The guy who raised tons of money losing to Ted Cruz in a Senate race last year has tossed his ten gallon hat into the race for president. In an announcement video released Thursday morning, Beto O'Rourke sits on a couch beside his wife, Amy, who silently looks on as her husband waves his arms and delivers a rousing speech from the couch. "This moment of peril produces, perhaps...the first peck of pickled peppers in Ameripan pistory," he said in his opening gambit. (He actually finished the sentence by saying "...the greatest moment of promise for this country and for everyone inside of it," but you get it, you're here with me on this blog.) Here's a few initial thoughts on Beto.
I am running to serve you as the next president. The challenges we face are the greatest in living memory. No one person can meet them on their own. Only this country can do that, and only if we build a movement that includes all of us. Say you're in: https://t.co/EKLdkVET2u pic.twitter.com/lainXyvG2n
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) March 14, 2019
Beto is a white guy who doesn't fuck up when he talks about race. That is his primary strength. In all those viral videos from his 2018 Senate run, he demonstrates the ability to defend the basic dignity of POC without pissing off aggrieved white people, which is genuinely impressive. However, that's a necessary but insufficient qualification for president. And the fact that he gets so much praise for it says more about the rarity of racial literacy among white people than it does about Beto's capacity to run the country.
As many journalists have already pointed out, though he's currently offering up bupkis in terms of policy proposals, Beto's merch shop is fully stocked and ready to go. There's no shame in having a good marketing campaign, but he needed to come out the gate with proposals that provided substance to his rhetoric and that separated him from other Democrats in the field. Right now he just looks like a baby Biden, or a hip Howard Schultz. Or, I guess, Reagan.
When a look works, it works. pic.twitter.com/kQ8LczRNar
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) March 13, 2019
Though his rhetoric is impressive, his policy positions, to the extent that he has them, suck. In general, his voting record in Congress was more conservative than other Democrats. During his six-year stint, he managed to pass three bills into law. One of the bills he passed "named a federal courthouse in El Paso," according to the Texas Tribune, while another "continued tuition assistance programs for service members."
Beto has yet come out in support of Medicare for All or a Green New Deal, and during his Senate campaign he took money from oil executives when he said he wouldn't.
Cool. What a great candidate. Why the fuck are we talking about this guy again? Because he did a skateboard?
— Not Beto's Journal (@BetosFakeBlog) March 13, 2019
I understand that people miss Barack Obama. In his earnest-seeming performance of listening and in his genuine projection of sincerity, I can see why people compare Beto to the former president. But we shouldn't graft nostalgia for Obama onto this empty suit. And we shouldn't even want another Barack Obama in the first place.
Also, sorry, but you gotta win one. I know Beto was elected to the U.S. Congress three times. But all three of those victories were in Texas's 16th, a deep blue district where Beto was born and raised. If he can't beat Cruz in Texas, he's not going to beat Trump in the general.