As any politician or any thirteen-year-old on TikTok can tell you, branding is everything. You have to approach yourself as a business, create a distinct consumer impression, then meet that expectation reliably. There is no quicker death knell for your campaign or series of lip-synching videos than going “off-brand.” 

Luckily, while recent weeks have seen former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke seemingly reneging on his “All People, No PACs” promises, we’re happy to report that he is firmly back on brand and out here standing on top of stuff. Both O’Rourke’s Senate and presidential runs saw him clambering onto chairs, counters, and even minivans, giving birth to countless memes in the process. And even after being told to scat by America’s voters and baristas, it seems his passion for just heaving himself into and onto things has not been diminished. O’Rourke proved that while pounding the pavement this week for Eliz Markowitz, a Democrat running for a Texas House seat in Fort Bend County, when he made a stop at a supporter’s home in Katy and promptly perched himself right on top of their coffee table.

The fact that this coffee table appeared to be, at best, maybe fifteen inches tall and surely not rated to support a large adult man clearly didn’t matter to O’Rourke. Nor did the fact that he was addressing a relatively modest crowd, one composed of average-sized people who were already dwarfed by O’Rourke’s 6-foot-4 frame, most of whom appeared to be seated. Again, it’s all about the optics—in this case, conveying the potent reminder that O’Rourke is still here, and still committed to turning Texas blue no matter how many citizens’ doors he has to knock on, before barging in and jumping up on their furniture like a political Marmaduke. Good luck shooing him down from there. 

Chip Roy Is Still California Reaming

Branding was also on the mind of U.S. Representative Chip Roy this week. In an op-ed for Fox News, Roy lamented that the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan and the “funky, historically offbeat culture” it represents continues to attract California expatriates—which, by a very on-brand leap of logic, Roy implies is culpable for the city’s homeless problem. In defending his “hometown” from these carpetbaggers, the Maryland-born, Virginia-bred “proud Texan” recalls how he “once enjoyed living downtown,” during that decade or so between first moving to Austin in the early aughts, his relocation to Dripping Springs, and all the intermittent stints in Washington, D.C. But Roy blames his hypothetical inability to live there now on the city’s recently implemented policy allowing the homeless to camp in public spaces. More broadly—and less coherently—he attributes this to the viral spread of “California values,” implying that the Californians moving here for job opportunities or because of Austin’s laid-back vibe are bringing that state’s homeless and housing crises with them.

Of course, it’s not entirely clear how Roy thinks Austin’s homeless problem and California migration are related, other than he doesn’t like either of them. His op-ed holds the decidedly non-Californian members of the Austin City Council and Mayor Steve Adler responsible for the recent growth of “tent cities,” and it calls on them to address Austin’s broader issues with housing affordability and social services—all reasonable reactions to the problem, if not exactly rejoinders to some distinctly Californian law or philosophy that Austin has intentionally adopted. But again, hating on California is pretty much Chip Roy’s brand, and here it allows him to couch even an issue as complex and heartbreaking as homelessness in terms of a knee-jerk regional rivalry, giving it a convenient bogeyman for everyone to get mad and shout slogans at—which is almost as good as, say, using your legislative powers to work out an actual solution. 

Paul Bettencourt Survives Nefarious “Liking” Attack

Speaking of bogeymen, Texas state senator Paul Bettencourt announced this week that his Twitter had been “hacked”—a daring raid perpetrated by a group of lawless cyber-phreaks, who immediately set about “liking” around “20 highly partisan ‘Democrat’ tweets” that the real Bettencourt most definitely did not like. This totally l33t pwning of Bettencourt’s account might have duped all 3,453 of his followers, had anyone happened to click on the “likes” tab of his Twitter page. But fortunately, someone on Bettencourt’s team quickly discovered this heinous ideological identity theft and dutifully “unliked” them all, thus restoring Bettencourt’s own brand, and leaving him to offer a rueful “LOL” in response. Next time, hackers, you’d better pick a weaker target, and also maybe do something interesting with it.

George H.W. Bush Secures Legacy With Gold Coin

The U.S. Mint hasn’t produced a presidential gold dollar coin since Ronald Reagan in 2016, the year when it ran out, at last, of dead presidents to honor. This meant that, if you wanted a George H.W. Bush coin for reasons known to you and your god, you would have had to resort to seedy black-market knockoffs to scratch that particular itch. (Though they struggle to pass as legal tender, the coins are still good for scratching.) And while Bush may be remembered for a life of government, military, and philanthropic service, what was it all worth if his face doesn’t adorn a coin that nine out of ten stores would reject? 

But now, thanks to newly passed legislation introduced by Senator John Cornyn and backed by a coterie of Texas lawmakers—and the fact that Bush died, making him, at last, eligible for a coin—his brand will be secured with a $1 coin to be issued later this year, while first spouse Barbara Bush’s image will adorn a $10 coin. Truly it is a triumph for coin collectors and coin collector well-wishers alike, one that several of those Texans spent the week pushing on the floor of Congress through lengthy hagiographies—including Representative Roger Williams, who summed up his remarks, and the general dignity of this endeavor, by saying, “Mr. President, ‘You da man!’” Indeed, something for all those still-living presidents to look forward to when they die.



Yep, Ted Cruz Is One of Those

Finally, thanks to an anonymously sourced report in Page Six this week, we know that Senator Ted Cruz and his family spent the holidays “hanging by the pool” at a Cancun resort—an otherwise unremarkable bit of gossip that the article attempts to frame as hypocritical, given Cruz’s outspoken support of a border wall. It’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that Cruz’s stance is dishonest purely because he enjoys vacationing in Mexico. That said, we will believe the tipster’s other, extremely petty intimation that Cruz was seen “swimming with his shirt on.” Again, we have no confirmation of the veracity of that fact. Still, it just seems on brand for Ted Cruz.