I appreciate Beto O’Rourke.
I cannot believe that I just typed those words. But I appreciate Beto.
I’m glad Texas voters were smart enough to keep the former Democratic congressman out of the U.S. Senate last November. I don’t want him within 1,000 miles of the White House.
But I appreciate Beto.
Beto formally announced he was running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in March. At the time he pledged “a positive campaign that seeks to bring out the very best from every single one of us, that seeks to unite a very divided country.”
He instantly became the golden boy. Liberal pundits swooned, basking in his youth, his charisma, his skateboarding, grunge-rocker background. He was lauded with comparisons to JFK and Barack. The money flooded in. Yes, with Beto in the race, the Trump Terror was in its death throes.
Then, the wheels came off.
Over the next couple of months, he live-streamed a haircut. The media dug out poetry he had written during his career as a teenaged computer hacker - verses flowed about his desire to have a cow “wax my a--, scrub my balls.” Speaking of waxing, he waxed philosophically about his inadequacy as a child-rearing helpmate to his wife. The fawning Vanity Fair profile that dropped as his campaign launched, in which he had declared he was “born to be in it,” was wielded as a club to smack him for his privileged white-boy-ness. The media turned snarky, poll numbers plummeted, funding receded.
But Beto pulled out of this nosedive after the massacre in his hometown, El Paso, in early August. He dropped F-bombs, he lashed out at President Donald Trump, his fire was back.
Now, perhaps motivated by anguish and rage he felt after El Paso, or perhaps feeling he has nothing left to lose, Beto tells the world to do to him what he wanted from that cow 30 years ago.
At a CNN town hall a few weeks after the El Paso shooting, Beto reaffirmed his pro-choice bona fides, refusing to condemn third-trimester abortions.
In September, during the first presidential debate after the El Paso shooting, Beto uncorked his gun buyback plan. “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” Beto proclaimed unapologetically. “We’re not going to allow it to be used against a fellow American anymore.”
At another CNN town hall last week, Beto emphatically replied “yes” when asked if churches, schools and other religious institutions should be stripped of tax-exempt status if they reject gay marriage. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone... that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” Beto declared to rousing applause.
Then, just this week, during the October presidential debate, Beto doubled down on his anti-gun program. When challenged as to how it would work, Beto said there would be “consequences” for gun owners who refuse to surrender their weapons. The following day, in an MSNBC interview, Beto explained, “I think that there would be a visit by law enforcement to recover that firearm and to make sure that it is purchased, bought back, so that it cannot be potentially used against somebody else.”
So if you’re keeping score at home, President Beto would eviscerate the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment and probably the Ninth Amendment and the Tenth Amendment.
To me, Beto is now a living, breathing, walking, life-sized version of a ventriloquist’s puppet.
When Beto talks, you can almost see Democratic National Committee moving the lips and wiggling the wires. Thus, Beto mouths things Democrats have been dying to say for years, but have held back because doing so would reveal an agenda that’s off-the-chart radical for Middle America.
Sure, some Democrats publicly push back against his loony ideas. But their protests are hollow and half-hearted. Really believe Pete Buttigieg will support AR-15 owners after another massacre? Really believe Elizabeth Warren won’t want to tax churches when she runs out of millionaires to harass? Wait till Democrats gather in Milwaukee next summer to hammer out their platform. Beto may not be the nominee, but his ideas on abortion, guns and LGBTQ rights will carry substantial currency with the delegates.
Yep, Beto is done caring. His comments acknowledge that his “positive campaign... that seeks to unite a very divided country” is a thing of yesteryear. And he’s showing clearly where many Democrats really want to take the country, much to the horror of Middle America. And that’s why I appreciate Beto.
Bill Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editorial page editor of The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida.