Sources close to both Cruz and Trump have said that Trump knew, prior to last night, that Cruz was not going to endorse Trump; Trump’s supporters have cited that as evidence of Trump’s graciousness, despite the fact that in doing so they flatly contradict their argument that Cruz played a dirty trick on Trump. Beyond that, though, they could have easily anticipated that Cruz, unlike so many other Republican officials, would refuse to comply on this point. I reported in May that Cruz was almost certainly not going to back Trump. Cruz had specified certain criteria about character and intentions...

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Day Three: The Crackdown Culminates

Donald Trump Jr. gestures to the crowd after delivering a speech on the second night of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland made it official last night: Donald Trump is now the party’s 2016 presidential nominee. That has been effectively a foregone conclusion since Trump became the presumptive nominee, back on May 3rd—as has the fact that Trump’s victory would prove pyrrhic for the party he now leads. Over the past two months I’ve heard many, many Republicans strenuously rationalizing Trump’s ascent, but no amount of spin can negate the basic truth of the matter: the GOP has now nominated Trump for president of the United States. There’s really no reason for any Republican to celebrate that.

Most Republicans, in fact, are not celebrating that, and during yesterday’s proceedings it occurred to me that winning the nomination has arguably been a pretty pyrrhic victory for Trump, too. His eldest son, Don Trump Jr., spoke on his father’s behalf last night, and it was probably the best speech anyone has given about Trump at the convention thus far, because it was the first one that was clearly about Trump. (As BuzzFeed’s Joel D. Anderson points out, the revelations that Melania Trump pilfered freely from the speech Michelle Obama gave at the 2008 Democratic convention mean that the speech she gave about her husband on Monday was, in a sense, about Barack Obama.)

Don Trump Jr.’s account of his father’s determination, of the look that comes into his eyes when he’s told that he can’t do something, had a slightly ominous subtext for those who read McKay Coppins’s report last week about Trump’s long history of believing himself to be unduly scorned and sidelined. In any case, the speech was, at least, a plausible account of Trump’s character, from someone who knows him well. Everyone else, thus far, has had far less to say about Donald Trump than about Hillary Clinton. At the midway point of the convention, it’s abundantly clear that this is Trump’s main—if not only—attribute as a presidential nominee: he’s not her. We’ll see how well that will work in November. Polling, thus far, suggests that it’s not enough.

The post Day Three: The Crackdown Culminates appeared first on Texas Monthly.

     
 


Day Two: The Crackdown Continues in Cleveland

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump walks on stage to introduce his wife Melania on the first night of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

One of the most baffling phenomena of the year, in my view, has been the astonishing ease with which so many Republican leaders have accepted Donald Trump as the leader of their party and embraced his whims in lieu of their own preferences and principles. Yesterday he clearly had the party leadership, writ large, marching to his tune.

The proof came during a last-ditch effort, on the part of dissatisfied delegates, to throw a spanner in the gears before the party officially nominates Trump for president. The delegates opposed to Trump had, over the weekend, organized an alternative strategy after their efforts at mutiny on the Rules Committee were unceremoniously squelched. On Monday they launched their plan: a majority of delegates in more than seven states had signed a petition asking for a roll call vote on the adoption of the rules, which were scheduled for adoption by voice vote at late yesterday afternoon. The delay that ensued during the convention proceedings was evidence enough of behind-the-scenes consternation. For perhaps half an hour the podium was deserted, as anti-Trump leaders, easily identified by their fluorescent green baseball caps, roamed the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, rallying their supporters, and Trump supporters did the same, focusing on the unruly states, pressuring individual delegates to recant their support for the roll call vote. The results, which played out on live television, were messy; Rosie Gray, at Buzzfeed, details the parliamentary arguments behind the angry shouting that you might have seen broadcast on live television.

Of note, for Texans, was the relative calm of the Texas delegation during the drama. Our state’s delegates are easily identified at the national convention, thanks to their cowboy hats and Texas flag shirts, and throughout the hour, most of them remained politely in their corral. The state was not among those that submitted a petition; nor did it join its neighboring delegation, Colorado, when angry anti-Trump forces walked off the floor. All of this, I think, can be taken as corroboration that Ted Cruz has been studiously uninvolved in the mutiny, though he surely doesn’t like Trump any more than his best friend, Utah’s Mike Lee, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the RNC’s efforts to stamp out dissent.

In any case, though, the rebellion was squashed. That may, I suspect, turn out to look like a pyrrhic victory for the Trump campaign; they can insist that...

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The Crackdown Begins in Cleveland

Delegates from Texas on the first day of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

It’s the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and thus far things could be going more smoothly. The streets surrounding the Quicken Loans Arena, where the event is being held, have all the trappings of a political festival: crowds of conventioneers, protesters, and regular citizens, against a backdrop of banners welcoming Republicans to Cleveland, and street vendors hawking souvenirs.

There is, however, a distinct absence of ebullience about the atmosphere. As noted on Friday, RNC officials succeeded in throttling an effort on the Rules Committee that would have unbound the delegates, a majority of whom are currently pledged to Donald Trump.

By doing so, they effectively assured that Trump’s nomination will be made official later this week. But they did nothing to mitigate the dissatisfaction that motivated the mutineers in the first place. Jon Ward, reporting from the scene this weekend, had an excellent look at the lingering divisions among the Republicans gathered at the convention. RNC officials and the Trump campaign would do well to read Ward’s follow-up interview with Mike Lee, the senator from Utah, whose criticisms of their efforts to stifle dissent have less to do with Trump than with process.

As it stands, however, party leaders continue to act as if Trump’s critics can be silenced by punishment. The Texas delegation will be seated in the back corner of the convention hall, surrounded by neighboring delegations from states where Trump was similarly defeated in the primary; Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, kicked off the morning by accusing John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, of “embarrassing” the state. Be that as it may, it’s probably not the most diplomatic thing to say while surrounded by Republicans in the state in question.

Perhaps Trump will eventually achieve compliance; in the meantime, the malaise that I noticed at the Texas GOP convention, back in May, lingers. We’ll see how it goes.

The post The Crackdown Begins in Cleveland appeared first on Texas Monthly.

     
 


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