Texas Deserves Better, But Will They Vote for Better?

Carolyn V. Murray

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Colorado City Deserved Better

I first heard about the actions of former Colorado City, Texas mayor from a left-of-center social commentator on YouTube. If it was a typical video, he would have leaped right into the story and added his own opinion and analysis.

Instead, he spent the first ten minutes addressing the people of Texas and providing them with absolutely every survival tip that he was aware of: sleeping in tents inside because it’s easier to warm a small space than a large space, using a fire outside to heat stones and bricks and putting them in pots to bring inside to warm up those small spaces without burning the house down – just one suggestion after another.

He knows the grocery shelves are empty and that people have heard of others freezing to death. He knows that people are terrified. They need strategies and they need hope. They need leadership. Perhaps it shouldn’t be ironic that that leadership and support was coming from a progressive voice with few areas of political agreement with the people he was addressing. Not for a moment did he view this as a partisan issue. He wanted to offer all the encouragement he could to human beings and fellow Americans. “You’re Texans. Y’all got this,” he assured them.

A lesson in how not to be a leader

It was only after the survival class that he moved on to the public words of Colorado City, Texas Mayor Tim Boyd in response to the citizens of his town pleading with his office to give them some assistance to get through this disaster. You may have already seen his Facebook response. Here’s just a portion of it.

“If you are sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are waiting for someone to come rescue you because your lazy is direct result of your raising!” Tim Boyd wrote on Facebook. “Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish.”

Okay, so not being able to spell perish is the least of his flaws. More glaring is his ugly, abrasive indifference to this small-town community of people who actually supported him with their votes.

Apparently, his insensitive cruelty was rewarded with death threats toward him and his family, which, needless to say, are always indefensible. He responded immediately with his resignation. So, while the citizens of Colorado City still have their weather hardships to contend with, they have at least managed to rid themselves of a harsh, unfeeling mayor who can’t spell leadership any better than he can spell perish. At least they have a chance now to replace him with someone who puts their welfare at the highest priority.

Not so easy to get rid of Ted Cruz

Senator Cruz and his ill-advised holiday to Cancun have been the talk of the nation this week. The Senator and his family were in Texas in the midst of this deep freeze, without power and suffering alongside the rest of the storm-battered state. But why suffer when you have money? And options.

Cruz and his family packed up and headed to a $300 a night resort in Cancun, Mexico. But as he explained to reporters afterward, during the flight, he had second thoughts about whether he should have left the state in the middle of such a dire emergency. There are so many cell phone pictures of Cruz in the airplane and the airport that the epiphany he experienced during the flight about having made a mistake seems to have arisen from his awareness that his photo was being taken right and left and was about to be splashed all over social media.

Lyin’ Ted

The abandoning of his state was compounded by the feeblest series of lies. This was his daughters’ idea. (Whoever heard of children clamoring to go to Cancun? Disneyworld, maybe.) No, a leaked email from his wife to her friends confirmed this was definitely an adult scheme.

Cruz also said that he was just trying to be a good father by escorting his children to Cancun and then he was just going to turn around and come back the next day. First of all, no, he planned on staying longer, as confirmed by the date of his original return ticket. And secondly, why on earth would he need to escort his children to Cancun when their mother was with them? Children traveling by themselves – a bit worrisome. But their mother was with them. No need for Ted to tag along. Certainly not with his urgent public obligations.

It was a painful string of unbelievable excuses, and optics just don’t get any worse than the contrast between Senator Cruz’s planned vacation and the suffering he left behind.

Will this be the political kiss of death for Ted Cruz?

Ted Cruz ran for the presidency in 2016 and many have speculated that he has his eyes on 2024. The Cancun scandal has been skewered so deeply by the national media that it’s hard to see how he could ever hang onto that particular ambition. His opponents would call him Lyin’ Ted and Flyin’ Ted and the photos of him in the airport wheeling around his sizable suitcase would be the backdrop for every public discussion of his campaign.

Not that I think he ever had a real chance for 2024. It’s just that now, he will be forced to come to that realization himself.

But to retain his seat as a senator – that he absolutely intends to do. The big question is – will the people of Texas let him?

Shared values are an important starting point

There are reasons why Texans voted to entrust Cruz to represent their best interests in the Senate. Texas is a Republican state, Cruz is a Republican, and Texas residents felt as if he would speak for their values and look out for their welfare. He’s pro-life, opposes same-sex marriages, and doesn’t support the taking down of Confederate statues. For his state’s citizens who were on the same page on these social issues, he probably seemed like a clear choice.

