Former Texas U.S. Rep. Robert "Beto" O'Rourke
is joining the field for the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary
. It comes as no surprise to those paying attention. There was speculation from some he might hold off and challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
in 2020, but O'Rourke is going for the big win.
O'Rourke's announcement comes the same day as he appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair
in blue jeans and a button up standing by his dog. The photo, by Annie Leibovitz,
is already drawing comparisons to similar photos of both President Ronald Reagan
and former Sen.John Edwards
The profile by Joe Hagan
covers a lot of O'Rourke's style, but not enough of his substance. Hagan talks of O'Rourke embracing his "heritage" in returning to El Paso
where his father was a controversial politician and ends the article with a quote from O'Rourke that implies politics is his destiny. This kind of framing just doesn't sit right with me while we are still digesting the recent college bribery scandal
The more he talks, the more he likes the sound of what he’s saying. “I want to be in it,” he says, now leaning forward. “Man, I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment.”
Any talk that even nears the territory that someone is entitled or fulfilling a legacy may not go over very well right now. And considering that there are evangelicals who believe Trump is some divine vessel from God, anything resembling an anointing seems likely to turn some off to O'Rourke, especially with the incredibly qualified and diverse field of candidates who have already announced.
I realize this framing is not necessarily O'Rourke's fault. Far too many people have an urge to look past qualified women and men and women of color
and act like young, articulate white men (usually with good hair) from prominent families are some sort of political inevitability. We saw it for a bit with Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy
. We saw it in Arkansas with John Brummett's love letter
in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
to former State Rep. Clarke Tucker's
family members touting their accomplishments when Tucker took on Congressman French Hill
As a law school classmate of Tucker's, I was disappointed to see him pitched to voters as a pedigreed savior
and not surprised to see push back against Brummett's narrative that people like Tucker "from families of strong community heritage and longtime civic leadership" were our "one ray of hope for applying a check and balance on Donald Trump." For the record, I supported Tucker's campaign wholeheartedly because I consider him a friend and a good person. I got to know him as a law school classmate and was impressed before finding out anything about what his father or grandfather had accomplished.
It turns out our rays of hope in 2018 were not candidates like Tucker and O'Rourke. Instead, Democratic women like Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib
, Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids
, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley
and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
fought gender and racial barriers on their paths to Congress and came out ahead. While it is important to know the backgrounds of our politicians because the way they are raised can certainly shape their world views, our elected officials have no control over who their parents are and should not be elevated or disregarded based on their family members' merits.
I'll admit I'm intrigued by O'Rourke. He seems sincere. He draws a crowd. He is charismatic. He is human
being instead of a political robot. He and I are near the same age and are both Gen Xers. I think he has good taste in music for I am also a fan of Big Star
and Guided by Voices
. I, too, spent much of my twenties "finding myself" before attending law school. However, there is a smack of privilege, of "falling up," that O'Rourke seems to have that that many of us who wandered aimlessly for a while did not have. My father was on the city council in my small hometown of Bono,
but I've never once considered or heard anyone talk of my political "heritage" or destiny.
I do prefer O'Rourke to former Vice President Joe Biden
who seems to be teasing us with his decision whether or not to enter the race. Both men appeal to those who believe nominating a white, moderate man and winning back the center
is the way to beat Trump. I think it is premature to say who and what strategy can win since there is a chance that Trump may not politically survive the Mueller investigation. Of the two, I prefer O'Rourke over Biden. O'Rourke may not have the best voting record (he often voted with Republicans in Congress), but at least it beats Biden's record of being awful
to Professor Anita Hill
, screwing us over on student loan debt
and his tone-deaf comment
that Vice President Mike Pence
is a "decent guy." There is also an air of newness about O'Rourke that is appealing. And as with just about any of the declared Democratic candidates, the country would be much better off with him in the White House than any member of the GOP.
A few people have asked what O'Rourke has to offer that the current group of candidates do not have. Simple. He offers the comfort and ease
many voters seek out that only a young, charismatic and handsome white man can. Never mind that veteran Sens. Bernie Sanders
and Elizabeth Warren
have the best policies to help turn the country around, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
can scratch the itch for a fresh face while also bringing military service and executive political experience and California Sen.Kamala Harris
seems to be building the most momentum, even with her prosecutor background in a time of criminal justice reform. Never mind that if former Georgia
gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams
enters the race, she likely becomes the front runner among young progressives. There will always be room for an O'Rourke at the political table. All he has to do is show up and take his seat and writers like Hagan will act as if he is entitled to do so.