His decision has elicited a lot of comment from the #NeverTrump folks in the GOP. People have accused him of selling out his principles or of making a political calculation, but neither of these allegations is the most charitable interpretation of Cruz's decision.
If people supported Cruz because they believe he's that rare breed, a principled politician, why not give him the benefit of the doubt that his endorsement was dictated by principle? Why not think that the man was going to swallow his pride, set aside the personal insults, and do what he believed was best for the country?
Other critics have argued that, setting principle aside, this was a terrible political mistake, but it's not clear to me how this might be. Cruz is already the next most popular politician in Texas after the Governor, and few people will remember his endorsement of Trump or hold it against him in 2020 should he run again for president. Moreover, the Trump crowd will be much more likely to support him four years from now because of his endorsement of their man this year.
If Hillary wins in November, Cruz will be in a good position to run against her as a candidate that Trumpers and conservatives both can support. If Trump wins in November he'll be 74 in 2020 and probably not eager to put himself through the wringer again. Cruz would be in a good position, having gained the good graces of Trump's minions, to compete with Mike Pence for Trump's mantle.
But I want to give Cruz the benefit of the doubt and say that he did it, not as a result of some crass political calculation, but for the reasons he actually stated. Here's an excerpt from the letter he sent out:
I’ve made this decision for two reasons. First, last year, I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word.He could've also mentioned the corruption at the Department of Justice and the IRS which would doubtless continue under a Democratic administration, but the reasons he lists seem adequate to justify his decision. Why not take the man at his word?
Second, even though I have had areas of significant disagreement with our nominee, by any measure Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable — that’s why I have always been #NeverHillary.
Six key policy differences inform my decision. First, and most important, the Supreme Court. For anyone concerned about the Bill of Rights — free speech, religious liberty, the Second Amendment — the Court hangs in the balance. I have spent my professional career fighting before the Court to defend the Constitution. We are only one justice away from losing our most basic rights, and the next president will appoint as many as four new justices. We know, without a doubt, that every Clinton appointee would be a left-wing ideologue. Trump, in contrast, has promised to appoint justices “in the mold of Scalia.”
For some time, I have been seeking greater specificity on this issue, and today the Trump campaign provided that, releasing a very strong list of potential Supreme Court nominees — including Sen. Mike Lee, who would make an extraordinary justice — and making an explicit commitment to nominate only from that list. This commitment matters, and it provides a serious reason for voters to choose to support Trump.
Second, Obamacare. The failed healthcare law is hurting millions of Americans. If Republicans hold Congress, leadership has committed to passing legislation repealing Obamacare. Clinton, we know beyond a shadow of doubt, would veto that legislation. Trump has said he would sign it.
Third, energy. Clinton would continue the Obama administration’s war on coal and relentless efforts to crush the oil and gas industry. Trump has said he will reduce regulations and allow the blossoming American energy renaissance to create millions of new high-paying jobs.
Fourth, immigration. Clinton would continue and even expand President Obama’s lawless executive amnesty. Trump has promised that he would revoke those illegal executive orders.
Fifth, national security. Clinton would continue the Obama administration’s willful blindness to radical Islamic terrorism. She would continue importing Middle Eastern refugees whom the FBI cannot vet to make sure they are not terrorists. Trump has promised to stop the deluge of unvetted refugees.
Sixth, Internet freedom. Clinton supports Obama’s plan to hand over control of the Internet to an international community of stakeholders, including Russia, China, and Iran. Just this week, Trump came out strongly against that plan, and in support of free speech online.
These are six vital issues where the candidates’ positions present a clear choice for the American people.
If Clinton wins, we know — with 100% certainty — that she would deliver on her left-wing promises, with devastating results for our country.
My conscience tells me I must do whatever I can to stop that.
We also have seen, over the past few weeks and months, a Trump campaign focusing more and more on freedom — including emphasizing school choice and the power of economic growth to lift African-Americans and Hispanics to prosperity.
Finally, after eight years of a lawless Obama administration, targeting and persecuting those disfavored by the administration, fidelity to the rule of law has never been more important.
The Supreme Court will be critical in preserving the rule of law. And, if the next administration fails to honor the Constitution and Bill of Rights, then I hope that Republicans and Democrats will stand united in protecting our fundamental liberties.
Our country is in crisis. Hillary Clinton is manifestly unfit to be president, and her policies would harm millions of Americans. And Donald Trump is the only thing standing in her way.