Glenn Questions Ted Cruz on What It Means to 'Vote Your Conscience'

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) defended his decision to vote for Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election on The Glenn Beck Program Monday. Many in Glenn's audience supported and campaigned for Senator Cruz during the primary election, and Glenn felt it important for his audience to hear the senator's reasoning.

RELATED: Trump’s Third Act Enters Climax With Cruz

In a considerably heated interview, Glenn grilled Cruz to understand what pivot point led to the senator's decision, announced Friday on his Facebook page.

"I just want to make sure I understand," Glenn said. "So, a man who has principles, who says, There are lines I will not cross, it's still a binary choice? So, a man who you cannot come on and say, Yes, Glenn, he is fit to be president of the United States, I still am encouraged by you to abandon my principles and vote because it's a binary choice?"

Cruz answered deliberately.

"You are encouraged by me to do what you believe is right and honorable and principled," Cruz said. "And from my perspective, as I look at the issues, Hillary Clinton is telling us she will do enormous damage to the country."

Read below or listen to the full segment for answers to these pointed questions:

• What was the pivot point that changed Senator Cruz's mind?

• Will Senator Cruz be voting his conscience with Trump?

• Did the senator reframe his speech from Cleveland?

• Is this election really a binary choice?

• Did Senator Cruz hang Mike Lee out to dry?

• Did Senator Cruz "rent" his email list to Donald Trump?

Listen to this segment from The Glenn Beck Program:

Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors:

GLENN: Yes. Well, waiting for the politician hotline to ring right now. On the other end, Senator Ted Cruz, who agreed on Friday to come on the show and talk to you and tell you his thoughts.

PAT: What if there's a super important Senate vote going on like this minute?

GLENN: Here he is. There he is. We get to him right now. Okay. Good.

(music)

GLENN: Welcome to the program, Senator Ted Cruz.

TED: Glenn, it's good to be with you.

GLENN: Senator, you -- you said you made this decision for two reasons: First, you promised to support the Republican nominee, and you intend to keep your word. And second, by any measure, Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable. I want to get into both of those with you, but I want to start with the last thing that you said.

TED: Sure.

GLENN: You said, "If you don't want to see Hillary Clinton presidency, I encourage you to vote for Donald Trump." You are voting for him. And you encourage others to vote for him.

In your very eloquent, almost Charles Sumner speech at the convention, you said, "Vote for conscience." So am I supposed to now vote for him, or am I supposed to vote for my conscience?

TED: Well, Glenn, what I said in Cleveland and what I would say today is the same thing: You should follow your conscience. And I believe what I laid out in Cleveland was, "Don't stay home. Come out and vote. Vote your conscience and vote for candidates you trust to defend freedom and the Constitution." And what I was trying to do at Cleveland was lay out a path to uniting Republicans and lay out a path to winning.

And in particular, I was saying to the Trump campaign, "This is how you earn my vote and I believe how you earn the vote of other conservatives: You defend freedom and defend the Constitution. This is about principles and ideas." That's the test I'm applying. What I do know is that Hillary Clinton fails that test profoundly. And I said that at Cleveland, and I think it is even more clear today.

GLENN: Yeah, we've known that. We've known that for 25 years.

TED: Yes.

GLENN: And Hillary Clinton has done nothing to change your mind or mine that she is fit to be president of the United States.

However, this weekend, you wouldn't answer the question if Donald Trump is fit to be president of the United States.

TED: What I said is this is a binary choice. I wish it were not a binary choice. As you know, I tried very, very hard -- as did you -- to prevent it from being a binary choice from Hillary and Donald Trump. And I think it is fair to say there was no other Republican candidate who left more on the field and did more to stop Donald from being the nominee than I did. But the voters made a different decision. And you have to respect the democratic process, even if you may not be terribly happy with the outcome.

And given the binary choice on any measure --

GLENN: I just want to make sure I understand. So a man who has principles, who says, "I will -- there are lines I will not cross." It's still a binary choice. So a man who you cannot come on and say, "Yes, Glenn, he is fit to be president of the United States," I still am encouraged by you to abandon my principles and vote because it's a binary choice?

TED: You are encouraged by me to do what you believe is right and honorable and principled. And from my perspective, as I look at the issues, Hillary Clinton is telling us she will do enormous damage to the country.

Let's take the issue of the Supreme Court, which, as you know, is an issue that matters deeply to me. I know it matters deeply to you and deeply to many of your listeners.

Almost every one of our constitutional rights hangs in the balance. We have a narrowly divided court, with Justice Scalia's passing. Just about every right we cherish is at risk of being lost, whether it is the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. And in the Heller case, which I helped win, that was a 5-4 victory that upheld the individual right to keep and bear arms.

The next president, probably in January, will nominate a justice that will either uphold the individual right to keep and bear arms or attempt to revoke it forever.

GLENN: So you and I agree on this 100 percent.

TED: Yep.

GLENN: But this is information that you had in Cleveland. And hang on just a second. Before you respond.

TED: Sure.

GLENN: You had all of this information. You had this information the day you dropped out of the race and said that Donald Trump is a sociopathic liar. So you had all this information. Have you spent an enormous amount of time with Donald Trump? Do you have new information that has made you say, "Oh, my gosh, he's now not a sociopathic liar. He is not the guy that I -- I -- I very eloquently spelled out for over a year and now suddenly there's a reason to believe him."