It’s understandable that a Republican state population wants to be represented by a Republican senator. But wouldn’t they prefer one who will put their lives and safety first above all things? It’s all well and good to give impassioned speeches, to be able to read the crowd and tell them what they want to hear. Cruz can do that.

It’s also not a stretch to gauge the opinions of your constituency and cast votes in a manner that will be agreeable to them. We can argue that that’s exactly what a representative should be doing – representing.

But beyond a listicle of partisan commonalities, don’t we all need for our politicians to be compassionate? They are typically in positions of privilege and comfort and will never know the financial struggles and despair that many of their citizens have to contend with. But they should a keen awareness of those struggles. It should pain them to witness that ongoing suffering, and they should be committed to easing the hardship with every means in their power. They should be our champions.

Instead, in the middle of the worst crisis in his state, Cruz made a brief request for disaster assistance. And then he packed the suntan.

What could he possibly have done?

Cruz does have some media allies who are making the argument that criticism of Cruz’s vacation plans is completely irrational and politically biased. After all, what good would it have done the people of Texas for him and his family to stay and suffer in a freezing house? They would surely have consumed some resources – food, firewood – that could have been used for someone else.

Well, let’s look at a few things he might have accomplished by nixing the vacation plan. You may or may not have heard that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez immediately set out to raise money to assist the people of Texas, completely outside of the channel of federal funding. She raised two million dollars and is headed to Houston to help distribute supplies.

Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t been in the public eye or in a position of power for very long – she was elected in 2018. We can only speculate about Ted Cruz’s much larger circle of influence, given his Princeton and Harvard alumnae connections, and his eight-year tenure in the Senate. How much relief aid might he already have in hand through private donations if he had made that his mission?

Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost the Senate to Cruz in 2018. But even in the absence of an official position, his commitment to the people of Texas apparently still runs deep. He started a phone bank to call up senior citizens in the state to check on their status and connect them with organizations who they could call on for help. Over 784,00 calls were made. Can you imagine Ted Cruz rolling his sleeves up and spending hour after hour comforting frightened seniors? No? Me neither.

What about these optics?

As for the stance that nothing was to be accomplished by Cruz’s staying and suffering with his family in Texas, I’m not sure if that’s true. It might have meant a great deal to the people of Texas to see the Senator and his family slogging through the same difficult experience.

Perhaps showing them on camera demonstrating some of the survival advice mentioned above. In fact, it might have been an ideal way of quickly spreading that kind of information. The message received - surely if this pampered family can weather the storm, then others can as well.

We’ll probably see a lot more effort out of Senator Cruz now. Because all eyes are on him. But that’s not quite as comforting as having someone in his position behave with honor and compassion as a moral guiding principle.

Ted Cruz already showed us who he is

Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic hurricane of 2012, hitting New York and New Jersey especially hard. It caused $74.8 billion dollars of damage and resulted in 285 deaths in eight countries. Sounds like a disaster. But Ted Cruz voted against disaster relief.

However, in 2015, he requested federal disaster relief for flooding in Texas. And in 2017, he made a similar request for hurricanes battering Texas. He was questioned about the hypocrisy of expecting federal aid, in light of his 2012 decision against supporting federal relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Cruz initially complained about “political sniping” directed at him. Then changed his defense to the fact that he felt there was way too much unrelated pork stuffed into the $50 billion relief bill.

It was easier to say that than to say that New York and New Jersey were of no concern to him. That he wasn’t about to okay aid that was headed for Democratic states. That he only cared about the Americans in his own backyard.

And if they’re going through something awful, he’d just as soon care about them from a distance.

At some point, we have to judge our leaders by their actions and their character, regardless of political affiliation. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cared about these Americans, regardless of whose backyard they were in.

Deadly hurricanes, floods, and snowstorms

There’s every reason to believe these natural disasters will continue annually.

Can we envision any possible scenario in the future when Ted Cruz’s lack of compassion and empathy will endanger the people in his own state? Can the people of Texas trust Senator Cruz with their lives? Because it just may come down to that.

The future of Texas is not in the hands of all Americans. It’s in the hands of Texans. The rest of us can only watch. And hope for the best.

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At the moment, I'm highly interested in the ways in which we can cope and thrive during, after, and despite a global pandemic. My background is in sociology, education, and creative writing. If you were to scroll through the tabs on my laptop, you'd find music, travel, politics, longevity, and brain health.

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