So Ted Cruz refrained from endorsing Donald Trump last night, and so my respect for him remains high. I appreciate it deeply. If he had endorsed Trump, then my support for Cruz would have gone the way of the woolly mammoth. The pressure on Cruz to cave must have been enormous, as can be ascertained from the outraged reactions to this failure to kiss the ring.
The issue is power versus principle. Trump has won the Republican nomination, and he is in a position to call a number of shots, particularly within the party apparatus. Cruz will definitely pay a price for this, but I think it will be acute and short term. Long term I think that Cruz is ahead of the game.
If Trump is elected in the fall (which, in a year of populist-driven, Brexit-like surprises, is certainly possible), he will likely make all sorts of executive decisions that will be the executive equivalent of corned beef hash. In such a case, Ted Cruz will be perfectly positioned for a primary challenge in four years. If Trump surprises the world (and astonishes me) by being not half bad, Cruz will be in a position to “come round,” and his working with Trump at that time (on anything) will not be seen as pragmatic cravenness.
If Hillary wins — as the received wisdom holds that she will, and we all know how astute the received wisdom has been in these troubled days — then Cruz spends the next four years as Reagan did after 76. He is the front runner, the heir apparent, the one who should have been listened to this time around. He will be the front runner in a badly damaged party, one that that will desperately need to restore its center. In order to do that, you need someone who actually has a center.
Two other comments. Is it not obvious that if Cruz had endorsed Trump, he would be called upon to answer for every cockamamie thing that Trump says between now and November? In other words, Cruz is being assailed for not supporting Trump, but if he had, he would be assailed for that. And if you are going to be assailed regardless, you might as well do it with your principles intact.
The second is related to Cruz’s comment that he is “not in the habit” of supporting people who attack his wife and father. But there was a downside to that stand, showing again that Cruz is a man of principle. As one person on Twitter put it well: “Major mistake by Cruz tonight: this probably torpedoes any chance he had of a President Trump pardoning his dad for killing JFK.”