I have to give Cory Gardner credit. When faced with a choice, he stood up — or actually ducked out, but still pretty much the same thing — for principle.
OK, he wouldn’t say what the principle was exactly. And, being Cory Gardner, he didn’t feel the need to explain any of it to voters.
In other words, it wasn’t quite a give-me-liberty-or-give-me-death moment, but still.
On the night Donald Trump was remarkably nominated by a major political party to be its presidential nominee, 10 of the 12 Republican senators who were elected in 2014 took to the stage in Cleveland for a show-of-unity photo-op. Many of these senators have little enough use for Trump, but they did show, to their shame.
Gardner was one of the two freshman senators who didn’t. He left Cleveland earlier Tuesday, after spending only one day at the convention, because, he said, he had work to do in Colorado. We’ll forgive him the white lie. If he wouldn’t say it, it was still pretty clear: Gardner left because he didn’t want to be part of Donald Trump’s coronation.
Ben Sasse, a confirmed never-Trumper, was the other no-show, but Sasse wasn’t there at all. By making a brief appearance and then making what turned into a public exit, Gardner might as well have taken a megaphone in his carry-on.
That Gardner is no fan of Trump is not exactly news. Back when Gardner was out on the trail in support of Marco Rubio, he called Trump a “buffoon.” And when Trump complained that the Colorado caucus system was rigged, Gardner sent out a series of Twitter bombs, including one accusing Trump of having a “temper tantrum.”
So on Tuesday, Gardner — like the Colorado delegation did briefly the day before — walked out on Trump.
As I said, he deserves credit. But I’d give Gardner a lot more credit if he would do the truly brave thing by going on record to explain just how dangerous a President Trump would be.
The stakes are just that high, not that I expect Gardner to ever publicly admit it.
As conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, watching in horror, tweeted: “Every … major figure who participated in this grotesquerie has disgraced themselves on a level unique in the history of our republic.”
George Will, of course, has already quit the Republican Party because he couldn’t belong to a party that nominated Trump. The list goes on.
In fact, the list of Republican dissenters is long and pretty impressive, but it includes very few politicians, who are, after all, politicians.
Which is, in part, how the theme of the convention came to be that if you can’t anything nice about Trump, at least say something especially cruel about Clinton. On Day One, it all seemed like a disaster, the usual overreach, the kind that the Clintons have thrived on for years. And the night was made worse, of course, by the Melania Trump plagiarism scandal, made worse still by the worst plagiarism defense I’ve ever heard, this from Chris Christie — that at least 93 percent of the speech was plagiarism-free.
By Day Two, it all began to seem routine. Trump was nominated with any undue dissent. The Trump kids were charming. Don Jr. was certainly more articulate than his dad. There was the usual line of third-rate celebrities, one of whom got a prime-team slot to hawk avocados. And Ben Carson was there, God help us, to link Clinton to the devil because — stay with me here – she once wrote an admiring college paper on the devil himself, Saul Alinsky. And Alinsky once apparently wrote that Lucifer was the very first radical. So, OK, Ben Carson.
From the real politicians, Paul Ryan tried to say this was a contest of ideas, apparently forgetting, as some have noted, that Trump was the candidate. Mitch McConnell was booed for his efforts to say something nice. Christie tried to prove he should have been the vice-presidential pick, getting into the swing of things by detailing a long list of alleged Clinton crimes — many of them absurd on their face — while asking the crowd if Clinton were guilty or not guilty. The crowd often answered by chanting “lock her up,” which seemed a little extreme unless, I guess, you’ve spent any time at the GOP convention.
That the convention has been so little about Trump and so much about Clinton says at least two things: One, that a lot of people in the party have nothing good to say about Trump; two, that the only way Trump can win the election is to make America believe that a Clinton nomination is every bit as chilling as a Trump nomination.
Which is where someone like Gardner could come in, placing himself on the right side of history, unlike, say, Darryl Glenn, the Colorado Senate candidate who has become a fervent Trump supporter.
But you’d be right not to get your hopes up. Denver Post reporter John Frank caught up with Gardner Tuesday and asked him. Gardner praised the Colorado delegation for standing firm in its attempt to debate the convention rules, but, on Trump, he fell back on the old standard, the one made famous by Paul Ryan, saying that there were “some questions I still need answered, and I look forward to hearing the speeches.”
I’m not sure what Gardner expects to hear, other than more about Crooked Hillary. But Gardner did say he would definitely not be voting for Clinton while also saying he definitely would be voting for someone, which seems to limit his options. “I think a no-vote is giving the victor, whoever that may be, the win without your participation,” he told Frank. “And I think everyone needs to have their day in this, win or lose.”
Make of that what you will. Gardner had his day in Cleveland. Trump, meanwhile, will get two more.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr