The self-righteousness and smugness of Ted Cruz in refusing to endorse Donald Trump, then walking off stage in Cleveland, smirking amidst the boos, takes the mind back in time.
At the Cow Palace in San Francisco in July of 1964, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, having been defeated by Barry Goldwater, took the podium to introduce a platform plank denouncing “extremism.”
Implication: Goldwater’s campaign is saturated with extremists.
Purpose: Advertise Rocky’s superior morality.
Smug and self-righteous, Rocky brayed at the curses and insults, “It’s a free country, ladies and gentlemen.”
Rocky was finished. He would never win the nomination.
Richard Nixon took another road, endorsed Goldwater, spoke for him in San Francisco, campaigned for him across America. And in 1968, with Goldwater’s backing, Nixon would rout Govs. George Romney and Rockefeller, and win the presidency, twice.
Sometimes, loyalty pays off.
About Cruz, a prediction: he will not be the nominee in 2020. He will never be the nominee. If Trump wins, Cruz is cooked. If Trump loses, his people will not forget the Brutus who stuck the knife in his back.
To any who read Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent or saw the movie, Ted Cruz is the Sen. Fred Van Ackerman of his generation.
Yet, beyond the denunciations of Trump and disavowals of his candidacy, something larger is going on here.
The Goldwaterites were not only dethroning the East Coast liberal establishment of Rockefeller, but saying goodbye to the Republicanism of President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon.
Something new was being born, and births are not a pretty sight.
What was being born was a new Republican Party. It would be dominated, after Nixon, by conservatives, who would seek to dump the Accidental President, Gerald R. Ford, in 1976. They would recapture the party in 1980, and help elect and reelect Ronald Reagan.
Vice President George H.W. Bush won in 1988 through the exploitation of cultural and social issues. His Democratic rival, Gov. Michael Dukakis, opposed the death penalty, opposed public school kids taking the Pledge of Allegiance, and had a progressive program to give weekend passes to convicted killers and rapists like Willie Horton.
Once this became known, thanks to Bush campaign manager Lee Atwater, the Little Duke was done. The Dukakis tank ride in that helmet, to show his aptitude to be commander-in-chief, probably did not help.
The crisis of today’s Republican Party stems from a failure to recognize, after Reagan went home, and during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, that America now faced a new set of challenges.
By 1991, America’s border was bleeding. Thousands were walking in from Mexico every weekend. The hundreds of thousands arriving legally, the vast majority of them Third World poor, began putting downward pressure on working-class wages. Soon, these immigrants would begin voting for the welfare state on which their families depended, and support the Party of Government.
By 1991, free trade had begun to send our factories and jobs overseas and de-industrialize America.
By 1991, an epoch in world history had ended. With the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the Cold War was suddenly over. America had prevailed.
“As our case is new,” said Lincoln, “so we must think anew and act anew.” Bush Republicans did not think anew or act anew.
They were like football coaches who still swore by the single-wing offense after George Halas’ Chicago Bears, the “Monsters of the Midway,” used the T-formation to score 11 touchdowns and beat the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL championship game, 73-0.
What paralyzed the Republicans of a generation ago? What blinded them from seeing and blocked them from acting on the new realities?
Ideology, political correctness, a reflexive recoil against new thinking, and an innate inability to adapt.
The ideology was a belief in free trade that borders on the cultic, though free trade had been rejected by America’s greatest leaders: Washington, Madison, Hamilton, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.
The political correctness stemmed from a fear of being called racist and xenophobic so paralyzing, so overpowering, that some Republicans would ship the entire Third World over here, rather than have it thought they would ever consider the race, ethnicity, or religion of those repopulating America.
The inability to adapt was seen when our Cold War adversary extended a hand in friendship, and the War Party slapped it away. Rather than shed Cold War alliances and rebuild our country, we looked around for new commitments, new allies, new wars to fight to “end tyranny in our world.”
These wars had less to do with threats to vital interests than with providing now-obsolete Cold Warriors with arguments to maintain their claims on national resources and attention, not to mention their lifestyles and jobs.
With Trump’s triumph, the day of reckoning has arrived.
The new GOP is not going to be party of open borders, free-trade globalism, or reflexive interventionism.
The weeping and gnashing of teeth are justified.
For these self-righteous folks are all getting eviction notices. They are being dispossessed of their home.
Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of the new book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.