Once again, it was all about Ted Cruz

I have never been a big fan of Ted Cruz but I would have voted for him without any hesitation, were he the nominee. I liked many of his policy positions, and considered him very bright and knowledgeable.  I think he might have made a very good president had he accomplished nothing more than stopping the relentless growth of the super state and changing the direction of our foreign policy to once again backing allies and opposing enemies.

But there is the downside as well. Cruz' antics during the budget shutdown effort in 2013, managed to drive the Obamacare enrollment fiasco off the front pages and the evening news, so that his completely hopeless shutdown effort could attract attention to him for his supposed commitment to principle and willingness to fight the good fight. Support for the GOP dropped by 1/4 in the month during which Cruz played this game. Cruz knew he could not win in his effort, but he won in the way that mattered to him -- making him the darling of the hard right and talk radio for his courage and allegiance to conservative principles, and setting himself up to run in 2016.

The reality is that the part of the conservative movement that was in love with Cruz is a shrinking percentage of the American electorate and will drive the party well beyond where most independents and non-conservatives are comfortable. In other words, purity is the enemy of the good and it has been winning. There is no large missing conservative base that will win national elections for the GOP. Trump attracted support from working class Democrats, many of whom have stopped voting regularly. It is why he has a long shot chance to make states like Pennsylvania competitive.

So what happened Wednesday night? Cruz again made himself the story at the expense of his party.

If Cruz was not endorsing Trump because of ugly Trump comments about his family (what he told the Texas delegation Thursday) that is perfectly understandable, and he should have avoided the convention entirely, especially since Trump never apologized. Thursday, Cruz said he decided he could violate his pledge to endorse the eventual nominee based on Trump's' comments about his family. Nice to know that after the fact, if it is the real reason.  

If, on the other hand, Cruz were refusing to endorse Trump because Trump is not conservative enough, well he is a giant phony. Cruz danced with Trump for 6 months while Trump was caustically tearing apart Jeb and Carly and others, assuming he would scoop up the remains once Trump collapsed. Trump insulting other candidates and their families was OK for Cruz -- just politics as usual, until the worm turned on him.

The truth of the matter is that the Cruz brand within the GOP finds anyone less conservative than him unacceptable, with firebrands refusing to support GOP candidates in some states or races where very conservative candidates can never win, because they are not conservative enough.  It is a shrinking minority party approach but allows the true believers to feel self-righteous and superior.

In any case, you don’t crash the other guy’s party, become the big story yourself (which Cruz must have known would occur) and overshadow those working to try to elect someone against Hillary Clinton: Pence, Gingrich, Trump’s kids, Ingraham,  other speakers that night.

If Cruz hates Trump and what he stands for, he should have gotten out of the way and steered clear of Trump's convention. That is what Jeb and Kasich did. They refused to endorse Cruz, but chose not to make themselves the story of the convention.  Whether by design or not, Cruz last night managed to sabotage the Trump convention.

I have friends who are never Trumpers. I have no problem with this. They never signed any pledges. They are not elected members of Congress affiliated with a political party. Most of the Never Trumpers I know live in states where Hillary will win by 20 points, so staying home or skipping the Presidential race has no impact anyway. It is easy for the National Review and Weekly Standard folks in New York and DC to show their courage.

It is always the case with a big tent party that many within the tent are not enthusiastic about the eventual nominee. That is what you get with a two party system, as opposed to Israel or many other democracies with their parliamentary approach. I think our system works  better, but the fragmentation within the parties is quite evident now, and the current system may not last that long. If third parties get a sizable share this year-15-20%, then this fragmentation trend may accelerate. If one party falls apart, and the other doesn’t (Democrats tend to be smarter on these matters), they will win forever, even without favorable demographic trends.

Mike Pence made his national debut Wednesday night, and I thought he was terrific. Too bad his speech is not what people wanted to talk about the next day. Pence has more humility in his finger nail than Cruz has in total. Pence backed Cruz in the Indiana primary, but  stuck with his party and is now making an effort to try to bring victories up and down the ticket this year, rather than just talking about it.  If Trump loses (likely I think), Pence may help keep the race closer, which may lift chances for the GOP to hold the Senate. At least as far as selecting Pence, Trump chose well. The purists will call Pence a sellout. They think the same of Rubio, Walker and all the rest of the other contenders who have fallen into line and who have endorsed Trump, however unenthusiastically. Cruz is their man, standing on principle.  My view is Cruz stands for Cruz.

Hillary, of course, is happy to have the purists do her dirty work for her.