TED: Well, let me say a couple of things in response, Glenn.

First of all, I have had many significant disagreements with Donald Trump. And as you noted, I have not been shy to articulate those at considerable length.

I don't intend to do so at this point. The primary is over. We are in a general election with a -- with a binary choice.

GLENN: I'm asking you for new information.

TED: And I don't think it's beneficial for me to continue laying out those concerns. I have laid them out a great length --

GLENN: No, I'm asking you for new information.

TED: You're in a different role than I am. You have -- you can share your concerns. I have shared them in the past. I don't intend to repeat them.

STU: But that's different.

GLENN: That's different. I'm asking you for new information. You knew all the things that you are saying today. The time to do that would have been the day that you pulled out or the day that you -- the day that you gave the speech so eloquently.

PAT: Why now?

GLENN: Why now? What's new?

TED: Well, a number of things have changed. I'd say the most significant thing that changed was on Friday, the day that I announced that I would vote for Donald Trump, the Trump campaign put out a list of potential Supreme Court nominees, and I think to me, critically committed that the only nominees he would consider for the court were on that list.

Now, that was a major shift. In the past, he had put out a list of 11 potential nominees, and the campaign's language had been, "These are among the people who would be considered." On Friday, the campaign expanded that list to 21. It's a very strong list. They put Senator Mike Lee, who would make an extraordinary Supreme Court justice. They put him at the top of that list.

GLENN: Yeah, after not speaking to him.

TED: And for the first time ever, the campaign committed, those were the only names that would be considered.

Now, I'll tell you, Glenn, that was not an accident, that that occurred. When several weeks ago, when I sat down with Mike Pence in Washington, Mike asked me, "What would it take to get you on board?" And for months, I had been telling Donald, I had been telling the campaign, "My greatest concern was protecting the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the rule of law."

I told Donald that before the convention. I said that over and over and over again. And when we talked about, "Well, what could the campaign do to give any degree of reassurance on the Constitution and the rule of law," we discussed the Supreme Court as being one of the great checks protecting the Constitution and the rule of law. And the Trump campaign committing to nominate from that list was an important change that gave me significant reassurance and helped me get to the point of saying yes.

PAT: Hmm.

STU: So, A, I have a million questions on that. Why do you believe him, number one?

Number two, you have Mike Lee, who I agree would be a great Supreme Court justice, but also is on the list and still not endorsing. And did you tell Lee in advance? Because there's lots of reports saying that you basically hung him out to dry after he's been siding with you this entire time.

(chuckling)

TED: Well, look, on the latter point, Mike and I have had a great many conversations. And the idea that -- I would love to see Mike Lee on the Supreme Court, as I said many times on the campaign trail. I joked more than once with Mike there, and indeed, Glenn, with you there, about how good I thought Mike would look in a black robe. So I will make no secret and no apologies of my view that Mike Lee would make an extraordinary Supreme Court justice.

PAT: No question.

GLENN: We've talked about that extensively, you're exactly right.

But I believe Stu's exact question was, "Did you hang him out to dry?" He was not aware -- many reports are that he was not aware that he was a candidate or you were going to make this decision on Friday.

TED: I'm not going to get into the details of our private conversations, but let me just say, that's not accurate. But I don't want to get into the details of our private conversations.

STU: Okay. So why do you believe Trump on this list? Because, I mean, you've called -- I mean, you said, you know, he was going to send us into the abyss. You called him, correctly, a pathological liar. Why would you believe that he put it down on a piece of paper, that he wouldn't back off on it? I mean, he's backing off on -- he backed off of the birther thing. It was the only thing we knew about the guy.

TED: What I laid out -- and let me encourage your listeners. You know, I mean, I wrote a long op-ed that we posted on Facebook. We sent out on email.

If you haven't read it, I'd encourage you to read it. Because it was something that I wrote from the heart. This was a decision that I agonized about.

But starting on the Supreme Court, what I believe to a certainty is Hillary Clinton, if she were president would appoint left-wing ideologues to the Court. If that happens -- the next president is going to get one, two, three -- maybe even four Supreme Court justices. If that happens, the Second Amendment is gone. Religious liberty is gone. Free speech is gone. Federalism is gone. US sovereignty will be given away. I believe that to 100 percent certainty.

Now, with respect to the justices Donald Trump would nominate, I know that he is publicly committing to nominate from a list that is very strong. And if he were to nominate from that list, it would be a major step towards protecting our rights. I hope that he would follow through on that commitment. One never knows if one will. But the fact that he is publicly promising, "I will nominate from these 21," I think creates a dynamic where, compared to Hillary, who is promising to put left-wing ideologues, that's a clear choice.

PAT: Ted, I think what's most disappointing to me is that for you, this has gone apparently from voting your conscience, to, this is a binary choice. Those are two different things: Voting my conscience means I can't vote for either one of these people. That's what that means to me.

What does vote your conscience mean to you?

TED: Still, with all respect, I don't agree with that. And one of the dynamics, if you go and look at what I said in Cleveland --

GLENN: We will.

TED: What I said in Cleveland was almost word-for-word what Ronald Reagan said about Gerald Ford in '76. And it was almost word-for-word what Ted Kennedy said about Jimmy Carter in 1980. And that was not accidental. Both of those were obvious historical analogues. Those were the two previous candidates who had come very close and nearly won the nomination. And my speech drew deliberately from both of those speeches. Both of those speeches at the time were treated as effectively endorsement speeches.

