“All politics is theater” is the old adage. Whether you choose to interpret that as a military theatre of operations or stage theater, much of modern American national politics is seesaw between two rival powers who honestly agree on values and duties about 95 percent of time, but most of their time arguing about that final 5 percent. Occasionally, on idle Tuesdays between lunch and midafternoon, laws get passed and actual governing gets done.

Presidential nominating conventions are high theater, described by NPR reporter Mara Liasson a “staged infomercial.”

The candidates are generally known well in advance and the first days of the convention are a well-rehearsed cavalcade of top government officials, senior statesmen, up-and-coming future leaders and respected policy wonks with impassioned speeches before picture-perfect backdrops praising the presumptive nominee, attacking the opposition party and energizing the base. The aim is to unify the party and work together to get as many candidates elected as possible, from the president on down.

Until this year. The Republican National Convention has been absolute insanity. Top officials have skipped it, hoping to not be tainted by the shadow of the nominee. U.S. Sen. and former nominee John McCain is skipping the convention to focus on reelection despite previously speaking at every convention since 1988. U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake told the Associated Press he’s skipping because, “I’ve got to mow my lawn.”

On the opening day, the nominee’s wife, Melania, gave what many thought was a great speech for one’s spouse — after all, Michelle Obama had originally written parts of the same speech for her nominee husband in 2008. Plagiarism plagued the convention for days with numerous, conflicting explanations of the source. Allegations of plagiarism call into question judgment and honesty, as Sedona residents well know after a similar incident involving our school district superintendent.

The end of her speech appeared to also have been stolen from another source, Rick Astley’s 1987 song “Never Gonna Give You Up,” used as an internet prank known as rick-rolling. Photography teacher Mal Cooper hilariously rick-rolled the 2015 Sedona Red Rock High School graduation, but it’s disconcerting when done unwittingly by a possible future national figure.
On day two, speakers went on the offensive, attacking the Democratic nominee, but offering few policy suggestions and little reason to elect their own. The vitriol reached a clamor with chants of “lock her up,” about which Flake tweeted, “[Hillary Clinton] now belongs in prison? C’mon. We can make the case that she shouldn’t be elected without jumping the shark.”

The fireworks, however, erupted on day three. The nominee’s chief primary rival, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, refused to endorse his party’s candidate, instead urging party members to “vote your conscience.” The convention floor erupted in boos which crescendoed, but Cruz held firm, refusing to endorse a candidate who had attacked his wife and father and holding out hope that Republicans who oppose their nominee may still have a party after an expected drubbing in November.

Cruz may not be the nominee and not liked by many Republicans nor most Democrats, but his refusal to kowtow was a noble act of defiance — political theater at its finest.

Voters should not let one candidate taint whether to vote in November. Down-ballot candidates should not suffer because of who tops the ticket. Dissatisfied voters from any party can also choose Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

We encourage all to vote their conscience whether they pick their party’s nominee, choose someone else or leave “president” blank. Staying home on election day is not democracy.