This week, the Lone Star State has been pushed to its breaking point. On Wednesday, one of its two GOP senators hopped on a Cancún-bound plane to get away from it all, earning him a new nickname: “Flyin’ Ted.”
Cancún's forecast called for a high of 84 degrees Wednesday. Meanwhile, below-freezing temperatures punished millions of Texans who had already spent much of the week facing rolling blackouts and now confront boil water orders because of record-setting back-to-back winter storms.
After Cruz was pictured on a Mexico-bound plane, the chorus calling for his ouster rose to a shout. Critics say it was one thing for him to lie about the results of the 2020 presidential election, which some believe helped to inspire the Jan. 6 insurrection. It’s quite another, though, to leave for a vacation with millions of constituents left suffering in the cold.
Cruz should resign, said Zack Malitz, treasurer of the Boot Texas Republicans Political Action Committee.
“I mean, even for Ted Cruz, this is a new low,” Malitz said. “It’s an incredible dereliction of duty to leave the state when millions of his constituents don’t have power, don’t have heat, don’t have water. There’s so much that he as a member of Congress could be doing right now.”
Many Texans feel abandoned by their elected officials, whom they believe should have done more to prevent this crisis from happening. Now that it has, though, some residents are enraged that their senator would leave for a family vacation.
Shortly after news broke of Cruz’s flight, the senator began to backpedal. In a statement, he said he was only taking his children to Mexico after they’d asked to take a trip with friends, and that he'd only planned on staying overnight.
Some took to Twitter to challenge that claim, pointing to Cruz’s sizeable suitcase.
“Big ole bag for an overnight trip, wouldn’t you say?!” travel journalist Margo McDonough said in a tweet.
Big ole bag for an overnight trip, wouldn’t you say?! pic.twitter.com/FsTilenJ31— margomcd (@margomcd) February 18, 2021
The Texas Democratic Party again called on Cruz to resign on Thursday, noting that 37 people had died as a result of the ongoing crisis. In a statement, the party also pointed to Cruz’s 2018 challenger for the U.S. Senate, Beto O’Rourke, who'd tweeted his volunteer organization made 151,000 welfare calls to Texas seniors Wednesday night.
“I mean, there are private citizens who are doing more for the state right now than Cruz." – Zack Malitz, treasurer of Boot Texas Republicans PAC
Party spokesman Abhi Rahman told the Observer the latest Cruz controversy shows how “incompetent and self-serving Republicans are.” In the case of Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott, it’s also revealed how terrible they are at being public servants, he said.
Prominent Republicans have also piled on, including those at the anti-Trump super PAC, The Lincoln Project.
“Hopefully Ted Cruz (R-Cancun) has good cell phone service at the beach so he can fake caring about his constituents comfortably in the shade,” the organization said in a tweet. “Stay safe @tedcruz! We don't want you to get a sunburn!”
Rather than jet setting, Malitz said there's a lot Cruz could be doing to help relief efforts; the senator has a direct line to regulators, members of Congress, federal agencies and state leaders.
Hopefully Ted Cruz (R-Cancun) has good cell phone service at the beach so he can fake caring about his constituents comfortably in the shade. Stay safe @tedcruz! We don't want you to get a sunburn!https://t.co/RjSxoZNNor— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) February 18, 2021
At the same time, local officials like Democratic county judges are in emergency command centers directing responses, Malitz said.
“I mean, there are private citizens who are doing more for the state right now than Cruz,” Malitz said. “Anyone who got their family through this is doing more for the state than Ted Cruz is.”
Although it’s unlikely Cruz will resign, Malitz said people shouldn’t be silent in the face of something this outrageous; it’s up to them to ensure the senator’s reputation is tarnished.
The senator has also flirted with a 2024 presidential bid. Many political experts believe those ambitions have motivated him to echo former President Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud, ostensibly to curry favor with Trump's supporters. But this latest act certainly won’t do Cruz any favors, even among his base, Malitz said.
James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, agrees.
"This won’t help his already dimmed presidential prospects," Henson said by email. "But it’s largely a pathetic sideshow."