One of the unfortunate things about the reaction in Cleveland is that for many who were watching, it was perceived that I was essentially embracing Never Trump. I have never been a Never Trumper. You know, Glenn, you and I have talked about this. You have defended the position, I believe at times, of never supporting Trump. That's never been my position. I've never said it.

GLENN: And never supporting Hillary.

TED: Right.

GLENN: In fact, sir, I never actually endorsed you. Every single one of my speeches started the same way: I am not here to endorse Ted Cruz. I am here to endorse the ideas of America and the Constitution of the United States of America.

So I don't -- I don't -- I'm not never or always anything, except for constitutional principles.

TED: And you're preaching to the choir on that. But my point is, in Cleveland, I was not articulating, "Do not vote for Trump." I was articulating, "If you want my vote, defend freedom and defend the Constitution."

GLENN: Correct.

TED: What I was hoping to do was provide a path for the Republican nominee to focus on the issues that matter and bring us together. And I believe in putting out a list of Supreme Court justices and committing to that list, that was a major step in that direction.

I also think it was important last week when -- when I had been leading the fight in the United States Senate to protect freedom on the internet, to protect -- prevent Obama from giving away control of the internet to Russia and China and Iran. Hillary Clinton supports Obama in doing that. And Donald Trump came out strongly in support of my fight to protect the internet. That was significant.

The test I laid out in Cleveland was, "Will you defend freedom and defend the Constitution?" When Donald Trump comes in and supports our efforts to defend freedom, that's significant. Does it mean that he'll always do that in the future? No, I don't have certainty of any candidate on that.

But what I do know is that what Hillary is promising to do would do enormous damage. The court would be lost for a generation. And, you know, on the question of voting your conscience, listen, that is what I have struggled for months, prayerfully considering, "What is the right thing to do?" Any voter has five choices: You can vote for Hillary Clinton. You can vote for Donald Trump. You can vote third party. You can write somebody in. Or you can not vote in the presidential election.

I decided early on, I was Never Hillary. I was not and will never vote for Hillary Clinton. Part of what I thought about and wrestled about over the past several months is the last three options. I could not publicly defend -- I couldn't sit here on your radio show and urge voters to vote third party when a third party's not going to win and either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is going to be president. I couldn't urge someone to write someone in or not to vote. And so I was left with --

GLENN: I hate to interrupt you.

TED: My conscience left me as the only option, if I want to stop a Hillary Clinton presidency, is to vote for Trump. And that's ultimately what I concluded.

GLENN: I just have -- I have one more question, and this is worth $20,000 to me. Bump the next commercial, please. Take that first commercial. Give me the extra minute for his response because I'm up against a network break.

All of us have received pro-Trump emails, and we're now on the Trump bandwagon. I have taken advertising from Donald Trump. And I would take advertising from Hillary Clinton because this is a business and I don't believe keeping options gone.

However, I think everybody should be able to have their voice heard on the public airwaves. However, me getting information or email list now on Donald Trump is really rather annoying. The only person that I ever gave my information to was you.

As a candidate, you do not have to sell your list. Did you sell your list to Donald Trump?

TED: Well, Glenn, as you noted on your radio show, you sell advertising. It's actually what funds your radio show. And that's true of, as far as any radio show, that's how one communicates. That's also true of every candidate. You don't sell your list, but you rent your list. So if someone wants to access your supporters, they pay for it. And that helps fund your efforts. And so like every other candidate, sure, we have rented our list out for those who wish to pay for it. That is true, by the way, of every other candidate.

And so, yeah, there's a hit piece today in Politico, a left-wing rag that wants to -- that is hitting me --

GLENN: Oh, my gosh.

TED: -- but somehow is not applying that standard to anyone else in the political world or for that matter anyone else on radio who sells advertising every day to fund communicating with the voters.

GLENN: Well, I do have that same standard. Thank you very much. Ted, I disagree with you. I disagree with you strongly, but I still respect you as a man. And you have done a lot of great. And I hope you continue to do a lot of great work in the future. Thank you for coming on the program.

TED: Well, Glenn, and you are my friend. I continue to respect you --

GLENN: I have to break. Thank you. I'm sorry, I have to break for this network. Here we go.

Featured Image: Screen shot from TheBlaze TV

He may not be a super hero like he plays in the movies, but Chris Pratt is proving once again why he's a hero to so many. The silver screen protector of the universe announced on his Instagram page a contest that will benefit the Brain Treatment Foundation, who is a partner of Mercury One that does amazing work with veterans. The Brain Treatment Foundation specializes in helping combat veterans who are suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The contest asks fans to donate $10 to the foundation for a chance to win a trip to drop in on the Guardians of the Galaxy star on the set of his new film Tomorrow War.

Watch his video below to hear all the details.


Ryan: The Ascent of Kanye West

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Apollo, god of poetry, light, prophecy, dance. Star of Greek mythology, rivaled only by Zeus, his father. God of justice. God of purification, knowledge, healing. God of the Sun. But most of all, god of music. So they called him the Leader of the Muses.

And on a bright Sunday morning midway through November, at the tail end of a decade, Kanye West looked out at the congregation of Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, a 16,000-seater originally built for the Houston Rockets, and said, "Jesus has won the victory: Now the greatest artist God ever created is now working for him."

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Kanye's newest album, Jesus Is King, had been out for three weeks, and like every Kanye album, it was controversial, as adored as it was unaccepted.

Critics had shown a mostly tepid response, but nobody could tell if their disinterest was genuine, or if it was politically motivated.

After all, for the past year, Kanye had once again managed to penetrate the epicenter of American society. The last two Presidents had literally shamed and cursed Kanye, but, still, who could've guessed he would befriend this one?

Photo by Caroline Ryan

The week after Kanye's Olsteen appearance, at the House impeachment hearings, as the entire country watched and listened, Congressmen and diplomats would mention longtime Kanye collaborator A$AP Rocky no less than five times, in casual reference to the Kardashians and the deal between Trump and Sweden, struck at the urging of Kanye West.

Meanwhile, Jesus is King became the ninth consecutive Kanye album to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 — a feat he shares with Eminem and The Beatles — and the sixth time in the 2010s alone. And, to be fair, his only studio album not to debut at number one was The College Dropout, his first, which went triple platinum and earned the third-most Grammy nominations in one night, winning Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song with "Jesus Walks."

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Jesus is King was also the first record ever to top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, Rap Albums, Christian Albums, and Gospel Albums simultaneously. All eleven tracks charted on the US Billboard 100, joining the other 96 Kanye songs to have landed on the Top 100.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

This album was different, and not just because of Kenny G. For the first time, Kanye was not a god or a self-destructive fallen angel. He was a father, a husband, a son, and, most important, a man full of belief, with his hands outstretched, surrounded by a choir.

"I remember sitting in the hospital at UCLA after having a breakdown," he told the congregation, "and there's documentations of me drawing a church and writing about starting a church in the middle of Calabasas."

That night, following an afternoon of ice-skating at the Galleria, Kanye returned to Lakewood Church and performed a concert. Imagine hearing a his electro-gospel opera in an arena designed, acoustically, for professional basketball games. Only better, because everything had been padded. With LSD graphics on the swirly blue carpet.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

When we experience art, it changes us.

So there I was, four rows from the stage, crying in front of FoxNews. Because Kanye had brought his Sunday Service choir with him, and they were singing "Ultralight Beam," one of the few perfect songs ever made, a song that played during my wedding ceremony, the song my daughter, God willing, will be born to, a song I have never once listened to without at least tearing up.

“Jesus Is King" A Sunday Service Experience at Lakewood Church with Kanye West youtu.be

"This is a God dream, this is a God dream. This is everything."

Kanye was the only person onstage dressed in his own clothing, a neatened blazer. The choir were draped in grey, like holy silhouettes.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

So who cares about FoxNews and their snotty reporters in their shoulder-padded blazers. The rest of us had drifted into the immediacy of it all. And I wasn't about to play stoic journalist here. I wasn't a reporter first and a human or an American later.

The choir zigzagged on the loft flanking the stage. Each of them had a headset microphone, like Garth Brooks.

God only knew how they sang so perfectly. How did they project their voices like that? More beautiful than anything we had ever heard, more beautiful than water.

After "Ultralight Beam," it was "Every Hour," the mesmeric opening track of Jesus Is King.

Sing every hour, Every minute, Every second, Sing each and every millisecond, We need you

Every Hour youtu.be

The performance felt all the more sacred because this was church, where people gathered to lose themselves, to sing as a chorus, to confront who they really are.

Across the street, one protestor stood hollering.

Meanwhile thousands of people waited at the entrance, giddy to get in. They would join us in no time. Soon, they would fill every seat in this church.

*

That morning, Kanye told Olsteen,

"It's like the devil stole all the good producers, all the good musicians, all the good artists, all the good designers, all the good business people and said, 'you gotta come over and work for me.' And now the trend, the shift, is going to change."

Jesus Is King was the result of a new cultural and artistic movement that more or less started with 2016's Life of Pablo, Kanye's closeted gospel album. Which was a surprising departure from 2013's Yeezus, with its tangled social commentary and fashionable solipsism. And that drum sound, the one every half-decent producer has spent the last six years failing to emulate.

The 2010's saw him grow more cerebral. He even teased a book of philosophy titled Break the Simulation.

Then, in 2018, he released Ye, the second of five albums in a Kanye-produced series, all recorded at his Wyoming studio. In keeping with the criticisms of hip-hop he voiced on "Ye vs. The People"

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Kanye eschewed many of the themes he'd embraced for so long, replacing them with meditations on mental illness, fatherhood, suicide, love, and addiction. The album's working title had been "LOVE EVERYONE."

On "I Thought About Killing You," he raps,

The most beautiful thoughts are always beside the darkest.

The title "Ye" is not just the diminutive of "Kanye."

As he said in an interview

I believe 'ye' is the most commonly used word in the Bible, and, in the Bible, it means 'you,' so it's [saying] "I'm you, I'm us, it's us." It went from being Kanye, which means the only one, to just ye – just being a reflection of our good, our bad, our confused, everything, that I'm just more of a reflection of who we are, just as beings.

Philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer wrote that

All individuality is a manifestation of universal life, and hence everyone carries a tiny bit of everyone else with him, so that divination is simulated by comparison with oneself.

In the months following the release of Ye, Kanye would live out this idea, and build his own movement, a reflection of who we are, then begin his church in Calabasas.

*

At 10:30 that morning, the three of us — Samantha Sullivan, my wife Caroline, and me —- strolled into the arena and claimed seats in the media section.

