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On Cancun and the Insurrection

What is the point of being a United States Senator anyway?
February 19, 2021
Featured Image
Ted Cruz checks in for a flight at Cancun International Airport after a backlash over his Mexican family vacation as his home state of Texas endured a Winter storm. (Photo by MEGA/GC Images)

The year 2021 has not been kind to Ted Cruz. We’re only two months in and he’s already attracted all sorts of attention—the wrong kind—for his role in inciting an insurrection and then for fleeing to Mexico to escape the hardships imposed by power outages in Texas. 

At first glance, these two actions don’t seem to have much in common. One had to do with his eagerness to cancel millions of votes in the name of appeasing President Trump. The other with his desire for sunshine and warmth while millions of his constituents coped with freezing temperatures, lack of potable water, burst pipes, and all manner of emergency.

And neither has much to do with what’s supposed to be the job of a United States senator. But that’s the real problem. 

When political incentives are aligned toward boosting Trump, owning the libs, and destroying anyone who says otherwise on social media, it’s easy to think that the path to statesmanship and stardom lies in shitposting on Twitter. Rather, than, say, leveraging your position to marshall resources, raise money, and demand accountability from the influential executives who put Texans in such a miserable condition. Better to leave that to the libs—like Beto O’Rourke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Think about this for a minute: Beto O’Rourke is a private citizen who lost a Senate race to Cruz two years ago. AOC is a member of Congress from the Bronx. O’Rourke organized a massive phone bank to check on Texas seniors, see if they needed help, and direct them to resources. AOC put together a fundraiser for relief services and raised $2 million in two days.

Ted Cruz flew to the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun while Republican Governor Gregg Abbott jumps on to Fox to blame the Green New Deal—which is not an actual law on the books, by the way—for the catastrophe. 

That’s the Republican way these days. So what if there is a natural disaster or a pandemic? Blame the libs, dunk on them, and then go to the beach while Democrats handle the clean-up. And let the MAGA media run interference. For the Republican party, the sensationalization, nationalization, and demonization of the political system matter far more than any form of governing. Political performance is the point. Both the means and the end. The purpose and the power. 

Please note that it wasn’t until the shitposting boomeranged at Cruz that he began to have second thoughts about his vacation. It seems it did not occur to him that there was anything wrong with the situation until he sat down on the plane, started scrolling, and saw outraged people posting photos of him standing at the gate. It must have been horrifying for someone who tracks his mentions so closely to become a laughingstock.

Has he learned his lesson? Will he be a good senator now, carefully attending to the needs of his constituents in a non-election year? Maybe. There’s always hope. But note that his first instinct upon returning to America was to schedule an interview with Sean Hannity. No, sorry. That was his second instinct. His first was to blame his kids for his decision to go to Mexico in the first place.

I worked for Senator Ted Cruz from January 2013 until July 2015, as a speechwriter and communications director. Back then, he was much more closely attuned to the needs of Texans. Why not now? Maybe it’s because he’s consumed with running for president in 2024. Maybe he’s sick of being a senator. I can’t say for sure. 

What’s evident, to me, is that the audience matters far more to Cruz than his constituents. That’s who Senator Ted Cruz attends to now.

Amanda Carpenter

Bulwark political columnist Amanda Carpenter is a CNN contributor, author, and former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz and speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint.