In case you missed it, the whole world is flipping out over the fact that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) took a trip to Cancun during the middle of a historic snowstorm in Texas that has caused massive power blackouts in the state. Apparently, the story is important enough that a major New York publication sent a reporter to find out who was taking care of Cruz’s dog while he was gone (and predictably wrote a dishonest headline about the answer to that asinine question). The whole controversy is nearly the silliest thing I’ve ever seen.
The people who are complaining about Cruz right now would have a very valid complaint if Cruz were the governor of Texas or even a mayor of a Texas city or some other executive branch official whose job involves coordinating the government response to a crisis. I would submit that the overwhelming majority of those jobs can also be performed just as effectively from nearly anywhere on the planet in the modern age, but there’s something to be said for the boss showing the flag, so to speak.
Cruz’s job involves none of those things. His job is to cast votes on behalf of his constituency in Washington, D.C. He has no role in restoring power to the residents of Texas, nor in salting roads or heating homes or anything else. To the extent that he might be doing anything during the course of this week — be it sending strongly worded letters to power company officials or appearing on television to make his concerned face — those things would probably actually distract people who are working to get power back on from doing what they should be doing.
Nor is Cruz guilty of hypocrisy, as so many Democratic politicians were when they took posh trips over the last several months after telling their constituents that traveling to see their families at Thanksgiving would cause us all to die of COVID-19. I can’t find any record of anyone posing the question to Cruz, but if someone had asked him if he thought it advisable for Texans to go somewhere that does have power for the duration of the storm, he would probably have answered with a resounding “yes.”
Ted Cruz did not spend the last three weeks telling people that traveling anywhere would kill Grandma, only to jet off to a fancy vacation with his family. Many, many, many Democratic politicians did, and yet the Cruz trip has already been covered by the media more than all those trips combined.
The most serious error that Cruz committed was doing something that invited the media to have an excuse to make him look bad. I’m willing to bet that almost no people who were sitting around in the dark and cold in Texas were thinking to themselves, “I wonder what Ted Cruz is doing, and I sure hope he is sitting here in the dark and cold with us, just because.”
But now that a media frenzy has descended, many of his constituents will no doubt be angry, even though almost none of them could come up with something that Cruz, as a senator, should have been doing at this time, and even though none of them would have had any complaints about any other person in Texas who responded to extended blackouts and freezing cold by leaving to take a trip somewhere else. That’s just called sensible behavior.
Granted, not everyone has the financial wherewithal to escape to Cancun during a time like this, but you can bet that if my power had been off all week and I had relatives in Alabama who invited me to stay with them, I would have done it. And since I feel that class envy reflects more poorly on the people who have it than the people who are targets of it, I find it impossible to condemn Cruz for anything other than violating expectations that are not grounded in reality.
And for that, it seems pretty insane for people to be treating this like the biggest news story of the week. The story has been established: Because his physical presence could not improve the situation in any way whatsoever, Cruz left a place that was cold and without power for a place that was warm and had power. If the people of Texas feel that that reflects poorly upon him, so be it. The ongoing feeding frenzy over the story is plainly not driven by its news value, but rather by animosity Cruz has personally generated among members of the media — which, in my book, is probably his most endearing quality.