There’s nothing wrong with Texas that a little California can’t fix

When it comes to discussing the worst person in the country right now, the name Donald Trump will come up a lot. But, then, so will the name Hillary Clinton, but we’re not talking about her right now. Hillary hasn’t been relevant to the national discourse other than “what about the emails/uranium” since the day Trump won, just as Hubert Humphrey was irrelevant after he lost to Richard Nixon in 1968.

But the anti-Trump (or, rather, pro-Trump if we’re talking about those who would nominate him for worst-person honors) crowd shrivels up a bit when talk turns to the specter of a President Pence, which then leads to a debate of whether death by defenestration is preferable to life under Pence.

Allow me pull another person’s name from the hat of people to consider as ranking 327,256,228th in terms of likability in the U.S.: The junior (in every sense of the word) U.S. senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. Craven, dishonest, spineless. When Cruz was still in the running against Trump, he called the incipient president a sniveling coward. He called Trump a big, loudmouth bully. He called him utterly immoral. He called him consistently disgraceful. He called him a serial philanderer. (And red-staters say it’s soooo typical of liberals to always resort to name-calling.)

Trump, as it turned out, was rubber, and Cruz was glue. Maybe you can’t hang a serial-philanderer label on Cruz — though he is certainly flexible enough in his morality to become one if there was something of value to gain. But the rest of Cruz’s name-calling of Trump can just as easily be used on Cruz. In terms of integrity, the two politicians are the same pants size. Trump, you’ll recall, slammed Cruz, insinuating that his father might’ve helped assassinate JFK, plus, Cruz’s wife wasn’t what Trump would term overly attractive.

And, of course, no one was surprised when, after Trump blundered into the presidency, Cruz was among the first to slobber over the victor  in one of the most embarrassing-to-watch displays of kowtowing in the history of human subservience. To call Cruz Trump’s lapdog would incur the wrath and ire of all lapdogs.

Now, faced with serious competition from Democrat Beto O’Rourke in the fierce race for the Senate, Cruz is getting crazily desperate and on Tuesday fired off a warning tweet to Texas voters that “if Beto wins, BBQ will be illegal.”

He also said it out loud in the Texas town of Columbus. “When I got here someone told me that PETA was protesting and giving out barbecued tofu,” he told the frothing horde of South Texans who put pulled pork on their corn flakes. “If Texas elects a Democrat, they’re going to ban barbecue across the state of Texas,” prompting the Washington Post to publish the headline “Ted Cruz said his opponent will ban Texas barbecue, and people can’t tell if he’s joking.” His campaigners insist that he was, as evidenced by his inclusion of laughing-to-tears emojis. But the gist of the tweet was to tie O’Rourke to the dangerously goofy state of California (a state often visited by Texas business to lure Californians to live in the largely squalid state of Texas in return for lower taxes).

The Austin Statesman reported that Cruz said, at a similar event in Katy, Texas, “We are seeing tens of millions of dollars flooding into the state of Texas from liberals all over the country who desperately want to turn the state of Texas blue. They want us to be just like California, right down to tofu and silicon and dyed hair.”

Cruz’s wife Heidi, as irony would have it, is a Californian and a vegetarian to boot. Her hair isn’t blue and I will refrain from silicone barbs, because Cruz tends to get violently Texan (although in a paradoxically squeaky kind of way) when someone says something untoward about his wife, unless that person becomes a Republican president, then he’s all hail-fellow-well-met.

Beto has been close to Cruz in the polling, thanks to his likability and the fact that he visited every on of Texas’ 254 counties. But he might slip some on the heels of Cruz’s recent statements and tweets (“Don’t California Texas”), coupled with Texans’ renowned gullibility and eagerness to vote for the wrong guy almost every chance they get.

Except Austin. Austin’s cool, like California.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.