That place resembled the inside of an ant colony. We were three ants.

The service began with errorless music, then shifted into a quick, stirring message by Osteen, who always seemed to appear onstage from nowhere, privvy to the kind of big-money stage tricks you find at a Shania Twain concert.

The entire place and all the Jumbo-Trons and all the people, it all had a cinematic presence.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

A preliminary giddiness spread through the room. Then, Kanye emerged, there on the stage, and the place erupted.

A man in a "Jesus is King" shirt danced around his seat.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Everyone took their seats, but one man standing in the crowd shouted affirmations. "Speak truth my brother," he shouted.

The man shouted several more times, then Kanye politely told the guy to hold off on the support because it wasn't helping, because Kanye needed relative quiet to capture and release his flow.

The ceiling glowed in skittish purple.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Kanye described the corrupting force of the media. A chill came over the room. Behind him, the unapologetic blue of Jesus Is King.

It was my first encounter with Joel Osteen, and I was surprised and somewhat baffled to find him likeable, based on everything I'd ever heard about the man.

Kanye said as much, that Osteen is nothing like the version of Osteen many people have broadcast.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Osteen laughed, "When you've got Kanye defending you, you've made it, man."

Rays of light danced through the arena. I'm talking Pink Floyd light show levels.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

With 21 Grammys, Kanye is tied with Jay-Z as the most decorated hip-hop artist of all time.

Osteen asked Kanye what he would say to his younger self, if he could go back in time.

"You know, it's nothing I can say to the younger Kanye through words," he said. "I could speak to the younger Kanye through music."

*

Osteen played the middle section of "God Is," arguably the focal point of the album.

And Kanye danced and rapped along with it. And the surreality of the situation was daunting. Was that really Kanye West up there? with Joel Osteen? dancing to his gospel song?

Six or seven years ago, I saw Kanye a mile away at the Toyota Center — coincidentally, the current home of the Houston Rockets — for his and Jay-Z's Watch the Throne tour. It was a much different experience than this.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

When Kanye finished, the media flooded out. As did a quarter of the people in the congregation. This bothered many of the regulars.

Security and ushers yanked big grey mop buckets from cabinets, and dispersed them down aisles, and money music played.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Then the time for prayer. Prayer leaders lined the walls and pews. And anyone could walk over to them and pray. Men and women clung to strangers, crying sometimes, hugging. Holding hands, whispering phrases.

*

One of the media coordinators pulled us out of the sermon, led us through passageways and elevators, past classrooms and security guards, through a black sheet, then behind a barricade.

This is where all the media had rushed off to like old folks trying to get the best seat for bingo.

Each news outlet was allowed one question.

After 15 minutes, the energy changed and you could tell they were near.

Then, Kim Kardashian-West was walking our way, holding her daughter's hand, followed by Kanye, who was followed by Osteen.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

"Nice tags," Kanye said, referring to my "GOOD" necklace.

Then:

Brief interview with Kanye West and Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church, Nov. 17 in Houston, TX www.youtube.com

Some of the outlets asked more than one question, but that was on them. They were the ones sinning in church.

*

As Kanye and Olsteen shuffled away, down the line of journalists, I said hello to a small crew from FoxNews as they packed their equipment.

"We're from TheBlaze," I said, smiling. To which they sneered and glanced at one another then got back to their conversation.
Samantha rolled her eyes and the three of us wandered around for an exit.

"Did we just get stiff-armed by Fox News?" Said one of us. "I didn't think they were allowed to look down on anybody."
"I've had that with people from Fox on several occasions," one of us replied.

"I mean, I thought I was doing them a favor a favor by acknowledging them. Nobody else does."

Then it happened again, a few minutes later, this time with someone we had worked with, someone who knew us.
You bet we were salty.

Bad as it felt to be judged like that, it was good to be underestimated. A relief. It meant we could perform without anyone caring or watching.

They had no idea who we were or what we were really doing. Good.

*

In November 2007, Kanye's mother died during a routine surgery. He and his mom, Dr. Donda West, had always been incredibly close. She raised him alone, after Kanye's father left, when Kanye was three.

A few months later, his engagement with Alexis Phifer abruptly ended.

He was 30 at the time.

Oddly, this tragic sequence of events would cause the birth of auto-tune in rap. Broken-hearted, Kanye wanted to sing. So he ran his voice through a vocoder.

Kanye's album 808s & Heartbreak, which like Jesus is King has no curse words, shoved music ahead at least two decades, into a world of synth-driven robotic R&B/Rap love songs belted out in janky auto-tune. That description doesn't sound ridiculous today. But that's only because Kanye eschewed the stale hip-hop of the early 2000s and reinvented the genre, something he has accomplished with every album.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Then, he went on tour. But he never took off any time following his mother's death. And, by the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, he'd fallen to what he calls his sunken place.

He and then-girlfriend Amber Rose brought a bottle of Hennessy with them to the award show. They took slugs in the limo. Then on the red carpet.

When Taylor Swift won the award for Best Female Video, Kanye stormed the podium, sunglasses on, and grabbed the microphone, said "Imma let you finish," then let everyone know the award should've gone to Beyoncé, for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)."

He was kicked out immediately. He tweeted, "Everybody wanna booooo me but I'm a fan of real pop culture... I'm not crazy y'all, I'm just real."

