‘Come on, Ted’

As someone who spent most of my formative years in Texas, the current senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke has been fascinating on many levels. Ken Thomas notes that O’Rourke is making a name for himself by being authentic. He has assiduously avoided negative attacks and attempted to make an appeal to all Texans by visiting every county in the state.

On the other hand, Ted Cruz has done almost nothing but attack his opponent. A review of his YouTube channel shows that it is filled with negative spots about O’Rourke. Pretty much the only thing Cruz wants voters to know about him is that he’s “tough as Texas,” which is his campaign slogan. Otherwise, as Ryan Bort notes:

Cruz has relied on cultural appeals, claiming that his opponent wants to turn Texas into California “right down to tofu and silicon and dyed hair.” He later joked that O’Rourke would work to ban barbecue in the state.

In other words, the Cruz campaign has almost nothing to do with the Republican candidate and everything to do with how voters define their home state.

It took a Texas filmmaker like Richard Linklater to understand what that means to Texans and shred Cruz’s claims with a good dose of humor.

That ad might be effective in any state, but in Texas it’s the equivalent of a knock-out punch.

On Monday, Linklater released another ad.

This time he’s taking aim at the fast food chains embraced by the candidates. If you didn’t grow up in Texas, you might not know about Whataburger. But whenever I go down to visit family members that still live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a trip to that particular chain is a requirement. To be honest, the burgers aren’t that great, but it’s an icon for people who grew up in Texas. During his travels around the state, O’Rourke was often filmed going through a Whataburger drive-through (sometimes playing air drums to The Who while they wait). Linklater compared that to Cruz’s professed love of White Castle, which happen to be located primarily in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic areas of the country.

In a sense, Linklater is suggesting that if Cruz wants to make this election a referendum on his bonafides as the most Texan candidate in the race, the correct response is, “Come on, Ted.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.