The funeral of Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, is an iconic event, comparable in its own way to the funerals of Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy decades ago. However, as Byron York of the Washington Examiner noted on December 10, 2013, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas is the only United States Senator to attend.
Why was this the case?
“Why such a poor turnout from the world's greatest deliberative body? ‘Remember, the presidential delegation didn't invite any members of Congress,’ says a Senate Republican aide. ‘The delegation the House put together only took shape over the weekend, so it was a scramble to even make it available to members in the first place (and to those who could get back to DC in time to make the flight). So I wouldn't read anything into that small attendance.’
“A winter storm across much of the country also had something to do with it. "The [congressional delegation] plane left before dawn, and a lot of members who wanted to go had their flights or trains canceled or delayed," says a Senate Democratic aide.”
Of course the question arises, if Cruz could make it, why not other senators? And why was Cruz so keen to attend in the first place?
The most obvious reason is that Cruz actually admires Mandela, a man who helped to overthrow the apartheid regime in South Africa while going on a personal journey from Marxist revolutionary to free market statesman. Cruz has gotten some grief from his praise from a number of his supporters.
One suspects that Cruz is also not unmindful of the fact that his presence at the funeral will provide some useful visuals should he decide, as many suspect he will, to run for higher office. Paying respects to an African hero would not be a bad way to reach out to minority voters, after all.