Unless you’ve been living in a flooded Texas home without power for the last week, you surely have heard about Senator Ted Cruz’s decision to fly to Cancún. Not only does Cruz’s blunder jeopardize his political future, but it could not have come at a worse time for the Republican Party.
Let’s start with the obvious: A wicked Arctic air mass descended into Texas last week, causing record low temperatures and snowy conditions across the state. Pipes froze, homes flooded and Texas’ power grid — which is largely separate from the rest of the country’s — failed. Texans from all walks of life struggled to cope with the fallout from the storm.
But one Texan seemed relatively unbothered by the chaos: junior Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz was spotted at Houston Intercontinental Airport on Feb. 17, and at Cancun International Airport the next day, waiting for a flight home. When pressed, Cruz explained that he was not taking a vacation, but supervising his pre-teen daughters and their friends, whose schools had been closed for the week. In his own words, Cruz was trying to be a “good dad.”
Cruz might have been a good dad, but in that moment, he was not a good senator. Members of both parties were quick to chastise Cruz for flying internationally during the pandemic, but also for his apparent neglect of Texans during the worst statewide disaster many of his constituents have ever seen.
The few who defended Cruz asked what exactly a U.S. senator is supposed to do about a weather crisis. While there is no one right answer to this question, it has become almost expected that public servants get out and support the people. The same way that state governors try to lock up federal funds during hurricanes and tropical storms, members of Congress should seize the opportunity to show voters that they are concerned with their well-being.
Cruz’s condemners were also quick to point out that he called Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, a “complete and utter hypocrite” back in December. Adler’s offense? Flying to Cabo San Lucas while telling Austinites to stay home and quarantine. In doing so, Cruz was playing the game of partisan rhetoric and echoing an idea that has grown popular with Republicans and lockdown opponents during this pandemic: “rules for thee, but not for me.” During Texas’ winter storm, Cruz exemplified “electricity for me, but not for thee.”
These unfortunate events have come at a terrible time for the Republicans, who continue to struggle with the consequences of Donald Trump’s election loss. And right before the #CancúnCruz fiasco, the announcement of an investigation into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of nursing home deaths looked poised to be a huge breakthrough for the anti-lockdown movement. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turned against Cuomo, calling for a “full investigation” into the situation. This was national news… for about a day until Cruz had to go completely AWOL at the worst possible time.
I had hope for you, Flyin’ Ted. But as you slowly prove yourself to be out-of-touch with your constituents and fail to distance yourself from Trump, you are becoming less and less electable in 2024 (whether for president or another Senate term).