Empathy is not a quality anyone associates with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. His lack of it helps explain his political appeal: Like Trump, he hates who his base hates. Cruz opposes marriage equality, immigration relief, and health care reform; he urged Texas to keep businesses open even as the COVID-19 dead overwhelmed the state’s morgues. He has happily mocked other states when they experienced catastrophic power and energy failures — a tendency that came back to bite him this week, when a winter storm plunged Texas into literal darkness.
So the news that Cruz flew to Cancun in the middle of a double crisis for his state isn’t much of a shock. Photos that appeared to show Cruz at an airport began circulating on social media since Wednesday evening, and on Thursday morning, the Associated Press confirmed the senator’s jaunt took place.
People are understandably outraged. Though COVID-19 cases are beginning to fall, Texans are contending with another emergency. A freezing winter storm knocked much of the state’s power grid offline, with disastrous and potentially fatal consequences for thousands. It doesn’t seem like a natural time to fly to a resort — and even if cases are falling, international travel is highly unwise and puts the people who actually live in Cancun at risk. To say the photos create bad optics for the senator rather understates the situation.
Cruz’s office, meanwhile, remained mum, and left it to the press to confirm the senator’s actual whereabouts. Cruz eventually released a statement on Thursday that blamed the trip on his daughters, and claimed that he’d always planned to fly back to Texas today:
The senator explained further at an airport that his family was without power and water so his girls asked to go to Cancun on Wednesday.
It may not have been his daughters’ idea to go on vacation, but his wife’s, according to a group message with Heidi Cruz leaked to the New York Times:
Text messages sent from Ms. Cruz to friends and Houston neighbors on Wednesday revealed a hastily planned trip. Their house was “FREEZING,” as Ms. Cruz put it — and she proposed a getaway until Sunday. Ms. Cruz invited others to join them at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún, where they had stayed “many times,” noting the room price this week ($309 per night) and its good security. The text messages were provided to The New York Times and confirmed by a second person on the thread, who declined to be identified because of the private nature of the texts.
Nearly 3 million Texans are without power right now. Boil water advisories are in effect for millions, and residents have reported water freezing as it comes out of their taps at home. The crisis occurred in large part because the state operates an independent, deregulated power grid that doesn’t allow it to draw from the grids of other states. That system satisfies the small-government whims of Texas Republicans like Cruz; it’s not the most efficient way to handle a winter storm, or the increasing challenge of climate change.
Cruz doesn’t care. He didn’t care before he flew to Cancun; he doesn’t care now. The only forces that animate him are his love for canned soup and his base, grasping desire for power. The senator can’t single-handedly fix the Texas power grid, but as a man of means, he’s in a position to fight for aid, or propose solutions for his constituents. He was elected, after all, to do a job. He just doesn’t view it that way. To him, the Senate is a personal platform, a stage, a set. Nothing’s real to him except power, and his constituents lack it, in more than one sense. They don’t rate his attention, so why not fly to Cancun?
He should resign, though he won’t. Most Republicans probably won’t even condemn him, given the pass they just handed Donald Trump for inciting a deadly riot. But as he reportedly boards a plane home, it’s nice to imagine. Maybe this time, a terrible person in politics will get the comeuppance they deserve.
This post has been updated with new information.