Was anyone shocked that Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas would abandon his post in a moment of need?
On Wednesday afternoon, while an estimated 2.8 million Texans went without power, Cruz was caught boarding a flight to Cancún, Mexico, with his family. The backlash was swift, and after hours of silence from his office, Cruz confirmed his trip in a statement in which he blamed his 10- and 12-year-old daughters for the ill-advised, heartless trip to a beach resort outside the United States during a state disaster.
“With school canceled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends,” the statement reads. “Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.” NBC reported that Cruz was initially scheduled to fly back to Texas on Saturday, but quickly changed his return flight as the criticism mounted. In an interview after he arrived home, Cruz admitted his decision was “obviously a mistake,” but reiterated that it was his daughters’ idea to travel—he was just along for the ride.
While countless were outraged that Cruz—who just days earlier had told Texans to “keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids”—decided to flee the state while his constituents struggled and as many as 30 died, one reaction was absent in the wake of Cruz’s hypocrisy and cruelty: surprise. Certainly no one was surprised that when faced with the consequences, he would blame his daughters. After all, pointing the finger at women and children is a hallmark of Republican politics.
In 2012, when explaining his opposition to abortion access in all instances, then-Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican from Missouri, blamed rape victims who become pregnant as a result of their assault. “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Akin eventually apologized for “misspeaking,” but he is far from the only GOP lawmaker to make such claims. In 1995, while defending a proposal to eliminate state-funded abortions for poor pregnant people, North Carolina state Rep. Henry Aldridge said, “The facts show that people who are raped—who are truly raped—the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant.”
Studies have shown that people denied an abortion are more likely to live in poverty, their children are more likely to suffer, and they’re more likely to experience negative mental health outcomes. States with the most abortion restrictions have the highest maternal and infant mortality rates. Yet the GOP continues to make it difficult—and, in many cases, nearly impossible—for people who want and need abortions to obtain them. Republicans actively work to make it harder for pregnant people to stay healthy, financially stable, and safe, then turn around and blame those very people under the guise of “personal responsibility.”
It’s the same reason Republicans blame working women for the gender wage gap. When President Barack Obama urged the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2014, Republicans claimed the gender wage gap was a myth—nothing more than the result of working women’s “choices.” Those claims remain prevalent among the GOP today. During the Trump administration, the gender wage gap in the White House more than tripled.
But perhaps it’s the GOP’s near-constant finger-pointing at children, particularly Black and brown children, that best represents the shameless lengths Republicans will go to sidestep their responsibilities as civil servants. In the wake of nearly every school shooting, Republicans blame kids’ mental health and their affinity for video games instead of passing commonsense gun legislation. Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called the Parkland shooting a hoax, labeling the teenage victims paid actors.
When 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in 2012 after walking to a 7-Eleven for a bag of Skittles and an iced tea, Fox News host Geraldo Rivera blamed Martin for wearing a sweatshirt. “I am urging the parents of Black and Latino youngsters, particularly, not to let their young children go out wearing hoodies,” Rivera said on air. “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.” A year later, Rivera’s Fox News colleague Bill O’Reilly made similar statements.
When 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police in 2014 for playing in a park—and the city of Cleveland blamed the child for his death, saying it was “directly and proximately caused by the failure of [Tamir] to exercise due care to avoid injury”—then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich simply refused to comment on the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who shot Rice. Studies have shown that Black children are six times more likely to be shot and killed by police, and the GOP would like the blame to rest squarely on their still-growing shoulders.
During the Trump administration, as images of immigrant children separated from their parents huddled under foil-sheet blankets emerged and reports of child sexual abuse at ICE detention centers became public, Republicans blamed immigrant parents for fleeing the constant threat of violence and seeking safety and refuge for themselves and their children.
“If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them,” then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in defense of the administration’s family separation policy, which ripped more than 5,400 children from their parents. Cruz, who sought refuge from the consequence of climate change by fleeing the country, defended Trump’s policy: “There’s actually a court order that prevents keeping the kids with the parents when you put the parents in jail. So when you see reporters, when you see Democrats saying don’t separate kids from their parents, what they’re really saying is don’t arrest illegal aliens.”
In the United States, nearly 11 million children live below the poverty line. In 33 states, Black and Latinx children are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than white children. Yet 51 percent of Republicans believe people are poor because they’re lazy, according to one 2014 poll.
In the United States, 1 in 5 women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape. One in four Black girls will be sexually abused before they turn 18, and nearly half of all American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped at some point in their lifetime. Yet Republicans are less likely to believe victims of sexual assault and harassment, according to one 2017 poll: 93 percent of Democrats say they believe women, compared to 78 percent of Republicans.
Shifting the blame to women and children to distract from their cruelty and their ineptitude is not a bug of the GOP—it’s a feature. It’s as if the “pro-life,” “pro-family” political party cares about women and children insomuch as they can be thrown under the bus.