It’s been a few days since the Republican National Convention. One glaring fact shined through the rest: Donald Trump cannot deescalate anything. Ever.
Plagiarism: Melania Trump made headlines when several parts of her speech were found to be very similar to Michelle Obama’s speech from earlier campaigns. The issue here isn’t the plagiarism. That’s a minor blip. She isn’t running for office. It should have been caught, but… meh. The bigger story is once again, the Trump camp’s inability to let embarrassing things die off quickly. If they had simply acknowledged what they eventually had to admit from the beginning, this would not have dominated the news cycle for a full day. Instead they denied and lied about the speech. Then they finally offered an apology letter from a speech writer about the lifted bits.
Time and time again, we can see evidence of how a Trump administration will handle criticism. And how they will conduct themselves when they are embarrassed or found to be in the wrong.
Heavy Handed Tactics: A campaign that once proclaimed they were not part of the GOP establishment use the GOPe to crush all opposition at the convention. From the Rules Committee to the Roll Call vote, the RNC pressured and strong armed it’s way to a “unified” convention. Some delegates did in fact attempt to revolt. They were stopped cold. Regarding the Roll Call vote, if the RNC had not hidden from the petitions and then pressured states to withdraw them, if they had just let the roll call happen the party would have been stronger for it. There is no chance that Trump would not have been the nominee. There was no one else nominated. There was no one waiting in the wings. They could have let the roll call happen, nominated Trump, and then moved forward.
Instead of allowing delegates their voice, they crushed all opposition. They alienated delegates, who are in fact voters who care enough to volunteer for the GOP. Not the people you want angry going into the general election.
The Cruz Setup: The controversy surrounding Senator Ted Cruz had nothing to do with what he said, but only what he did not say. Cruz delivered a powerful, solid speech about America and freedom. He reiterated the values that conservatives espouse. Although he congratulated Trump by name, outlined why we cannot vote for Clinton, and encouraged everyone to get out an vote in November, he did not say the magic words, “I endorse…”
The speech, taken by itself, is not controversial. But when Cruz said that Republicans should “vote their conscience” up and down the ticket, right on cue, people in yellow hats began chanting for Trump, and they whipped the crowd into a frenzy of booing as the Senator finished his speech. As Cruz was wrapping up his prepared remarks, Trump entered the crowd. Immediately following the speech Trump surrogates were describing Cruz’s speech as political suicide. Many saying he should have stayed away, and some saying he broke his pledge to support the GOP nominee. Trump himself criticized Cruz and threatened to form a super PAC to run someone against Cruz when he is up for reelection.
This is the sort of reaction you would expect if Cruz had deviated from his prepared marks, and said something unexpected. Cruz told Trump he would not endorse him when he was asked to speak. Cruz submitted his speech long before the event, and the text was given to press 2 hours before he took the stage. He did not say anything that was unexpected. In fact, the Trump campaign and the RNC planned the booing and chanting based off of Cruz’s remarks.
In an alternate reality, let’s imagine Trump did not set up Cruz like this. He lets him speak. He doesn’t incite booing. When it’s over Newt Gingrich does just what he did and says that Republicans who want to vote their conscience have to vote for Trump. This would be a minor blip on the news, and the convention rolls on. But again, Trump cannot bear any slight. He will brook no opposition. He must break Cruz because Cruz will not bend. So he tries to embarrass him, and then releases his talking heads to attack Cruz. Trump even brought up the stupid Kennedy assassination stuff again.
Will this hurt Cruz? I doubt it. Ben Shapiro claims that Cruz was invited to speak during Prime Time at the convention as a result of a deal Trump made with him. Trump asked Cruz not to encourage his delegates to revolt. Cruz agreed, on the condition he could speak, and not explicitly endorse the nominee. Make no mistake, this was a political gamble by Cruz. He probably never expected Trump to conspire with the RNC to embarrass him on the platform. But was it really political suicide? Will voters remember this?
Probably not. Take the pledge; people have already forgotten that all 3 of the last GOP primary candidates backed off the pledge last March. Trump himself said that he didn’t need Cruz’s support. And that Cruz shouldn’t do anything that made him uncomfortable. For anyone to expect the average voter to remember this in 2018 or 2020… I don’t know. On the plus side, if Trump loses- or if he wins and is terrible- Cruz will be the guy that didn’t endorse him.
With Cruz, like so many things, all Trump had to do was let things play out and move on. Instead he turned the whole thing into a showcase of a party division.
This convention shows again that Trump does not have the temperament to be president. He’s petty and vindictive. He will put his own desires over the greater good. Unfortunately, Clinton isn’t a better alternative. And there’s no viable 3rd party candidate running.