Ted Cruz can’t really be Texan: he doesn’t even like avocados. But he does want to be the next president from Texas mighty bad.
He makes that clear constantly. What he makes less clear is whether he has interest in doing the job he was elected to do: U.S. Senator from Texas.
Cruz is about as unTexan as they come. Look at the qualities we admire most in Texans, and you’ll see the state’s junior senator disrespect them. The latest evidence was his me-too pile-on this week when he cynically joined the phony “effort” to keep the Senate from certifying the national election results.
Cruz claimed there were unprecedented allegations of fraud, which he cited as a reason to vote against the routine ratification of the national election results. He was posing, as he has for some time now, as a stalwart defender of an unfairly besieged Donald Trump.
Our senator likes to brag a lot on the national stage about the Texas mystique. It’s a quality we might like, if his way of doing it – and his rank hypocrisy – didn’t make Texans look cartoonish.
A mythic Texan says what she means and means what she says. Cruz didn’t just disagree with Trump when they ran against each other for president – Trump whipped him like an impatient buggy driver punishing a slow horse, if you remember – Cruz called Trump a pathological liar, a con man and a world-class narcissist unfit to hold public office.
That’s saying what you mean – except Cruz quickly reversed himself as Trump consolidated his hold on power. Soon, Cruz became a slavish vassal, lavishing praise on the president. Some Republicans quietly made peace with the president’s character as a trade-off for policies they supported. Cruz reversed himself on a racetrack, revved his engines, and sped the opposite direction, driving backwards, honking his horn and waving flags.
Texans admire people who stand by their friends, and their convictions, in fair weather or foul. Donald Trump nicknamed Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” insulted his wife’s virtue, and accused his father (falsely) of being a killer. He ridiculed many programs and friends Cruz had worked for over the years.
The response? Cruz became that side-kick we all recognize from B movies, the one that gets pushed around but keeps coming back. If this were a Dickens novel, it would be written this way: He put a smile on his face, looked down at his gruel of crow, and said cheerily, “Please sir, may I have some mo’e?”
Virtually no one who follows politics closely believes Cruz was sincere in his concern about the election results. Cruz’s legal background means he knows these conspiracy theories have already been played out in court – often before Republican judges – and rejected.
His education and historical knowledge mean he knows there are no credible or unprecedented charges here. And he knows that President Trump’s own national election security described this as one of the most secure and fair elections in the country’s history.
Mythic Texans put themselves on the line when it matters. They explore space, extend science, lead platoons in combat, push beeves up a lonely trail against all odds; they draw lines in the sand, at places like the Alamo, no matter the consequences.
Ted Cruz? He’d have been great fighting for democracy in 1836 – if what Sam Houston, Juan Seguin, and William Barret Travis had needed was a poll of party members instead of Bowie knives, guts and leadership.
Watching Cruz game the system for publicity, undermining people’s faith in democracy by giving credence to disproven charges and wild conspiracies is a sorry sight that stands in stark contrast to some of the truly mythic figures who have represented this state. Hurrah for our senior U.S. Senator, John Cornyn, who put aside his own politics for a moment and, though he campaigned for Donald Trump, recognized that there comes a time when every elected officer should be willing to put country over party.
There is so much that needs doing, for our state, for its economy, to stop this virus, but Cruz spends his time playing dress-up political cowboy, hoping we will all be transfixed and applaud, too distracted to pay close attention, or to remember context.
For goodness sake, Senator Cruz, for the love of whatever it is you hold dear, if now – in the fresh days following a terrible year, in the midst of pandemic and financial crisis – if now is not the time to draw that line in the sand, to put aside petty political gamesmanship and instead show a candid world the stuff you are made of and why you deserve higher power, if now is not the time to stand for honor, to be a real Texan, then tell us, when is?