Ted Cruz backers ready for fight at convention to make party platform conservative

Alternate headline: “Cruz backers desperate to protect wallpaper in house that’s burning down.”

When I tweeted that earlier, someone replied that they’re trying to protect the house’s foundation, not the wallpaper. Good lord. If nothing else good comes from Trumpmania, can we at least please use it as a reality check on our comfortable self-serving myths about what GOP voters believe? It takes a lot of denial to pay lip service to the party’s “conservative foundation” when 40+ percent of primary voters just nominated a guy who supports single-payer health care.

“To do that, it is imperative that we fill the Rules and Platform Committees with strong conservative voices like yours,” writes Ken Cuccinelli, who was the campaign’s former delegate wrangler. “That means you need to come to the national convention and support others in coming too!”

Mr. Cruz is planning a Monday evening conference call where, as Mr. Cuccinelli writes, Mr. Cruz’s former officials plan to “discuss what we can do at the convention to protect against liberal changes to our platform, and how we can right the wrongs in the rules from 2012!”

The “wrongs” Mr. Cuccinelli was referring to are the changes pushed through at the last convention by supporters of Mitt Romney that would have made it harder for a candidate’s name to be placed in nomination…

“This is about protecting movement conservatism,” he said, pointing to party planks on abortion and saying the delegates should consider language transgender bathroom access.

“This is about protecting movement conservatism,” he whispered through tears, gazing at the smoking ashes that used to be his house. The punchline is, I bet Trump would push to keep the platform conservative even if every last Cruz delegate decided to skip the convention this year. It’s a cheap way to pander to wary Trump skeptics within the party by suggesting that he takes their policy concerns seriously. Are you a pro-lifer worried about voting for a guy whose commitment to stopping abortion seems like it’s an inch deep? Well, just read the platform. Pro-life is still in there! So are gun rights, and privatized alternatives to ObamaCare, and interventionist foreign policy, and lots of other things Trump seems to barely take seriously! It’ll be his olive branch to conservative voters. Hillary will try to hold it against him, but once she does Trump will simply say, “That’s the party’s platform. I’ll have to make up my own mind about bills that come to my desk.” He’s already telling interviewers that he’s “very different from most Republicans,” remember. Having a conservative platform in place would also give down-ballot Republicans something to point to in state races as a statement of their own beliefs if it looks like demoralized conservatives are inclined to stay home in November. In fact, none other than Reince Priebus told everyone this morning to chill out about the platform because Trump has no intention of changing it. I believe it. Trump signed a pledge to support the GOP nominee and then broke it because, when push comes to shove, Trump does what’s best for Trump whatever his formal commitments may oblige him to do. Why would he feel any differently about the party platform? It’s a piece of paper. Whatever.

I don’t know why Cruzers would want to help Trump in this charade. A Twitter pal makes a fair counterargument, in fact: The more dogmatically conservative the platform is, the more liberals can claim, however implausibly, that Trump’s nomination is itself an example of a conservative triumph. His flaws are conservatism’s flaws. If you believe that the party’s doomed this fall with him as nominee, you’re better off letting him own the defeat that’s to come as totally as possible. Lard up the platform with all sorts of nationalist garbage so that, if/when things go sideways, liberals have fewer grounds for blaming conservatism and Trumpers have fewer grounds for claiming that he would have won if only the party had embraced his message more completely. The aftermath of a Trump loss, especially if it’s a landslide, will be one long stabbed-in-the-back whine about scapegoats by his fans. Giving them control of the platform too would deny them an obvious opportunity for that. And if you’re #NeverTrump, having the party platform downplay core movement-conservative concerns like abortion would have the added salutary effect of alienating a few more righties who are currently open to him but will bolt if he doesn’t at least pander to their concerns. In fact, I half-wonder if Cruz’s and Cuccinelli’s interest in keeping the platform conservative is actually just a ploy to give their otherwise dejected delegates a reason to come to Cleveland. I think the odds of Trump being denied the nomination at this point are a thousand to one, but if the Democrats hit him hard before July and he drifts further behind Hillary in head-to-head polls, some delegates might have one last “Are we really going to do this?” moment. Maybe Cruz wants his people in position, just in case. The platform is just a pretext to get them to show up.

That’s far-fetched, though. I think it’s more likely he’s going after the platform so that he’ll have another little credential to show conservatives when he runs again in four years. “Remember who it was who kept our party firmly pointed towards conservatism while Donald Trump was taking over the party?” It’s a campaign commercial for Cruz 2020. Anyway, in the spirit of the party remaining conservative-in-name-only for another four years, here’s Trump shill Kayleigh McEnany arguing yesterday that, um, “You are not a conservative unless you support Donald Trump.” Hillary will make that same argument to her base, and she’ll make it more emphatically the further left Trump goes to try to pander to Bernie Sanders fans. Supporting Trump is a litmus test of conservatism! Consider that just another defective idea on which Trump and Hillary agree.