So why should a bunch of principles get in the way of tactics?
Maybe I’m mistaken. It would not be the first time and will hardly be the last. But someone please tell me that the point and purpose of the presidential candidacy for Texas Senator Ted Cruz is not just “Vote for me, because I’m not Donald Trump”. Granted, I don’t always expect a “New Frontier” or “Morning in America” or even “Yes We Can”; inspiring generational movements that rally around both an idea and an individual who transcends an era. I can live with the middling “I Like Ike” or “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow”. I can wrap my mind around a flaccid “Compassionate Conservatism” routine or even the fifteen different versions of “Reformer” that come and go like mouthwash ads. But I’m not sure “If You Want To Stop Someone Else, I’m The Guy” is necessarily a goose-bump inducing rallying cry.
I never begrudge anyone who runs for office, and I am loathe to make any suggestions as to when a candidate should enter or exit a race, especially one of this magnitude; so if Ted Cruz wants to make victory speeches after getting his clocked cleaned in some 30 primaries or pick running mates when he is on death’s door, then I say more power to him. However, I think there should be a point to it. There seems to be none here; beyond one pathetic ploy after the other until the whole thing appears sad.
Lord knows I understand there are plenty of races wherein a candidate shows up to just stop a weakened opponent; the tried-and-true “lesser of two evils” jag. It is just damn rare for someone to articulate it as a campaign strategy. Hell, John Kerry and Mitt Romney ran on, “me or else”. Of course this worked out badly for them, but it’s not like they held press conferences talking like a tic-tac-toe X; “Play me to block!”
And just when you thought this nonsense couldn’t get more tragic, Cruz, now mathematically eliminated from a first-ballot contest, merely says, out loud (in campaign speeches, with people sitting in front of him, on television holding a microphone and everything), that “Sure, I can’t win, but neither can Trump if you vote for me. In fact, don’t even vote for me, vote for someone else in other states to prevent him from winning.”
It is so inspiring you can put music to it. The bumper sticker might be larger than normal, but it has a certain dramatic ring. Can’t you hear the women swooning and men fighting back the tears? I get chills writing this.
Okay, so Cruz is nuts, but I maintain he is not any crazier than your average politician. Granted, he may be a little crazier since he keeps telling us he isn’t one. He’s like a salesman who begins his pitch by telling you he isn’t selling anything. Cruz is as political as they come. He will do or say anything to get elected. He reeks of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon. For instance, early in the campaign his staff pulled a fast one on former sort-of candidate Ben Carson by spreading false information to his voters during the Iowa caucuses that he had dropped out. When confronted about this at the following debate he had three ways to go; apologize, spin about false narratives, or lie. He chose lying. If you look at the campaigning and governing history of both Clinton and Nixon, they both had choices on several and varied occasions to handle their affairs, and in each case, they chose to lie.
But say what you want about the increasingly bizarre “I’m Not Him” strategy of Ted Cruz, what Ohio Governor John Kasich is running on is pure madness.
At least Cruz has managed to pull down a dozen states and a fair share of delegates, working his organization tirelessly within a hazy, backdoor system to gain the requisite votes to take this thing into an open convention come July. Kasich has won one state, his own, and gathered about ten delegates in the past six weeks. No one covers him. He never gets any traction. His argument from day one has been, “I’m the adult, clear-thinking one.” I find this even less inspiring than the rousing “I’m No Him” scheme. Kasich doesn’t even care that he has less support than candidates who dropped out months ago. And he obviously doesn’t give a flying fart about his party, which will implode if somehow his fantasy of lying in the weeds to get the nomination on a sixth ballot comes true. No one really wants Cruz, but they really don’t want the damage John Kasich will inflict on the party now.
Kasich was the best candidate for the Republicans to defeat Hillary Clinton this past June. Now he looks like an establishment kook, who is just waiting for all this annoying surge voting to cease, so he and his cronies can get back to controlling the system. If Kasich is the nominee, Clinton could actually win southern states.
I’m not sure there was any point to Cruz or Kasich in the first place. Case in point: the goofy #NeverTrump alliance to join forces in their stirring “I’m Not Him” momentum. If either of them were truly principled or had a reason for anyone to vote for them, then how could they coalesce? Kasich is a centrist pro-government compromiser, everything Cruz claims to despise. And Kasich is actually running against the very concept of the agitator/non-compromising Cruz. It would seem by this move that these gentlemen would collude with the irrationally hated President Barack Obama at this point if it meant there is the slimmest chance they could be in a position to be the nominee.
Apparently this nonsensical tactic backfired when neither campaign adhered to its incoherent messaging for more than a few hours; further illustrating all this pointlessness. Cruz could not stand abandoning futility completely, so he yanked poor Carly Fiorina into the fray in the hopes that Trump might once again blurt out another slice of misogynistic claptrap and scare people over to him.
This is what the year of Trump has wrought. Every campaign is about him, even the ones that claim to be alternatives. Before Trump, Cruz had it all planned. He was the “outsider” in a season of anger and resentment, and Kasich was the viable, electable candidate, who could stop the inevitability of corruptible Madam Shoo-In. Love him. Hate him. But Trump is real and his actual movement is happening. “Make America Great Again” is as vague and confusing as Trump himself, but at least it’s a slogan and an actual mission statement you can get behind or rail against. It’s not, “If I Can’t Play, I’m Making Up Another Game”.
If the Republican Party tries to stop this from happening, no matter what swinging dick is left to pick up the scraps, the whole mess will turn into #NeverGOP, making way for a Hillary Clinton landslide.
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, “Midnight For Cinderella” and “Y”. and his new book, “Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon”.