Followed by an apology. Then a few days later, during an appearance on debut episode of "The Jay Leno Show"

Leno asked Kanye, "What do you think [your mom] would have said about this?"

That hit Kanyelike a punch to the jaw. He teared up, froze.

He publicly apologized to Swift. Several times.

But it did little to quell the blowback. Once again, it felt like the entire nation hated Kanye. Compounded by a hot-mic recording of Barack Obama — the country's first black President — calling Kanye a jackass.

So the embattled Kanye retreated to Hawaii to record a masterpiece, 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

*

"We are a Christian country," Kanye said at one point, to uproarious applause.

The vast majority of Americans, 90 percent, believe in a higher power.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

And America has the largest number of Christians in the world, with roughly 167,000,000, comprising 65-to-70 percent of the population. But that's down from 80 percent, as part of a downward trend over the last two decades.

The percent of Americans who attend a religious service of any kind — church, synagogue, or mosque — is even lower, less than half.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

One political scientist blamed the public's growing distrust in institutions. Another blamed conservatives. A writer from New York Magazine took it a step further.

Meanwhile, David French.

As always, the issue is far more nuanced than either side will admit.

Somehow, in the last twenty years, church and religion had become not just uncool, but slightly villainous.

All day, every time I looked around — at people singing, at people dancing, at people crying in joy or in the relief and recognition of their pain — I thought, "How could this ever be a bad thing?"

Photo by Caroline Ryan

I had spent my life going to concerts, had seen Kanye West numerous times, and this was something other than a concert, and unlike anything I'd seen from Kanye. It was also more than just religious or spiritual.

A family of strangers in a city of 6 million, in a world of 7-and-a-half billion, broadcast live, led by a man who fought off the devil in front of us for years. Who struggled with life just like we do, only we could nitpick through the one-way mirrors of our phones and our TVs.

But, now, he had been baptized in public.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

Some people were still negative about Kanye's recent faith, especially Christians. As Kanye raps on "Hands On"

What have you been hearin' from the Christians?
They'll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me

Consensus was, they couldn't believe him. As a Kanye fan since I was 13, I can tell you that he is genuine. It's really his only setting. Plus, his spiritual transformation has been building for quite some time.

*

By the time we returned to Lakewood that evening, the sky had turned dark blue, and frantic with airplanes.

The sidewalks around the arena overflowed with people. Police cars jutted out in crooked lines to block entrances or exits, the strobe of red-white-blue whirling onto pedestrians' faces.

Across the street, facing the giant arena, a man with a bullhorn ranted about the evils of sinful music.

Earlier that day, sheepish protestors had occupied the spot, holding red poster-sized letters that spelled out "I M P E A C H." There were only four of them, though, so they had to double up and share, and sometimes the "H" slanted down or the "I" slipped loose.

"Impeach Kanye?" one of us said, laughing.

"Kanye 2020," shouted someone.

The air was electric. People bounced when they stepped, or walked faster than normal, or turned oddly as they spoke like a third-year professor.

They sang along as they passed traffic-jam cars, most of which were blasting Kanye.

A chorus of police whistles and the usual rumble of semi-trucks passing on US-59. Just down the street, porn shops and strip clubs and a Ferrari dealership. Immediately Southwest, the Mahatma Ghandi District. West, the Galleria, home of the opulent Galleria mall, where Kanye and Kim and family gone ice-skating earlier.

Inside the arena, a different world, low-lit and glowing. A dreamscape of lambent crimsons and violets, a deeper, warmer, slower take on the lights atop the police cars outside. Globular squares of blue were arrayed along the ceiling.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

When the musicians emerged to their instruments, the arena was still half-empty. The show had already been delayed 40 minutes. The demand to get in was so ferocious that the security gate was jammed up like a glass Ketchup jar.

Then, like spirits, men and women drifted onstage in all-grey uniforms and matching hats that looked like they should say "VIETNAM VETERAN" but actually said "Sunday Service."

Every single member wore brand-new grey YEEZY Boosts.

From the start, the performance was cinematic, a sort of new-world opera sung by a chorus of young American muses with nose rings or gold chains or dreadlocks or pink hair.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

From the huddle, a young man rose, and began reciting a poem. It was the invocation of the muse.

Gadamer wrote that poetry "becomes a test of what is true, in that the poem awakens a secret life in words that had seemed to be used up and worn out, and tells us of ourselves"

*

After a whirling rendition of Carl Orff's "O Fortuna," the choir began "Ultralight Beam."

They let the song spread. It grew enormous.

The air swirled as the song widened.

Kanye waited out of view, then appeared without ceremony.

A collective gasp when people recognized the melody of Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed." Which sounds like a dream already, with all that wilderness.

So it was even stranger when the song morphed into SWV's "Weak," a skating rink anthem written by Charlie Wilson of the GAP Band. A classic.

The choir were their own countervailing force. Yet they also connected us to the drama of the performance.
Looking back, I wish I could live in those moments forever.

*

Then came their cover of "Father Stretch My Hands" by Pastor T.L. Barrett And the Youth for Christ Choir.

Father Stretch My Hands www.youtube.com

Kanye has paid homage to Barrett's track on two different songs, from two different albums.

It was his prayer.

Pastor T.L. Barrett, a man who's lived an exciting and at times difficult life, only to become a Pentecostal preacher on Chicago's south side, and form a choir of 40 teenagers from his weekly choir practice.

