The current presidential election has been, inarguably, one without precedent. Even from the beginning, things did not appear as they have in the past. For starters, there was a female running for a major party’s nomination. That alone has never been seen before, and, furthermore, her being selected as the Democratic nominee has changed the concept of our country’s leadership forever.
This is certainly an election year of firsts. But even knowing that from the start, I don’t think anyone would have predicted things turning out the way they did.
The Republican National Convention, firstly, was one of surprising dissent.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas opened his speech on Wednesday by congratulating Trump’s nomination. The crowd erupted and banners reading “Make America First” were flown like flags. But immediately after, Cruz went on to say, "And like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November," and there followed a slightly less enthused applause.
While Cruz did his duty in congratulating his opponent, he did not follow through on his promise to endorse Trump, and it was clear by the end that those present were very aware of that.
In the middle of his speech, Cruz defined what it is that freedom should mean, according to Republican ideals, and he tactfully stood behind the party at large. This was met with applause and cheering. He even spoke in support of a few of Trump's biggest campaigning points (i.e. building a wall, keeping out Muslim immigrants).
But the one statement that shook the crowd and which eventually caused the room to devolve into chaos was this:
"We deserve leaders who stand for principle... who cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect from everybody. And to those listening: please, don't stay home in November. If you love our country, and love your children as much as I know you do, stand and speak and vote your conscience; vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and be faithful to the constitution."
This is what Cruz had been waiting to say.
The crowd booed.
"We chose Trump" was the chant that the New York delegates repeated. Not another word that Cruz said in the rest of his speech was met with applause. People began screaming insults at his wife as she was escorted out of the room, and a delegate even tried to attack Cruz as he, himself, left.
Cruz later noted in an address to at the Texas delegation breakfast, in his defense: "I simply encouraged folks here and a home that we deserve leaders that stand for principle.” Yet, while he did not expressly say it, it was clear that he did think of Donald Trump as one of those leaders.
The Democratic Convention in Philadelphia was no better. The event which was themed ‘Unity’ has now become the epitome of disunity. Before the event even began, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was asked to step down; emails were leaked which suggest that Clinton was favored by the committee during the party’s primary; and after it began, many uncompromising Sanders supporters protested all throughout, refusing to accept Clinton’s victory and boisterously calling for revolution.
It would be an understatement to say that things, right now, are a tad hectic.
But there is good that came from this month’s conventions: we witnessed the historic nomination of a woman for president. That, alone, will mark the year 2016 as one that students will eventually learn about and observe as a great moment in our country.
And while we’ve seen drama between candidates, we’ve also seen people stand up for what they believe in. The “anti-establishment” spirit that has arisen and driven people to protest certainly appears less like 'Unity' than most would prefer, but it also represents a renewed call to Democracy, to liberty, and to freedom. We’ve seen it in the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union, and we’ve seen it in our own backyard.
People may be divided over who it is that will end up running things, but there is a unifying fire that’s still stirring in this country, and there are people who are still working hard to keep it upright.
The current Presidential election has been, inarguably, one without precedent; but it is worth acknowledging the resilience and the perseverance of the American spirit.
While it was an inappropriate move––to understate––was Ted Cruz's speech outrageous? The man spoke his mind, and we should, after all, seek a leader who promotes principle.
And while protesting is divisive, should the potential that there was partiality in the primary vote go undiscussed? And should injustice be overlooked?
Chaos is never something preferred, but in the the case of this election, it represents the very passion on which our country was first built.
That is worth acknowledging.