Is Beto O’Rourke just another Texas Democrat doomed?

At an open-air event next to a craft brewery in eastern Fort Worth, the modern indie-rock guitarist is a leading Democratic candidate for governor of Texas. “Who’s looking forward to seeing Beto?” he asks from the podium and pronounces the Spanish nickname “Bay-toe”. In a sprawling crowd of several hundred, a handful announce their excitement. The guitarist then asks if the crowd has heard of Foss, a defunct lo-fi punk band. “It was Bet’s band in El Paso,” he explains, before admiring an old photo of the band wearing O’Rourke. “Yes, this is for you, Beta.”

I’m tempted to check the date on my phone. Could I have gone through the portal somewhere on the way from Austin until 2018?

Other participants are coming. Many of them are transported from the parking lot in the center, safely around a few square blocks of homeless camps to arrive at the brewery. As the December sun sets, a campaign employee announces that O’Rourke will speak later than planned. The first band leaves and is replaced by a DJ who leads with top 40 standby and hip-hop airhorns. The answer is polite; then it hits the gold. “Just a girl from a small town,” the song begins, and the crowd thickens. Millennials and middle-aged people in black Beto T-shirts are starting to sing. Fifteen minutes later, the DJ throws caution behind his head and plays the song a second time. If there’s one thing this crowd doesn’t want to stop, it’s to believe.

O’Rourke, who became famous for his almost successful attempt to overthrow Senator Ted Cruz four years ago, looks to another defeat. Polls show he is up 15 points behind incumbent Texas Republican governor Greg Abbott, who has defeated his two previous Democratic opponents and is sitting on a $ 55 million warchest. Unlike 2018, when O’Rourke opposed President Trump, he now looks down on the projected red wave. After the quixotic candidacy for president in 2020, he alienated swing voters. His democratic base may still adore him, but that’s not enough in Texas.

Gus Bova

At Fort Worth, O’Rourk’s arrival can be felt as a wave of the crowd. He weaves through the crowd and reaches the elevated platform. As always, supple and thin, a smile has all the teeth; as always, he is wearing a light blue shirt with buttons. After a few visits to local attractions, he embarks on what happened to his stump language – a careful litany of problems he hopes could become wedges.

He first addresses the February freeze and power outage that killed hundreds of Texans and accuses Abbott of failing to prepare and committing energy executives. Here, as he evokes memories of ordinary Texans who provided shelter, food and water for each other during the crisis, he creates his attitude of unity.

“We threw our differences behind us,” we said none of my imports“I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, whom you love, who you pray for – it doesn’t matter the division, the differences they try to divide us in,” says O’Rourke. “People, imagine we have a governor who feels the same way.”

He then goes through some of the reaction laws that Governor Abbott signed this year, most notably those for which the polls failed. It concerns Senate Law 1, the intervention in the vote that the House Democrats abstained last summer, and Senate 8, a measure that dictates a $ 10,000 reward for almost every Texan who provides or helps someone have an abortion. It condemns the Firearms Act, which now allows most Texans to carry weapons without training or permission – a measure Abbott has signed over the objections of many police chiefs. O’Rourke, who once did he spoke in favor of compensating the police, he now simply says, “You and I trust the law enforcement and listen to them.”

El Paso, who previously represented the border city in Congress, O’Rourke has spoken in previous campaigns with power and eloquence in favor of immigrants and against policies such as building a border wall. At Fort Worth and other recent stops, it leaves these issues virtually untouched. The vote here is daunting for Dems.

He ends with a pun: Unlike Abbott, O’Rourke keeps the power on and knows that “the real power of Texas is in the people around us.”

The crowd turns into a serpentine series of selfie. Faces glow; this seems to be the main event. He shakes hands with each supporter or hugs, leans, overflowing with attention. You can’t miss it: They love him. Watching dozens of people get their moment with O’Rourk is almost enough to stir something in a heart full of political research and past disappointments. One almost catches a sudden smell in the wind. Maybe wine or a cheap perfume.


What made Beto magical?

In early 2017, just a few months after Trump took office and a year and a half before the next election, O’Rourke announced his attack on Ted Cruz in an uncertain portable live broadcast. The Texas Democrats saw their last national star, Wendy Davis, crushed in the 2014 governors’ race. so early. Instead, the rising stars rose until they disappeared from view. And there was O’Rourke leading the campaign as a man on fire.

There, he drove the pickup to rural towns where no prudent Democrat would visit, and distributed supplies amid Hurricane Harvey. He ran there, lost his phone, got a haircut. Everything was broadcast live. No one recruited a little-known Congressman from the Mountain Time Zone; he recruited himself. Still, he didn’t seem arrogant. The Trump era filled the air with an urgency appropriate to its energy. As Christopher Hooks wrote for the magazine at the time, “This year is not good, but this is, and it can have its own strength.”