If you dive into Barrett, you'll better understand what Kanye is doing.

*

Ten seats from Kim Kardashian-West, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (TX) stared ahead in a neat grey suit, occasionally poking at his phone and blasting people on Twitter.

Which means there were at least two people in the building who have appeared on Saturday Night Live.

There were other politicians, including Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick. And even more at the earlier service. You could tell they were politicians the same you can tell a vegan burger from a real Whopper. Several times, Kanye held up his phone up and read the words from his newer songs.

Like "Selah," which built into "Hallelujah"s at the end, intoxicating and perfect, like being sucked into an undertow. Which led into "Follow God," a continuation of "Father I Stretch My Hands."

Kanye uses the image of stretched hands to express his own submission and the process that leads to his healing. As a reference to John 21:18

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.

But the song is also about Kanye's literal father, and an argument they had. Then, under it all, he adds a sample of "Can You Lose By Following God" by Whole Truth. He ended the song with his Kanye shriek, somewhat confusing and abrasive with a choir present.

Then — something I did not expect. The thumping bass of Cajmere's "Brighter Days (Underground Goodie Mix)."

And now this was cosmic gospel.

It felt like a rave. Have you been to a rave? It's people dancing, taking MDMA. That is what it felt like.

Flourishes like that were part of Kanye's genius. No other gospel performance would dare. You won't find that kind of diversity at any other hip-hop show, either. The acoustic instruments, the choir. Maybe during a set by electronic musicians like Moodyman or DJ Koze. But, no choir. Yet here Kanye was, at Joel Osteen's church, blasting classic techno.

Oddly enough, though, the most popular song of the night was "Closed on Sunday," Kanye's ode to Chic-Fil-A.

Everyone in the arena knew the words. So then there were two choirs, in a dialogue. I didn't think it was possible, but the collective harmony got even more intense and engulfing than it had all night. So much so that the house speakers started to peak in one corner of the arena.

Photo by Caroline Ryan

The Ancient Greeks were the first to use a chorus. In the 5th Century B.C., 50 actors would gather in the orchestra pit and sing in unison, commenting on the action of the play, describing scenes to the audience. They were a collective force. They represented one character, who was able to connect the audience to the characters and events onstage.

Kim Kardashian was front and center filming with her phone, as two of the West kids jumped around on the trippy blue carpet.

The performance was nearing its end, and suddenly Kanye was dressed like everybody else in the choir. Grey Yeezy kit and the Sunday Service hat. His transformation. From Kanye West to Pastor Ye, stretching hands.

Then, he was gone.
One by one, the choir began fluttering off the stage, to the Clark Sisters' "You Brought the Sunshine."

Half were gone, when I noticed the singer with braided hair crying. With every exhale, she collapsed her hands into the floor. Let them fall like tired flowers. Arrayed in fitful blue. She gasped. She heaved her shoulders like a wingspan. For a moment it was like she would actually take flight.

A security guard peered over the railing from above the stage. He looked like God.Symbolically, he was.

New installments of this series on the 2020 elections come out every Monday and Thursday. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

Don't believe in time travel? Think it's just a wild conspiracy theory reserved for late night alien radio programs? Well, we have unearthed bombshell evidence that will blow you away and have you questioning everything!

A 120-year-old photo PROVES climate change activist teen Greta Thunberg is actually a time traveler warning all generations of the dangers of global warming.

Glenn did some exhaustive research and found several other photos and subjects in historical paintings. Check them out here and see if you are now a believer:

Warning Elvis fans

Ryan: Suction energy, pt. 1

Photo by Sean Ryan

After his speech at the Boone County fairgrounds, Joe Biden nodded and people engulfed him like he was their oxygen. Journalists shouted questions, photographers shoved people aside. Biden's bodyguards even drew closer. I found a good oak tree and hid out in the shade, 100 yards from the chaotic huddle.

Photo by Sean Ryan

They shoved closer and closer and closer, with a vacant urgency to their eyes. They had to get as close as possible. It was like some force of nature had taken control of everyone, and now their only goal was to merge their lifeforce with Biden's.

The frenzy of writhing arms and contorted bodies reminded me of Shark Week, when the hulking Great White breaks through the protective cage and how's the diver gonna make it out alive this time?

*

A need for convergence, often leading to upheaval.

Most of the Democratic candidates caused this effect. As did their opponent, to a far greater degree. Because he was the president, and he was Donald Trump, so, for the time being, he embodied this magnetism more fully than anyone else in the entire world.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Every time Trump entered a room or a building or a space of any kind, every person within a reasonable distance felt it. And they couldn't help but bob their head around, and arch up on their tiptoes, scouring till they saw him, and then all they could do was lean forward and wonder if it was actually him.

Some of the Democratic candidates had a stronger magnetism than others. Which meant the gravitational pull had laws that guided it. The term I started using for it was "suction energy."

It was something you could physically feel.

At the Iowa State Fair, Bernie Sanders' suction energy was so intense, so visceral that it reminded me of a hurricane.

Photo by Sean Ryan

People wanted to be as close to the man as possible. They wanted a picture. Proof that it happened—that they had actually seen someone that famous.

And they were perfectly right. And their reactions were understandable and lovely even, and altogether innocent. Encouraging. Because they were genuine.

Even journalists were susceptible to suction energy. In fact, they could spazz even harder. Unlike the public, they were there as workers.

