Senator Ted Cruz addresses the Republican National Convention tonight. To secure his participation Donald Trump’s convention managers (if that’s what they can be called) had to agree to let him be the only speaker whose remarks have not been cleared in advance. So …. will he or won’t he?
Cruz fancies himself the legatee of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, each of whom, four years before they got their own nominations had to speak to a convention which had nominated someone they regarded as insufficiently conservative.
The 1960 Republican Convention ultimately nominated Richard Nixon to run against John F. Kennedy. To bring a recalcitrant liberal New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller into camp Nixon negotiated a deal with him over the party platform. Outraged conservatives responded with an abortive campaign to support Barry Goldwater for the nomination. Moving to make Nixon’s nomination unanimous after the balloting, Goldwater noted the danger to conservatives of a Democratic victory and said, “I am a conservative. I am going to devote all my time from now until November to electing Republicans from the top of the ticker to the bottom of the ticket, and I call upon my fellow conservatives to do the same.”
Goldwater concluded, “Let’s grow up, conservatives! If we want to take this party back, and I think we can some day, let’s get to work.” And so they did – up to a point. Nixon had a united party but lost to Kennedy. Goldwater won the nomination four years later and lost in a landslide.
In 1976 Ronald Reagan engaged in a titanic battle in the primaries with incumbent but unelected President Gerald Ford. Ford won and gave his acceptance speech. He stood on the stage with his family, the outgoing Vice President Rockefeller and the Vice Presidential nominee Bob Dole and their families accepting the cheers of the crowd. In a moment of unity-seeking enthusiasm Ford called out for Ronald and Nancy Reagan to come from their balcony seats to join the tableau on the stage. As this moment was unexpected the Reagans had been placed on a balcony far away from the stage so as not to upstage the winners.
As the crowd and national television watched, the consummate actor Reagan pantomimed reluctance. Urged on by Ford and the cheering crowd, the Reagans made their way to the stage. Slowly. As the crowd chanted “We want Ronnie” and Ford waited impatiently on the stage.
When the Reagans arrived on stage the band started playing “California, Here I Come.” Ford invited the Governor to say a few words,” plainly hoping for at least a modest endorsement. Reagan responded with an inspirational paean to Republican virtues – obviously the acceptance speech he had prepared to give. Only after Reagan left the stage did anyone seem to notice he had not said a word in praise of the President.
The convention has been somewhat lackluster to date. The program for each night seems to have been designed to peak, not at its finish but at 10 PM, the time when the old-fashioned broadcast networks join the proceedings. As a result the program then tails off and the convention delegate-audience resembles more a bus terminal than a semi-state occasion. The image is not helped by the fact that many delegates, like airplane passengers, seem to have abandoned the formal wear of old.
It is a slow news day when the big story is whether Melania Trump stole some of her bromides from Michelle Obama or directly from the Hallmark cards where they originated.
Cruz should be worth a watch though. He is a skilled, if smarmy, advocate. He excels at the slashing attack. It will be no departure from the convention theme so far if he turns those skills on Hillary Clinton.