Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? How in the world can you compare beloved Beto to Donald Trump? Let me clarify immediately- this is not a comparison of policy, personality, or history. I intend to offer an insight in to how Beto’s campaign poses similarities in situation and style to that of Donald Trump in 2016.
For starters, it is important that I clear up that I am aware Beto O’ Rourke is an obvious upgrade from Donald Trump and if the decision was between the two I would undoubtedly vote Beto. However, people are focused too much on the appealing speaker Beto is, and the idea that he presented a legitimate challenge to Senator Ted Cruz in Texas during the midterm elections of 2018. I get it. I found myself becoming very excited with the idea of a proclaimed progressive supposedly running a competitive grassroots campaign against Ted Cruz as well. He’s hip, well-spoken, and knows how to connect with the everyday individual. Without question, Beto made a giant splash in national politics during this run and built a fan base across the states that accumulated a lot of energy. Some statements I saw on social media that stuck in my head following his defeat included: “The last person to lose such an election and come back to win the presidency was the late-great Abraham Lincoln! Considered by many as the best president in US history.” or “He lost by a slim margin to a Republican incumbent in Texas for God’s sake! If he ran for president imagine the nationwide support he would have.” The latter of those two statements may in fact be true, and this may not be in the best interest of progressives.
Why not Beto?
Before I get in to scary similarities in Beto O’ Rourke and Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns it is necessary that I explain why progressives should not be sold on Beto as their best option. As President of the United States, one should be held responsible for pushing specific policies and agendas while also being a respected leader on both the national and international level. President Trump has received a fair deal of well-deserved criticism for not knowing how to behave in different international communities; whether this be walking in front of the Queen of England, being the laughing stock at UN meetings, giving outrageous competitive handshakes- you get the idea. On this front, I believe that Beto would represent the country well and be able to not only handle himself properly in these situations but do the necessary research in order to inform himself on how to behave in concerns to certain world leaders. Thus, I would have full-faith in having Beto O’ Rourke representing the United States as the head of state, but within our political system the president is also the head of government.
Here is where I am not sold on Beto…
After listening to a numerous speeches and rallies held by Beto O’ Rourke I pose the question: How much are you hearing about specific policies to move America forward? His speeches are full of great soundbites exclaiming how we need to push for equality, break the divide in America, and bring power to the people. Sounds great, right? The difficult part of this job is you cannot just speak these things in to existence, you have to set out policies that creates a path to achieving this. For some time O’Rourke did not have policies outlined on his website, and even now there are very few policies on there. Of the policies that are listed on his website it is often observed that the policy is not really a policy, but rather a suggestion on an idea of policy. What I mean by this is the statements are a bunch of word soup, sort of like his speeches, full of promising words and phrases but no specifics. Look for example at Bernie Sanders platform, or long-shot candidate Andrew Yang, you can find just about every policy you can think of with specific approaches on how to get there. With Sanders you can find a majority of this information on his websites, but he has posted so many podcasts, debates, news interviews, etc… that it is very clear where he stands and his proposals to achieve his goals. As for Andrew Yang, just about every policy one could ever imagine is outlined with a goal and proposed solution on his website. I mention these two examples because I believe that they are the two best demonstrations of what it means to be a transparent candidate driven by uncovering the solutions to the US’s problems. This takes us to the reason I got your attention in the first place- how Beto O’Rourke’s campaign is so similar to that of Donald Trump’s.