*

Suction energy is an art, something you cultivate. But it's also a result of luck and reality. Some people will just never have an ounce of it.

Take, for instance, Jay Insleey, who was apparently a Democratic presidential candidate in the 2020 election. At some point in my travels, I wound up in the same place as him.

Maybe it was a couple times. A couple, two, three. I can't remember.

All I know is that I went to Clear Lake, Iowa for the Democratic Wing Ding, to see Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren and the 20 other candidates, and this guy Jay Insless ... sorry, I mean Inslee took the stage at some point. It's hard to say when exactly because, as I mentioned, he was impressively forgettable, like a human thumbtack.

Wing Ding featured Jay Insee?Photo by Sean Ryan

He was yammering about something, and, man, he looked and sounded like P.C. Principal, from South Park, and that was pretty funny.

I told my dad, and then we were both laughing. Then my dad did an imitation of P.C. Principal, and we were really hooting.
Then all I could think about was P.C. Principal. So I ducked out into the hall to watch a P.C. Principal clip compilation, and I laughed and laughed and nobody went "Shush!," because there were plenty of others like me.

Photo by Sean Ryan

And, boy, I laughed. I was actually a bit sad when the clip was over. I'd forgotten where I was, and when I caught a glimpse of the guy onstage, my sadness deepened into pity. The feeling you get when you realize that the amateur thinks he can beat the professional. When the replacements think they will know valor. When your dog thinks they're going to the park, but really it's the vet, and they wake up without balls.

Do we have an obligation, a moral imperative, to tell a Square when she's trying to shove into a Triangle hole? How much teeth-lettuce does a person lodge into their incisors before you are inclined to alert them?

Like, after this speech, that guy John Insley, would wander around the walkways of the Surf Ballroom, same as Kamala Harris and Andrew Yang, only he'd lack their glow.

Crowds flocking to Kamala HarrisPhoto by Sean Ryan

At one point, he'd clench his jaw into what must have been a smile, ready for any nearby journalists to sneak a candid photo or rush forward for a quote.

Photo by Sean Ryan

If any of the others noticed, they didn't let on. So here was this chubby kid in a costume knocking on the front door, and I know full well Halloween was weeks ago, but who's gonna feed the harmless lie if I don't?

Photo by Sean Ryan

Nobody, that's who.

So I groaned and shrugged and told my dad, "Let's give the tubby kid some Starburst."

"Wha?" he asked.

Then I asked would he get a picture of that candidate over there.

"Who," he replied. As in, "I can't see an important person over there, which one is running for president?"

In other words, Insleep had absolutely zero suction energy. To a near-magical extent.

Within a few weeks, he would announce the end of his campaign on The Rachel Maddow Show.

Yet there he was, somehow center stage, looking out at the packed Surf Ballroom, where, on February 2, 1959, Buddy Holly played his last show.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Buddy Holly, now there's a man with suction energy. So much suction energy that, when he died, music went with him.

*

When I saw Kamala during the week of the Iowa State Fair, she was at the height of her campaign, having climbed to second place, within nine points of Biden.

Everywhere I went, there was Harris, with her personalized KAMALA bus, and her chartered press pool, and her entourage of staff and fans and media.

Photo by Sean Ryan

On the first Saturday of the Fair, my dad and I wound up seeing Harris five times. Five times! In part because she could hustle. She wanted that job. But also because she understood power and optics.

Before her speech at Jasper Winery, (when she played savage 4D chess with Andrew Yang, she spoke to several hundred people packed into the atrium of Valley Southwoods Freshman High School in West Des Moines, her fourth rally of that day.

Photo by Sean Ryan

When she finished her speech, a horde surged straight for her, eighty or so.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Just a month earlier, The New Yorker had run a glowing profile on Harris. That was huge. As of the release of this story, Harris was the only 2020 presidential candidate that The New Yorker had featured.

Photo by Sean Ryan

At that point of the election, excitement for Harris was so intense that it seemed obvious she would get the nomination, or close to it. So I wrote five pieces about her.

But by the time I finished all five stories and added them to the publishing schedule, Harris had sunk 11 points to 4 percent, which put her in 8th place. In New Hampshire, the first state to hold primaries, she was polling at 1 percent. By comparison, Biden, Warren, and Sanders were locked at 19.

Now, the only headlines were about her foundering campaign and her dwindling cash and her downsized staff. In each case, the sentiment was the same, "Whatever happened to Kamala Harris?"

Which answer a question I posed in my first story. Would Harris "I got this one in the bag" attitude help her or ruin her? Turns out the ostentatious bus and the unnecessary press accommodations had been a premature move, and now she just seemed cocky.
Because suction energy can, and often does, vanish in an instant.

A Bernie can always become a Jay InslepInslee. Nobody is immune, no matter how powerful they appear. Look at Bill Cosby. Harvey Weistein. Both were godlike in their power. Both had a gravitational pull so intense that they raped women for decades and nobody did a thing. Cosby's suction energy was so intense that he collected honorary degrees like a vacuum collects dog hair. 70 of them. Then, off to prison to eat pudding in the dark.

By the time I saw Harris at the Democratic Debate in Houston, a month after she stormed Iowa, she'd begun transforming into Joe Biden, focused on all the wrong things, laughing at her own jokes, without realizing that nobody else was laughing.

New installments of this series on the 2020 elections come out every Monday and Thursday. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com