Last week, my eyes feasted upon a spectacle nearly too grotesque for words. Sitting in the Oval Office was President Donald Trump, a sight with which I am still not comfortable, and flanked on either side were two of my congressional representatives: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. John Culberson (R-TX). They were there to take a photo-op regarding NASA funding. (The Johnson Space Center is not within Culberson’s district.)
Cruz, of course, is almost universally hated by his fellow senators. He is a household name throughout the country, and many reasonably believe he is the singularly worst senator in that chamber. But one can also make a surprisingly compelling case that Culberson is the worst representative in his chamber.
Culberson represents the 7th Congressional District, a swath of the broadly-western part of Houston and the surrounding suburbs. The district has been Republican for longer than most anywhere else in Texas. (George H.W. Bush was first elected to it in 1966, becoming at that time one of only two Republican congressmen from Texas.)
Since being first elected in 2000, Culberson has done next to nothing. A member of the freshman congressional class after Speaker Paul Ryan, Culberson has made absolutely no effort to climb the ladder of either leadership or committees. He merely pontificates empty platitudes, seldom visiting the district he ostensibly represents or listening to constituents.
This past Saturday, Culberson did face the music at a town hall event in Houston. It was unpleasant. Despite attempting to make things as cumbersome as possible for his constituents, Culberson was still cacophonously booed by those to whom he has abdicated his responsibility to represent.
In fact, the only accomplishment of
substance that Culberson has done since taking office nearly 20 years ago is to scuttle expansion of Houston’s light rail system. Despite no longer even representing the area in question, Culberson repeatedly grandstands against the project and even successfully fought — over the objection of the neighborhood’s actual congressman, fellow Republican Rep. Ted Poe! — to put a rider in a federal bill prohibiting federal funds for light rail on specific Houston streets. This shameful pandering is basically Culberson’s only tangible achievement.
And yet, he keeps getting re-elected, mostly because of the district that his buddy, disgraced former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, gerrymandered for him. But the district voted for Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election. Three Democrats have already signed up for a primary to determine who has the privilege of taking on Culberson next year.
Culberson, unlike Cruz, is not a household name. Most of his constituents do not know his name, which is indubitably a good thing for Culberson, because to know him is to loathe him. Culberson is nothing more than a do-nothing phony with a pathological hatred of mass transit on Richmond Avenue.
There are others like, though in my opinion never quite as bad as, Culberson. Rep. Roger Williams, who represents the 40 Acres, is part of a district so egregiously gerrymandered that his residence is outside Fort Worth. Rep. Michael McCaul, whose district stretches from Austin to Houston and is the second-wealthiest member of Congress, spends his days fighting for large tax cuts benefiting his fellow super-rich. (McCaul’s father-in-law is the chairman of Clear Channel Communications.)
Thankfully, for each and every member of the U.S. House, they will be on the ballot next year. Culberson’s district has already proved that it will vote for a Democrat over a bloviating phony. The district just has to learn that John Culberson is one just as much as Trump.
Horwitz is a first-year law student from Houston. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz.