**The real story of the GOP convention, both in the Tennessee delegation and among Republicans at large, was that a schism was effectively ended — and, ironically, through the errant effort of the would-be schism-meister, Ted Cruz, to widen it.
When the convention opened on Monday, there were two Republican parties on the floor (and in the Tennessee delegation). One — a majority, but an unwieldy one, technically bound by primary voting — supported Donald Trump. Another, made up both of Ted Cruz devotees per se and members of the GOP's conservative wing in general — remained averse to Trump and unreconciled.
Thus it was that there was a virtual standoff on Monday when a voice vote was forced on the issue of approving the convention rules. Many observers thought the Ayes — who favored a "vote your conscience" amendment — had it, but the last in a series of rotating temporary convention chairs, loyal to Trump, called it for the Nays.
But tension remained and gathered steam, right up to the moment of runner-up Cruz's Wednesday night speech. When the Texas senator limited himself to a pallid "congratulations" to Trump for his victory and adamantly withheld anything that, even indirectly, could be construed as an endorsement, the mood on the floor turned ugly — and against Cruz. There were abundant boos for what, both then and, increasingly, in the aftermath, for what was regarded as Cruz' churlish behavior.
Even Bartlett delegate Mick Wright, whose loyalty to Cruz had sparked tension in the Tennessee delegation right up to Tuesday night's roll call, made a point of distancing himself from Cruz during a subsequent interview in which he maintained that delegates should have been able to vote their conscience. A corollary was that Cruz himself, who had been invited into the suite of Sheldon Adelson Tuesday night after the proceedings, found when he arrived that he was refused entrance.
So, if Cruz, as it seemed, had intended his Wednesday night speech to be the opener of his 2020 campaign for the Presidency, the speech may turn out to have been his last of that projected campaign, as well.
When the Tennessee delegation met for its final collective lunch on Thursday, at The Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar on the Cleveland lakefront, there were still rumors afoot that delegates loyal to Cruz might bolt from the floor at some point during Trump's acceptance address that night.
RNC general counsel John Ryder of Memphis had been apprised of that possibility and, in an obvious effort to nip it in the bud within the delegation, made a statement to the delegates in which he acknowledged that some of them were for Trump and some against but that he interpreted the dissidents’ "vote your conscience" mood as mandating, above all, defeating Hillary Clinton and that only voting for the nominee could achieve that. That, plus news that Marsha Blackburn had advised Cruz to "shake it off," seemed to resolve any divisive tendencies within the delegation.
And on coronation night any final rebellious impulse was quelled by a variety of factors, including explicit Ryder-like advice to the convention from Tony Perkins, the anti-abortion conservative, and the good effect from pro-Trump speakers, notably including daughter Ivanka, followed by the piece de resistance, a 76-minute teleprompter-fed address by Trump in which he kept to talking points and gave no pretext for a walkout.
**Ryder, incidentally, finds himself at a crossroads. For the second time in his lengthy service as the state's national GOP committeeman, he sees himself having to leave that role. The first time was in 2004, when Van Hilleary challenged Ryder's position and forced the GOP state com
mittee to honor and not waive a technical term-limits clause.
Ryder would mount a challenge in his turn, four years later, ousting Hilleary. But this year, having served two complete four-year terms, he is gracefully acceding to Chattanooga businessman Oscar Brock as a successor. Ryder's own horizons depend somewhat on the results of the presidential election. He served as a delegate for Trump, who made a point of expressing gratitude upon learning of the fact, and thus has some cachet for a cabinet-level position should Trump win. Another possibility is that Ryder might advance to party chairman if Reince Priebus should step down.
Coming up: a retro view of the convention and an analysis of nominee Trump’s performance in his Thursday night acceptance speech and of his prospects going forward.