I first learned about Beto O’Rourke last fall, when I volunteered in San Antonio with an immigration-rights agency, working on the family separation crisis. The lawyers and other staff at the agency were not naive, idealistic college students but principled, dedicated even hardened, legal fighters, used to fighting many tough battles in the trenches. My thought on meeting them, who were universally welcoming, was that they would be put off by any politician who merely put on a good show but did not really have serious ideas and abilities. I was surprised to see the many staff there with Beto decals and decided to check him out. On doing so, my first impression was that he was a handsome (almost a Robert Kennedy look-alike), showy, politician for the new generation (NextGen) who did not seem to put forward many detailed ideas. Just the kind of guy my new legal friends probably wouldn’t support, I thought. Yet in talking with them, I discovered there was much more to Beto.
Since reaching voting age, I’ve always rejected the idea that I must choose the lesser of two evils. Instead, I’ve gone for many hopeless causes like Gene McCarthy (the first Gene McCarthy, pre his becoming a goofy Reaganite), George McGovern (St. George! A vote I’ll never regret), Fred Harris, pre-scandal John Edwards, John Anderson, Ralph Nader (an easy vote in California since it was clear Hillary would win here easily) and Bernie Sanders. Indeed, I’ve taken pride in my hopeless-romantic stance. Even years after his assassination, I’ve hated RFK’s tactics in letting Gene McCarthy take the heat for being anti-war, and then, when it became clear that millions of Americans were also against the Vietnam war, jumping into the election with his star power, effectively killing any hopes for Clean Gene.
So now we have Beto, whom some commentators say is essentially a young Biden, with popularity but mere centrism as opposed to a real progressive message. They say what he brings to the table may be his ability to sell the message (or part of the message), of progressives like Sanders, Warren, Harris (Kamala this time, not Fred), and Booker rather than proposing dramatic initiatives of his own.
Could be. But this time, if that will work to defeat Trump, that’s enough for me. I need not (I doubt I could) go through the litany of Trump’s offenses against our country, against us as citizens, against truth and ethics, against justice, and against common sense and fairness. I still don’t understand how he remains at approximately 35-45 percent popularity no matter what. Yes, apparently our autocrat in chief, seemingly devoted to horrific autocratic murderers, really could shoot someone on 5th Avenue in broad daylight and get away with it. If it takes a handsome face who might (or might not!) implement many of the progressive ideas in the air at this vital moment to get rid of Trump, that’s good enough for me. We need the best person to take down Trump. Period.
Maybe I’m being taken in but I find Beto inspirational and charismatic, with the ability to bring enough Trump voters across the line. And his lack of experience? While his positions are vague, they are clearly progressive to some extent. Undoubtedly, he will get good experts on all the important issues and flesh out his positions as the campaigns go forward. Already, he has made it clear he’s against the death penalty which no major Dem candidates have announced before.
And don’t forget: a good indicator of Beto’s inclinations is what he did during the House gun control debate after the Parkland shootings. The Republicans attempted to shut down the hearings but the Democrats held a sit-in. (Pretty unusual, just doing that.) The Republicans shut off the cable coverage but Beto got his staff to rig up a system so they could livestream the sit-in. Now what other Dem candidate would/could do that?
Trump has already started attacking Beto, calling him “crazy” for his hand gestures. Trump? Trump, of the nonsensical hand gestures (the “L” with his thumb and first finger, the “O” as almost in OK, and others)—all used without any apparent meaning? It’s as though some debate coach told him to use gestures, any gestures. Sure, Beto is enthusiastic. He puts his whole body, including his hands, into what he’s saying. Now he may moderate that but overall I think people will see that as a good thing.
Finally, Beto is a white male and many Dems assume there is an obligation to nominate a woman and or a person of color. But is there? Undoubtedly, he will name as his Veep candidate a woman or person of color. Along with filling many of the Cabinet positions with same, perhaps current opponents for the nomination. Maybe it takes this particular white male to “unify” the party to get women and people of color to unprecedented numbers.
So, for the moment, count me in.