Ted Cruz Won My Respect

Photo credit: Carlo Alegri/Reuters

“He’s a total fraud.” – Rep. Peter King

“It was an awful, selfish speech…” – Gov. Chris Christie

“Ted walked in tall and walked out small.” – Gov. Mike Huckabee

“Vote Your Conscience.” – Sec. Hillary Clinton

Well THAT was interesting!

Months ago, when seventeen Presidential hopefuls were vying for the Republican nomination, each candidate signed a pledge vowing to support whatever candidate would win.

Tuesday, Donald Trump was officially selected as the GOP’s nominee for President of the United States.

Then last night, Ted Cruz, one of the seventeen pledge signers, refused to endorse Trump in prime time at the Republican National Convention and instead encouraged the delegates present in Cleveland – and by extension the television audience – to vote their consciences.

The room exploded. Cruz was literally booed off the stage and Trump quickly emerged in order to take the spotlight off the Senator from Texas.

In those three words, “vote your conscience”, Ted Cruz committed political suicide, derailed the convention, and exposed the deep divides within the Republican Party.

And last night, Ted Cruz won my respect.

I agree with Cruz on very little. Most of the policies he has stood for – from immigration policy, to economic policy, to health care, to an interventionist foreign policy – I have stood against. And last night I expected him to fall in line with Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and all the other former candidates who swallowed their pride and their principles in order to place their support behind a man they had previously described as “a 13-year-old”, “pathological”, “a con artist” and “the most ‘vulgar person to ever aspire to the Presidency’.” Each of them had attacked Trump and described him as unfit for the office of the Presidency, and each of them caved when political expediency demanded it.

But he didn’t.

In a shocking moment, Ted Cruz openly and publicly refused to sell out his principles and support a man he had deemed “amoral“. Instead, he put his own political future on the line (and perhaps at the bottom of a river) in order to do what he thought was right.

As I watched the primary campaign unfold, I heard Christians state unequivocally that they would never vote for a man like Donald Trump. They put #nevertrump on their social media feeds and vowed to oppose a man who used such hateful rhetoric and espoused such extreme points of view. They demanded that Trump stop posturing and start presenting policy ideas.

But one by one, as it became clearer that Trump would be facing Hillary Clinton in the general election, I have heard many of these same Christians go against their convictions and declare their support for Trump out of fear of the prospects of a Clinton presidency.

I hope that what Cruz did last night will make some of my brothers and sisters reconsider their decision to cast a vote for Trump. I hope they will take note of the courage and risk exhibited by Cruz and join him in his refusal to endorse.

Political expediency and a spirit of fear must not be what drives us to support a candidate with our vote. We must not be willing to abandon our principles and vote for someone who stands in direct opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now this in no way is an attempt to talk you into voting for Secretary Clinton. I’ve argued elsewhere that her stance on abortion is much too radical and disqualifies her from receiving my vote.

But I am hoping that your commitment to Christ would be paramount when you vote in November.

Last night, Ted Cruz provided every Christian with a picture of what it means to stand firm on one’s principles.

Granted, Cruz’s decision not to fall in line may have been ambitious. Was he thinking ahead to 2020? Was he beginning his next Presidential campaign? Maybe. After all, he could have refused to appear.

Even NBC contributor Savannah Guthrie wondered aloud during a telecast of the Convention why Cruz had atrendedĀ if he wasn’t intending to endorse the nominee. Why didn’t he join the Bushes, John Kasich, John McCain, and Mitt Romney in sitting out the convention altogether?

I don’t know. But if this was an attempt at furthering his political career, Cruz disasterously miscalculated. But I hope it was something more. I hope that Cruz chose to take that stage in Cleveland and show his fellow Americans that it was possible to stand on principle without feeling forced toward a candidate that opposes their convictions.

Perhaps it is the starry-eyed idealist in me, but I hope that Cruz was doing this out of civic duty and not political ambition.

Ted Cruz will pay the price for his choice. But unlike Donald Trump, Cruz at least proved that he would not turn his back on the principles that he has fought for his entire political career.

Ted Cruz will likely never win my vote. But last night, he won my respect.

Marcos Ortega

Marcos Ortega (MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) is an Assistant Pastor at Goodwill Church (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) and lives in the Hudson River Valley in New York with his wife and two daughters.

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