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Ted Cruz more embarrassed being caught in Mexico than facilitating an insurrection

4 min read

Ted Cruz tried to slither around the coverage of his holiday in Cancun, including an interview on Hannity to offset a series of lies once social media caught him at the airport.  #TedFled because he’s really not all about the accountability or even patriotism considering his role in the insurrection.

Cruz’s callousness about his constituents’ suffering is not just morally appalling. It is also—and this probably weighs more heavily on Cruz—politically dangerous.

Nero fiddled while Rome burned; Ted Cruz jetted to Cancún. And although the emperor was at least ensconced in a lavish, louche palace, the senator from Texas was stuck in economy class with the peasantry.

Cruz’s appeal as a politician, such as it is, has never been about being lovable or relatable, but the latest incident is embarrassing even by his standards. He was spotted on a flight to Mexico yesterday, amid a catastrophic storm that has left Texans without power, heat, and sometimes water, huddled in freezing homes and community centers as the state’s electrical grid verges on collapse. More than a dozen of his constituents have already died. Cruz is headed home today—if not necessarily chastened, at least eager to control the damage. In a statement, he said he took the trip at his daughters’ behest. Blaming your children is a curious tack for an embattled politician, but he doesn’t have much else to work with.

Consider how this works out in the case of electricity. The lower 48 U.S. states are divided into two big electrical grids—except for Texas, which maintains its own independent system. (Small, outlying parts of the state belong to the big grids.) The state maintains a separate grid to avoid having to comply with federal regulation. If Texas had been connected to the broader national grid, the state might have been able to borrow power that would have filled the hole left when large parts of the system failed in this storm: As demand for energy for heating surged, power plants went offline, equipment froze, and wind turbines froze too. Instead, Texas has experienced staggering blackouts.

The pile-on was nearly as fierce as the storm. A Cruz tweet from December resurfaced in which he lambasted the mayor of Austin, a Democrat, for flying to Cabo San Lucas during coronavirus stay-at-home orders. “Hypocrites. Complete and utter hypocrites,” Cruz wrote at the time.

It is tempting to turn the “hypocrite” label on Cruz, but his sin is worse. Every politician is a hypocrite at some point. Cruz’s error is not that he was shirking a duty he knew he should have been performing. It’s that he couldn’t think of any way he could use his power as a U.S. senator to help Texans in need. That’s a failure of imagination and of political ideology.

Cruz’s approach to politics and Texas’s approach to electrical generation flow from the same libertarian-inflected, low-regulation, small-government vision. In this worldview, the government’s role is to set a set of minimal baseline requirements, offer market-based incentives to ensure they work, and then stay the hell out of the way. Cruz reveres the late President Ronald Reagan, who quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
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“Ted Cruz sees his job as basically being a guy who records a podcast, goes on Fox News, and tweets snarky jokes. And increasingly, that’s what being a conservative politician is. It’s a form of performative trolling,” says @chrislhayes.

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