I can't get your "It's just politics, people!" piece out of my head. Some people look at Ted Cruz's attempts to sway delegates in his favor as theft that circumvents the will of the people back home. Others are saying it's not theft because convention rules allow it, or will allow it once they've been established. I fall into the former category, and you seem to fall into the latter.
I think the comparison between creating policy and choosing a candidate is a comparison between unlike things. There is no question people have a right to influence policy with their duly elected officials, and there is built-in accountability in that system. If a candidate runs on a tax-cut platform, for example, and after being elected is convinced by a minority of constituents (or influence-peddlers) to vote for a tax increase, then the candidate must return to the rest of his constituents and explain the change. We call it a flip-flop, and we stop trusting elected officials who change positions midstream after they have attained an office. It's our own failure if we allow them to continue in the position. That we do isn't good justification for average Republican voters to look favorably on delegates who do the same or, worse, who go to a convention reassured that their opinions or preferences supersede the people's. It's entirely legal, but it's not entirely honest, especially when the Republican Party has for generations led voters to believe going to a poll meant voters were choosing the candidate.
Advertisement - story continues below
By definition, delegates are representatives of others. The Republican Party has spent millions over decades telling the unwashed masses, of which I am one, that our votes count in primaries, urging us to go to the ballot box. And we have. Now the RNC chairman tells us to "sit down," because the party decides and has always decided. That's surprising news to those of us who actually believed we were the ones accomplishing something when we went to vote in a Republican primary. The veil has been lifted. We can finally see what they were hiding: They needed us to succeed in elections and build a bastion of power, but they don't have any ultimate obligation to us when our collective will is different from theirs. Given a choice between primary results and convention results, they choose convention. It's their mulligan. They may succeed in their short-term goals, but like a man who has shot himself in the foot to avoid being drafted for war, they are going to have a hard time running races for a while. And they'll never walk quite the same again.
Cruz, specifically, raised the bar from the beginning when he openly proclaimed the importance of his faith, reaching out to voters who are routinely mocked and ignored for theirs. Clearly, his base is Christian as a result, and when he appealed to our faith, he took on the responsibility of demonstrating that faith in word and deed. It's his deeds that are most unsettling – we get repeated glimpses of double standards and hypocrisy and self-righteousness – always explained away, always justified.
Voters have grown accustomed to self-service working under the guise of public service, but Cruz's actions should be noticeably and remarkably different, because he says he is motivated by his relationship with God. If we apply the "you shall know a tree by its fruit" standard, we should see a generosity of spirit, a kindness toward others, an irrepressible joy, all riding on a current of magnanimity, but we don't see these things in Cruz – at least I don't. We do see considerable finger-pointing interspersed with hefty doses of word-parsing and self-congratulation. We look for fruit, but all we get is thorns. By his own declaration, Cruz's first priority should be to represent Christ. For the life of me, I don't see Christ when I see Cruz, no matter how much I want to.
As the convention approaches, Cruz's mouth continues to proclaim God to convince people to give him their vote, while his hand has started to reach for the people's pocket to take their vote if they have chosen to give it to someone else. He rests on the point that it's all legal; not a single rule is broken. In fact, both he and "the establishment" depend on this point. Delegates committed to a candidate who is no longer running are obviously up for grabs, and any candidate still in the race can rightfully and righteously woo them. Is it right to woo delegates already wedded to a candidate still in the race? I'm not asking if it's legal – is it right?
Advertisement - story continues below
A double standard becomes evident when one considers how the same strategy would be received if it were applied to Cruz's delegates. Does anyone have a rational basis to believe Cruz would consider it fair for other candidates to seduce his delegates if he were the front-runner? Wouldn't his supporters be indignant at the attempt, rightfully declaring he already won the delegates fair and square? But somehow they are comfortable luring away others at his behest. Cruz is not rounding up sheep who have lost their shepherd; he is tailoring sheep's clothing to give the wolves something to wear when they sneak into another pen and snatch a lamb for him. Worst of all, his supporters use the establishment's plan to do the same thing as proof we need to overthrow the establishment.
Using the law and God's word to advance one's ambition or lust for power isn't new in human history; the Pharisees did it. They cloaked themselves in righteousness, legal experts who could recite the letter of the law and completely missed its spirit. I think that's what disturbs many of your readers: They understand that technically one candidate can take votes away from another candidate without violating man-made rules, and they still believe it's wrong. They know what Jesus said about legalism, and white-washed tombs, and bowls that are clean on the outside and dirty on the inside. When they look at Cruz, they don't see Jesus; they see a Pharisee. They know Palm Sunday belonged to the people, and Good Friday was the clever work of the religious, well-educated, influential experts in the law. It's only due to God's over-arching magnificence that we can call Good Friday "good." The Pharisees certainly didn't make it so.
When Jesus warned his apostles about the yeast of the Pharisees, the warning was urgent: He was fully aware of their ability to persuade and influence in the name of God. He was fully aware they would be successful in convincing the people to bring about His death in the name of God. His warning was a clarion call cutting through countless generations to our own day, a message meant for us just as much as for the people standing next to Him when He first spoke the words.
Because the warning was given by God Incarnate for our good and our protection, we Christians imperil ourselves and others when we ignore it. We must avoid the temptation to gloss over the means because we like the end. It's not OK to point to rules to justify ourselves or say "it's just politics" to excuse what anyone with a smattering of knowledge or conscience knows to be wrong. Forget Democrats and Republicans; what about nonbelievers watching all of this? If external rules are more important than inner righteousness, then they can make and then exploit their own rules, too. After all, they would be doing what we're doing, except we're saying that God blesses us because it's God's man we're supporting, and even they won't go that far to defend themselves. Nor should we.
Paul says our battle is not against flesh and blood. In this sense, the election outcome is secondary, because the insidious, long tentacles we currently unleash are far more dangerous than any candidate or political philosophy. Cruz, Kasich, Trump, Sanders and Clinton will all pass; but the precedent we're setting won't, and those oh-so-convenient tentacles eager to do the dirty work now can easily turn and strangle us later. I believe it is inevitable that they will; we were called to slay the beast, to fight it with our every breath in our own personal battles for righteousness and holiness, not to feed it and deceive ourselves into thinking we could tame it. It's untamable, and God's people have always been its ultimate prey.
Advertisement - story continues below
If this unclean, ravenous spirit successfully seduces God's people, slyly persuading us to treat others in ways we don't want to be treated, replacing our first love for something as hollow and perverse as political gain, then we have no excuse before a God Who warned us about false gods beforehand, Who told us He is our rescuer and there is no other like Him. We're supposed to tear down golden calves; instead we're admiring the quality of the workmanship and demanding others do the same because the hideous thing has been deemed sacred – by us, as if it's possible to have the ability to distinguish between the sacred and profane when we are ignoring Him and what He calls us to be. It doesn't matter whose visage we put on the abomination; it's still an abomination.
Sometimes God's harshest punishment is to give us exactly what we want. I cringe at the thought, and I pray for His forgiveness. I acknowledge our foolishness and His wisdom. I plead with Him to show us mercy we don't deserve in lieu of the justice that we do deserve. If He relents, it's because He is good, not because we are, and I am thankful He deigns to hear a plea from a sinner like me. Were He any less than He says He is, none of us would have any hope. We are our own worst enemy.