Dull campaigns envious of Beto’s draw



September 6, 2018 - 11:12 AM

Even with the entrance of former Gov. Gary Johnson into the contest for U.S. Senate, we in New Mexico can’t claim the excitement of the race for Senate taking place right now in Texas. ….
So, let’s look at what is happening in Texas, where GOP incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz is battling U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat from El Paso. While Cruz remains the likely winner — states don’t come much redder than Texas — there is a groundswell of support for the Democrat that could signal the long-awaited transition to a purple Texas.
If nothing else, the campaign is fascinating, with Beto, as he is called, having a real shot at winning.
Going viral last week was a video of O’Rourke answering a difficult question about whether players who take a knee at an NFL game during the national anthem are being disrespectful. By late last week — helped by a retweet by LeBron James — the video had more than 12.8 million views and more than 160,000 retweets.
With just one question, it is easy to see why this unassuming, lanky guy has captured the imagination of so many voters. Currently barnstorming across Texas with town hall meetings just about everywhere, O’Rourke is drawing crowds not just in liberal Austin or Houston, but in places like Lubbock, Abilene, Amarillo — truly conservative cities even by Texas standards. He’s taken his campaign to all 254 Texas counties. He has refused to take any money from political action committees, so his fundraising depends only on people, not PACs. Polls have him within a few points of front-runner Cruz.
Most of all, he answers people’s questions, even the hard ones. In the case of the anthem, O’Rourke stated without equivocation — so rare in a politician — that when it comes to protest, “I can think of nothing more American.” He did not dodge.
More than that, O’Rourke went on to explain how reasonable people can disagree: “You’re every bit as American all the same.” That’s important in our divided land, underscoring that, yes, we can disagree without dishonor. In fact, O’Rourke disagreed with his questioner, right to his face.
(Replying on Twitter, Cruz said: “Most Texans stand for the flag, but Hollywood liberals are so excited that Beto is siding with NFL players protesting the national anthem that Kevin Bacon just retweeted it. That means all of us can now win Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon!” No response on the substance, either on the history of peaceful protest in the U.S. or the issue of racial injustice.)
In contrast, O’Rourke went on to put the NFL protests in context — alongside the actions of both civil rights activists and military veterans of armed battles who have fought for rights at home. He thanked veterans and those martyrs who gave up so much to end segregation and secure voting rights. He also detailed the heroes who died, were beaten and spat upon as they asked for equality, showing how the NFL protests, then, have a backstory that too many choose to ignore. All of this, mind you, in answer to a spontaneous question at a town hall.
An upset in the making? The path for Democrats to reclaim the Senate is far from easy, with the electoral landscape favoring the GOP despite its many scandals. Still, we — and the nation — will be watching O’Rourke on his unlikely quest. Politics aside, such plain speaking gives a body hope.
— The Santa Fe New Mexican

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