Like I Said- Word Soup and Sound Bites
There are a wide variety of theories as to how Donald Trump won the presidency, without going in to these theories there are few similarities in most theories that pose a similar path for O’Rourke. The first of these is the number of candidates running, and how they align politically. In the Republican primary leading up to the 2016 election there were a large amount of candidates who qualified for the debates and had serious campaigns. Of these candidates there was some diversity in backgrounds, but many of the candidates held the same positions and came off as the traditional politician. Many of these candidates were splitting votes and loyalty from the traditional Republicans and conservative voting individuals. Insert Donald Trump. Wealthy businessman with a background in real-estate and Hollywood drama. While other Republicans running on similar platforms were splitting votes Donald Trump was firing up a base of conservatives and even swing voters that felt this was the answer to their prayers getting traditional, corrupt politicians out of office. He did this by making absurd promises, bizarre claims that had never been heard, and quite honestly not speaking like an intelligent, elite individual. No doubt this hit home for a certain group of people who felt that they had gone unrepresented by politicians for far too many years. As time went on in the primary this base held such loyal support that the other Republicans who were splitting conservative voters fell much too far behind. Before anyone could blink, Donald Trump had knocked off every other competitor in the Primary and was the Republican nominee for president. Statements such as “Build the wall!”, “Drain the swamp!”, “Get ’em the hell out of here!” and most evident “We will make America great again!” provided many voters with a candidate who was going to shake things up in Washington. Whether or not he meant to, Donald Trump may have had the most genius strategy in taking down a large Republican field. From there it came down to defeating one of the least popular candidates of all time- Hillary Clinton. Without going in to detail on how he won the election and who the key voters were I will turn back to Beto. Remember the statements Trump was making that hit home with many conservative-leaning voters? Imagine what those statements would be coming out of a liberal candidate. You would expect phrases like: “We must come together as one”/”We can no longer be a divided nation”, “We must promote equality”, “We must build a nation that works for everyone, not just some”. Well, insert Beto O’Rourke. This is the exact type of monologue you can expect in every one of his speeches. Let me clarify, there is nothing wrong with these statements or the message behind them, but if they are not followed up by substance and policy outlines how can the American people know what to expect? How do we know Beto is not just spewing BS to get elected similar to the Trump approach. If we look at the behavior of Trump when he gave specific policy proposals he lied or did the opposite on many of them. Remember when Mexico was going to pay for the border wall(which was somehow believed by many)? Remember when Trump said there would be no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security? He has proposed cuts to all of the following at some point. Remember when Trump said it was a priority to get every American health care? He has done the opposite of that if anything. How about the sweeping infrastructure plan to rebuild the roads, bridges, and buildings of our nation? Haven’t seen that. Oh, and bringing jobs back to America? Companies are still outsourcing at great rates and the one example he was so proud of, Carrier, was discovered to have happened due to incentive money offered to the company to stay in the US… And they have still outsourced jobs to Mexico since and the workers are not confident that the plant will stay afloat in Indianapolis. So why should anyone believe that Beto will follow through on all of his unspecific promises? Or even the policies he has been a little more specific on? He supposedly is 100% grassroots but we know this is not true. His debates were underwhelming to any policy-junkie. With these in mind, he is pouring out a message that centrist Democrats and the mainstream news media love to push. It is one without much understanding or substance; rather, one that sounds good off the tongue and could get votes. To connect the train of thought, Beto is basically using a liberal version of the Donald Trump strategy, and that should be troubling to progressives concerned with the advancement of their agenda. Another similarity between the campaigns is the number of candidates announced and where they stand ideologically. On one hand you have the centrist-corporate Democrats like Joe Biden, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris that will be battling to win a specific crowd of Democrats. On the other you have the more progressive and transparent candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Tulsi Gabbard who have similar ideologies and do not accept corporate PAC and superPAC money. These candidates will likely split up the votes among more liberal voting people. And then there’s Beto- a proclaimed progressive who tends to behave along the lines of centrist sell-out. Beto is not polling as one of the top candidates currently, but neither was Trump at this time. O’Rourke undoubtedly has a large chunk of voters locked up that will vote for him and this will likely push him late in to the primaries where it is entirely possible that, as candidates begin to drop out, Beto will pick up their supporters. He will pick up liberal voters who fall for the word soup performances, as well as centrist voters who are against the Democratic party moving further left. Many polls are suggesting that Bernie seems to be an obvious favorite to make it through the primaries, but if he faces Beto it could be dangerous for Sanders. Beto will have his loyal voters, a small portion of progressives, and the majority of the centrists. It will be interesting if there are three close candidates towards the end of the primaries, and I think this is a legitimate possibility given the division of the party and the popularity of Beto.
To wrap this up, let’s connect all the dots. The 2020 Democratic field is very similar to the 2016 Republican field in terms of the number of candidates and the blocks of similar ideologies within the party. This creates a path for someone who does not necessarily fit in either group to gain traction and end up in the late rounds like Trump did. The troubling concept here is how the previous election turned out- Trump had too much momentum going in to the later portion of the primaries and no candidate could catch up, it was too late. If Bernie performs well early on, which I believe he will, Beto is a scary opponent to be up against. It is fair to say that the Democratic party is pretty split on the idea of going further left with candidates even though people tend to favor more liberal policies. I am not sold on O’Rourke due to his voting record and history of not being transparent with the real issues and policies. It’s wonderful that he talks a good game and presents himself well, but I do not believe he is fit to govern as the President, nor do I think his overall message combats Trump most effectively. Donald Trump will not be beat by inspirational speeches, Donald Trump will be beat by a ruthless steamrolling on policy and details- it’s where he is vulnerable. As previously stated, I am well aware that Beto is not a top-polling candidate at the time but do not rule him out. The pattern observed between his campaign and Donald Trump’s campaign is extremely similar, and for this reason Beto is a true threat to make a run. If you’re a progressive voting individual it is crucial to keep this lack of transparency in mind. Focus on the policy and the positions. America needs a President who has goals and plans to meet the peoples needs, not another President whose personality is the focus of their presidency.
“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
-Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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