Beto O’Rourke has changed politics

Watching the Texas debate last week from the UK, I watched on in shock, almost, at how impressive Beto O’Rourke’s performance was. Perhaps by now, we should expect this from the Democratic Senate candidate, who has handled himself brilliantly throughout the campaign. Whether you agree with his politics or not, his campaign has been superb and should be a model for not just Democratic candidates in red states, but for every politician.

One thing that struck me in particular from the debate was his non-partisan statements that went right through the whole debate. Ted Cruz, by my count, made not a single one, and was hyper-focused on partisanship. Allow me to recount some examples from Beto O’Rourke:

  • When faced with Cruz’s false accusation of him lying about police officers, he simply said: ‘This is why people don’t like DC’
  • When Cruz called the Democrats racist and Republicans the party of equality, citing events long in the past, he responded by denouncing partisanship and polarised politics
  • When Cruz spoke about his working, but unconstructive, relationship with the President, he responded by saying that Texas needed a junior Senator who was fair but critical of Trump
  • When asked about his arrest for drink-driving in 1998, he spoke of his second chance and asked for cross-party justice reform to ensure this chance for everybody
  • When Cruz brought up Donald Trump later on and his relationship with the President, O’Rourke responded by saying that he was willing to work with Trump and the GOP, as he has before on mental health and veterans

His ability to mix an agenda of progressive reform with non-partisanship has got him to where he is in the polls (within or close to the margin of error), and his “outsider” character (despite him being a Representative) has won much support.

Support for universal healthcare provision — be it through single payer or an improved version of the current system — and a better education model has commanded much support from the youth and those disgruntled with the hyper-conservative, hyper-capitalist society in the US. Yet, he has been at pains to ensure that he doesn’t oppose capitalism and traditional American values, making himself appealing to the majority in Texas.

Common-sense gun control arguments, combined with a defence of the 2nd Amendment, have helped him in a similar way: making sure that the traditional Democratic base isn’t alienated while appeasing the traditionally Republican state.

His campaign management has also been superb — for example, visits to every county in Texas to listen and speak to voters has got many people engaged in politics, and the majority of these people are those he thinks he can rely on. If he has and continues to do enough to get these previous non-voters to turn out in force, expect a victory for Beto O’Rourke, and a Democratic victory in the Senate. His simple and clear website has also been a huge success.

He will certainly be thanking Obama for his pleas for the youth to turn out too: he has recognised that his agenda doesn’t have to pander to the conservative voters in the state to win, as he can rely on this youth vote to get him close to Ted Cruz.

It has been quite spectacular to read about and follow his campaign. While Cruz still looks odds-on to beat Beto, this is for certain: the candidate has changed US Politics in a very profound way; he has ignored the rules, attacked politicians at large, and stuck to his progressive beliefs in a state which would usually demand a Democrat more so in the mould of Joe Manchin in order to flip from the GOP.

His influence will be long-lasting, as it provides the perfect model for anyone trying to flip a seat, or even just keep their seat. Pay attention to your voters, stick to what you believe, and break the political norms. The people, he thinks, like nothing more than a down-to-earth person to represent them. If they vote for Beto, that’s exactly what they’ll be getting.

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