Since Sen. Ted Cruz gave his “vote your conscience” speech at the RNC, he has become the most hated person in the Republican party. Name calling, and accusations going so far as some Christians claiming that he is ‘not a Christian’, are leveled at Cruz. Whether Trump wins or not, religious conservatives will come to thank Ted Cruz.
The fact is, that much of the conservative party’s leverage with voters, lays on its moral arguments. The Democratic party has never championed itself as the “values” party. Those arguments resonate strongly with religious people so that even if religious voters are not aligned with some of the other policies of the GOP, they will still make sure to vote for the party that argues its values. The “values” aspect of voting carries, for example, a lot of weight with Latino voters, many of whom are devout Christians and see religion as the most compelling argument for voting conservatively.
Donald Trump, to say the least, is not exemplar of religious values. Whether you are voting for him or not, no one will argue that he is. Be it his career as a Playboy hero and Playboy style radio host, an adulterer, objectifier of women, questionable business dealings and alleged mafia relations, and more than this article can contain, few people will argue that Trump represents the religious values that are usually championed by conservatives. You can accuseHillary Clinton of many things, but not many of the above- and here comes the point.
Religious people who stood by Donald Trump, will have a harder time making moral arguments in the future. Concerns for “what lesson is this giving our children”, or statements that “character counts” echoed during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, will be null and void. All moral high ground will be lost. After all, the conservative party elected someone who, put mildly, is no saint. The memory of this discrepancy-between values and politics- will come back to haunt religious voters. Supporting Trump, will remain a mark of Cain and a potential disqualifier for those who argue for religious values in politics.
There is a good reason that up to the convention, the Utah delegates, did not want to cast their votes for Donald Trump. Even more astonishingly, although no Democrat has won in Utah since 1964, at this point, it is still questionable if Trump will win Utah. That speaks volumes of what the values community should be thinking of Mr. Trump. And this is where Ted Cruz comes into the picture.
In a post Trump era-whether he wins or not- religious people will need a fig leaf to hang onto. Dissociating from him will be a litmus test for anyone who argues for the role of religion in politics. Religious people will need to say need to say, “Trump was not our choice, we had something else in mind”.
The fact that Ted Cruz held out for so long, will allow many religious people, specifically the Christian right, to hold onto the claim that they weren’t all out there for Donald Trump. Lacking the option of dissociating from a Trump candidacy, will put the “values voters”, in a corner they will have a very hard time leaving-and that is when they will turn on the Cruz memory. That memory will be the closest thing to purifying voters from the Trump memory. And this is why they should thank Cruz for his speech in Cleveland. Had he not delivered that message, moral arguments in any given future, will be quickly put to rest.
Many disagree with what Cruz said in his speech in Cleveland, everyone agrees that every word of the speech, was carefully crafted. Cruz’s following words, were a message for the religious people who championed behind him:” We must make the most of our moments…and when our work is done, and when we give those we love one final kiss goodbye we will be able to say freedom matters and I was part of something beautiful.” That “something beautiful” that Cruz mentioned, was a farewell bid to all those who worked so hard to prevent a Trump candidacy.
The day will come and religious people will retroactively claim more association with Cruz, thank him for saving their dignity- and now troubled trajectory- and wish they all could have said: “I was part of something beautiful”.
Published in The Hill August 1, 2016