WASHINGTON, July 19, 2016 — It is hard to watch Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz posing as party leaders.
Every presidential primary season is fought over policies, positions, principles and whatever grass roots voters are experiencing in their lives.
Kasich displayed his disapproval of the likely nomination of Donald Trump by not attending the convention. Rumors are swirling that Cruz is engaging in behind-the-scenes posturing to place Stop Trump barriers between the nominee and a vote.
The anti-Trump movement has no chance at all of stopping Trump. He is the nominee. Cruz’s convention speech is reportedly unvetted by the Trump campaign and is not guaranteed to endorse Trump, but it would be a disaster for Cruz if he used his speech to attack him.
It is likely that Cruz is planning a “Kennedyesque” speech to set himself up as a candidate in the 2020 elections.
That is conduct unbecoming a party leader who says he wants to prevent the complete decimation of America’s safety, security and constitutional values. If he refuses to endorse Trump, who will be the party on Thursday night, he will be supporting a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Statesmen can have strong disagreements, but they bury them before they take to the battlefield.
At the first GOP debate of the campaign season, the challengers made a pact to support the eventual nominee. Cruz and Kasich must have been convinced that Trump would not be the nominee, or they lied.
Their pledge was not their bond; there is no possible excuse for making that pledge and then rejecting it.
Dissent on the convention floor is not unheard of. I’ve attended four national conventions as a Michigan GOP leader and saw floor fights in three of them.
Rules and party platform issues were up for debate, but when the political dust had settled, the party’s nominee had the overwhelming support and allegiance of the convention delegates as well as party officials.
The goal, everyone realized, is to lead, not to nurse grudges.
In this presidential primary season, the party faithful divided into at least 17 different camps. In May, after heated and sometimes furiously fought political warfare, Trump emerged as the winner by amassing more votes than any other Republican candidate in the history of the party.
For Kasich and Cruz this feat was unimportant; he’d also had more votes against him than any Republican candidate in history. So, ignoring the fact that he’d received far more votes than they did, one went home to pout while the other worked with fellow Sen. Mike Lee to carry the primary battle into the convention Rules Committee.
Lee and the Stop Trump forces loss in committee and on the floor of the convention on Monday. It was not an RNC conspiracy that stopped the Stop Trump movement; it was a genuine repudiation of those forces which were unable to get the needed states or signatures to obtain a roll call vote.
Lee and Cruz should put their hatchets down and ask what it means to lead for the nation and not for personal political advantage in 2020.
It is ironic that the rules governing the nominating process have turned on Cruz, Lee and the absent Kasich. When Cruz took advantage of state primary or caucus rules to siphon off delegates from Trump, the system was not rigged. Yet on Monday, the rules were?
Social media posts from Cruz supporters say that they believe the process was rigged. Yet these are people who have never been to a national convention, are not part of their state GOP organization or have never read the convention rules, yet are suddenly experts on them.
Kasich also took the unity oath. Instead of attending the convention to support Trump, as he promised, Kasich is a very public no-show.
If Kasich does not want to be associated with the party nominee or the Republican Convention, why did he attend the Michigan delegation Tuesday breakfast?
One word: publicity.
Kasich wants just enough attention to showcase his disdain for the nominee, but still let party leaders and the public know that he is relevant. This is not new in presidential politics.
In 1980’s presidential race, George H.W. Bush called Ronald Reagan’s tax policies “voodoo economics.” At the convention, the political hatchet was buried and Bush landed on the winning ticket with Reagan. Their team ushered in an economic boom using President Reagan’s “voodoo economics.”
Bush didn’t bury the hatchet just to be on the ticket, but to create party unity and win the election. He wasn’t interested in just making a statement.
The nation and the GOP do not need losing candidates who take their marbles and go home to pout. At this point the GOP does not need a display of petulance from people like Cruz who refuse to embrace simple math. If you do not have the votes in committee and the rules on your side, then do the right thing and support the victors; stop creating convention anarchy.
In the end, the GOP needs leadership unified by conviction. They must be united to defeat a Democrat who let four Americans die in Benghazi, who feels above the rules for national security and who would undermine and destroy protections of religious liberty and the lives of the unborn.
Cruz, Kasich and Lee should stop tearing down the process and start building unity. Former President Theodore Roosevelt said it best, and Cruz, Kasich and their followers would be wise to listen:
It is not the critic who counts. … The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly … who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
Stand up with Trump or stand with Hillary. Be a leader, not a critic. America is waiting to see you act, not hear you whine, and so are the millions of unborn children as well.