STAFFORD, TEXAS — Walking into the Redneck Country Club in Stafford, Texas, the site of Ted Cruz’s Super Tuesday victory party on Tuesday night, visitors were immediately greeted with a warning sign on the bar.
“Caution: You are entering a redneck area,” it read. “You may encounter American flags, military veterans, Amazing Grace, country music, badass rednecks, & THE CZAR. Leave if you’re skeered.”
CREDIT: Emily Atkin
“The Czar” refers to Michael Berry, the conservative Texas talk radio host who created the Redneck Country Club a few years ago, and hosted Cruz’s party Tuesday night. In liberal circles, Berry is a controversial figure, admonished for being an “extreme racist.” He has reportedly included appearances by a comedian who wears blackface in his radio show; has referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as “pro-thug;” and said there is “nothing wrong” with the KKK promoting the white race.
For the conservative attendees at his Redneck Country Club, however, Berry is immensely admired — not just for his radio punditry, but his creation of the club itself. Heidi Brown, a founding member, told ThinkProgress she immediately wanted to chip in after she heard Berry on the radio, floating the idea of a place where traditional Texans could go to drink a beer, listen to country music, and shoot the breeze.
“He talked about how it’s supposed to be a place where everybody wanted to go, brings you back to where you’re from,” she said. “Because everybody shares the same values.”
And the place itself was certainly charming, a kitschy tribute to the most stereotypical Texan: Gun-toting, freedom-loving, socialism-hating, and cowboy hat-wearing. At the bar, an empty seat was draped with a military jacket and helmet, reserved for “the soldier who didn’t come home from battle.” At the entrance, an eight-tiered chandelier made entirely of beer bottles hung from the ceiling. In the women’s bathroom, the sinks were shaped like the state of Texas.
CREDIT: Emily Atkin
On Tuesday, most of the attendees were rowdy Ted Cruz supporters, toasting cans of Shiner Bock as waitresses in flannel shirts and bedazzled jeans passed around trays of fried chicken. As they waited for Cruz to take the stage, they watched the results come in on the many televisions playing Fox News. If Donald Trump won a state, they booed. If Hillary Clinton won a state, they booed louder.
By the bar, Richard Risinger was wearing a red, white, and blue hockey jersey with Cruz’s name sprawled across the back. Also a Redneck Country Club founding member, Risinger said the place was meant to be inclusive.
“Everyone’s invited,” he said. “Everyone’s welcome to become a member. Michael Berry says it on his radio show all the time — anyone who wants to become a member can come out.”
CREDIT: Emily Atkin
Standing with his friends Donnie Amonette and Ronnie, who declined to give his last name, the three said they were all Cruz supporters — for many reasons, but mostly because of his dedication to conservative principles. Risinger called Cruz a “Reagan Republican,” and his friends both nodded.
“He tells the truth. He’s a principled person,” Risinger said. “When others like Rubio sold out … [Cruz] did what he said he was going to do. You can disagree with him, that’s fine. But no one can disagree that he was honest, he did what he campaigned on.”
Ronnie, standing next to him, agreed. He said he didn’t care that Cruz hadn’t gotten an endorsement from his Senate colleagues yet — in fact, it made him like Cruz more.
“When you go to work, do you do stuff that you think will make your colleagues happy, or do you do what you believe in? Because he done what he believed in, what’s right for the people,” Ronnie said.
“Plus,” he added, “he’s not for killing babies on demand.”
At the end of the night, after Fox News announced that Cruz had won Texas and Oklahoma and Cruz gave his victory speech, most of the cowboy hats and boots began to file out and go home. It was getting late, and after all, it was a Tuesday. But as the hours passed, many stayed outside by the fire pits, toasting beers and smoking cigarettes — and cheering Ted Cruz — into the night.