Ideologically, O’Rourke was cleverly vague. Like Bernie Sanders, he swore money to the PAC, and his volunteer apparatus was created under Sanders’ presidential race in 2016. He even flirted with Medicare for All. But O’Rourke never fully anchored himself in the political positions that divided the party between progressive and moderate. In the end, he was more of a guy in a good mood. Soon money was pouring in on millions.

Election Night was a two-part drama: he promised an early return for O’Rourke, driven by support from the suburbs, followed by a red tsunami from rural Texas, where O’Rourke seems to be wasting his breath. Cruz won by 2.6 points. Even a heavily turnout, Donald Trump at the White House and a record fundraiser were not enough. But unlike in 2014, it also had a bright side: O’Rourke supported the Liberals’ election victory. Dems tossed two seats in the US House, 12 seats in the State House, 2 seats in the Senate and gained control of Harris County.

From there, as was well documented, O’Rourke fell off the tracks. Instead of staying at home and preparing another Senate candidacy in 2020, he launched an offer sentenced to extinction to the White House. In an effort to be relevant, he has taken the position of the staunch left – not on popular issues such as education and health care, but on mandatory arms repurchases and the abolition of church tax status. On the way to the early extinction of the flames, he burned the credibility of the fence guards and ticket distributors.

On the eve of the Texas primaries, he turned back to the center and joined the political attack to stop Sanders and support Joe Biden, a move that earned the wrath of former campaigners in 2018. In the end, ideological ambiguity seemed more like a lack of principles. Meanwhile, in his absence, a scrum of little-known Democrats drove him for a chance to lose to Senator John Cornyn.

For the past year and a half, O’Rourke has been on a tour of atonement that was full of good intentions and easy to succeed. O’Rourke threw his weight at Democrats’ efforts to overthrow the state house in 2020 and publicly urged Biden’s campaign to invest more in Texas. These efforts bore no fruit: the Dems tossed zero seats in the House of Representatives, the Senate candidate was thwarted, and Biden lost his position in key South Texas. Finally, as O’Rourke postponed his announcement of the governor’s appointment this year, he focused on supporting state lawmakers who fled to DC to prevent Republican interference in the vote and force Congress to approve electoral protection. The anti-voting law passed in August; Congress did not intervene.

O’Rourke could delay his governor’s announcement in November because no other serious candidate would run. The once unannounced El Pasoan, who collapsed on the side of the presumed state party star, became the alleged star.

O’Rourke obediently accepted his role and trotted his charisma around a state that seems to know him all too well: he is almost universally recognized and unloved rather than popular. He is doing so under the weight of a democratic president who is declining in the polls. And with the failure of the Texas Dems in 2020, the draw will take place on maps freshly revised by the Republican legislature: If O’Rourke still has coats, there may be no one in the races.

The Texas Democrats are experienced silver wizards. If nothing else, there is always the comfort of playing a noble loser. But whoever receives health care or elections, who survives childhood without legal discrimination or the trauma of school shootings, does not depend on the virtues of the loser.

Somewhere along the way in 2018, O’Rourke’s run broke the form: Even cynical observers could not predict the plot, predict the final act, predict the lines. Now it’s hard to get rid of the feeling that we’re all back at the script.


In a November interview with Texas monthlyO’Rourke answered a question about his disturbing numbers in the polls. “I don’t think it’s going to be too big a campaign for me,” he said. “I think it really must be about Texas.” It must be about all of us. “

The day after his gathering in Fort Worth, he is in a historic park surrounded by vast Live Oaks in downtown Austin. The crowd is larger here, about 1,000 people. The section of the fans of the city football team, brass band and drums, moves the crowd with optimistic melodies and lyrics that read roughly: “Beto, Beto, Betooooo, Beto, Beto.”

Someone is driving around the block with a truck with a bright red Abbott advertisement on the side. It shows Biden’s face changing into O’Rourk’s with alternating messages: “Wrong for America,” “Wrong for Texas.”

This time he is represented by Attorney General Gina Hinojosa. It details O’Rourke’s fundraising for the failed House Dems elimination of voting rights. Then O’Rourke enters the scene. He delivers essentially the same speech as the night before, with the same high notes and jokes and Spanish sprinkles. It will take its final prank in about 15 minutes. “We will ensure that we elect a governor who will always hold the lights and who understands that the real power in Texas is the people of that state,” he says. “Be nice to yourself.” Goodbye. Good night. Goodbye. ”

Start a series of selfie.

David Berry

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