It’s hard to pin Beto O’Rourke down on the current (largely faux news-generated) set of political spectra. He’s not a “populist”…at least not in the sense that the term is usually used today, a right-wing jingoist with fascist leanings. He’s not a “progressive”…again, a term that has been recently tortured into fitting the lockstep DNC definition of the idea, someone who agrees with the whole failed, corporate-owned-and-operated, so-]called “neoliberal,” identity politics bullshit approach that so brilliantly brought us Donald Trump over HRC.
Better known as Scylla over Charybdis.
He’s definitely a “Democrat”…whatever the hell that term really means anymore…a political party that over the past several decades has included people as far apart politically as Joe Lieberman, the Clintons, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke himself and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That’s not a “party,” it’s more like a free-for-all!!!
In the Politico article summarized below (https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/03/04/beto-o-rourke-progressive-2020-225441), one of his good friends and colleagues says:
“In El Paso, he’s viewed as very progressive…and El Paso knows him.”
Still, Ortega went on, “I think he’s a pragmatist in many ways. … If I had to peg him as something, I’d peg him as a liberal with a libertarian bent.”
Despite already beginning to hear the many clicking, cranky old knees on this site starting to perform their usual arthritic knee-jerking over the word “libertarian,” I like that description!!!
Just What Does Beto Believe?
The former Texas congressman seems unwilling to place himself on his party’s conventional political spectrum. By David Siders March 04, 2019
EL PASO, Texas — Is Beto O’Rourke the progressive icon who, during his Senate run against Ted Cruz, talked about legalizing marijuana and impeaching Donald Trump? Or is he the centrist Texan who, during his first run for the House, raised the possibility of making Social Security less generous for future retirees?
It might be the biggest question lingering over O’Rourke as he prepares for a likely run for the Democratic presidential nomination: Just what does he believe, actually?
O’Rourke seems unwilling to place himself on his party’s conventional political spectrum. At the final town hall of his congressional career, the last of more than 100 such gatherings he held, O’Rourke was greeted in December at a local high school by cheerleaders, a mariachi band and supporters wearing T-shirts reading “Beto for President.” In response to a question from POLITICO after the event, O’Rourke would not–or could not–answer if he considers himself a progressive Democrat.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m just, as you may have seen and heard over the course of the campaign, I’m not big on labels. I don’t get all fired up about party or classifying or defining people based on a label or a group. I’m for everyone.”
O’Rourke’s political identity was shaped by his hometown of El Paso, during his first House campaign seven years ago. While even then he was considered a progressive Democrat, he was also an idiosyncratic political thinker who seemed to think through problems while talking about them aloud–with voters and even junior staff.
During that 2012 race, O’Rourke mentioned to the 19-year-old campaign assistant who was driving him around El Paso in a pickup truck that many people in his West Texas congressional district seemed to be worried about Social Security, the staffer recalled. As it happened, the assistant, Joey Torres, was reading Bill Clinton’s 2011 book, Back to Work.
In it, Clinton discussed a method, suggested by the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson commission, to gradually raise the Social Security retirement age to 69. Few Democrats supported the idea, and since then it has become verboten among progressives, who want to increase Social Security benefits rather than reduce them. But surprisingly to Torres, O’Rourke was intrigued. Soon the candidate was cutting a campaign video in which he said it is possible that “we’ll have to look at future generations … retiring at a later age, paying a greater percentage of their income into Social Security and making other necessary adjustments” to ensure the longevity of the program.
When I asked Torres recently if he often discussed policy positions with O’Rourke during the campaign, Torres said they did so only after canvassing neighborhoods and talking to voters. “The way we developed our strategy was to start block-walking and figuring out the issues that people really cared about,” Torres said.
And what did O’Rourke reveal about his political philosophy during these conversations, with Torres and with voters?
“He’s really fueled by being around people,” Torres said.
To O’Rourke’s supporters, that means he’s a listener who isn’t doctrinaire. To his critics, it means he is a malleable or worse–that he has no political core.
Running against an eight-term Democratic incumbent, Silvestre Reyes, in a heavily Democratic district in 2012, O’Rourke possessed the progressive credentials necessary to challenge Reyes from the left. And in some ways, he did. While serving on the El Paso City Council, he had already called for the legalization of marijuana and championed a proposal–highly controversial at the time–to provide health benefits to partners of gay city employees.
Yet in Texas’ open primary system, with Republicans as well as conservative Democrats deciding between the two candidates, O’Rourke’s advisers saw an opening for O’Rourke to run to Reyes’ right, as well. So O’Rourke criticized elements of the Affordable Care Act, then-President Barack Obama’s signature health care overhaul. His position on Social Security suggested an openness to proposals floated by a group of congressional Republicans. And in one internal campaign upheaval that became so intense it left one of his friends and political allies weeping, O’Rourke considered de-emphasizing his position–the subject of a book he co-wrote–on legalizing marijuana.
The strategy worked. By the end of the campaign, Reyes became the only Texas incumbent to lose a primary in 2012. And O’Rourke won his first race for national office, the biggest credential in his likely presidential campaign less than a decade later.
If O’Rourke has a political center, it is geographical, not ideological. He was raised in El Paso, a former garment-making capital of about 680,000 people on the border with Juárez, Mexico, and often recalls a pivotal moment in New York City in 1998, several years after he graduated from Columbia University. During a crowded one-hour commute to his job as a fact-checker at a publishing house in the Bronx, he was “pressed up against the glass of a subway car,” as he described it at an event in El Paso in January. With “sweat pouring down my face, under my shirt, in my pants,” he said, he imagined an alternative: “I could be in an air-conditioned truck in El Paso, Texas listening to 92.3 … maybe the window rolled down, my hair blowing … I knew that I had to get back.”
When O’Rourke returned to West Texas that year, he marveled at the Franklin Mountains, the food, the music and El Paso’s connection to Juárez, sharing a skyline and a culture. “I was like, `Holy shit, this is the most exciting, essential, amazing place on the planet,” he said. “Having lived in New York, having traveled through most of the country, this was where it was at … I desperately wanted to be part of sharing our story.”
He started a web design company and an alternative newspaper, saying he “just wanted to be as engaged as I possibly could.”
“The logical conclusion,” he added, “was to run for office.”
When El Paso Inc. bestowed its “El Pasoan of the Year” award on O’Rourke last month, O’Rourke told about 600 people at El Paso’s Fort Bliss that the award was “the honor of a lifetime, and the pinnacle of what has made me who I am.” Eight years earlier, walking through downtown El Paso to shoot a campaign video, O’Rourke had lauded “a new sense of civic pride” in the city and “the young people and not-so-young people who decided to move back here.” His campaign website featured the slogan, “It’s time for El Paso to take the lead.” And he ran a TV ad entitled, “El Paso is America’s #1 `Can Do’ City.” O’Rourke would knock on some 16,000 doors during the congressional campaign.
O’Rourke had established himself on the El Paso City Council as part of a group of young Democrats known locally as “the progressives.” But during an on-stage conversation with O’Rourke earlier this year about the through-lines of his political career, Richard Pineda, a communications professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, suggested that O’Rourke had distinguished himself as a councilman and a congressman not by supporting any particular policy but instead “largely by the interaction which you had with constituents.”
O’Rourke nodded. “A lot of it comes from just accepting that I’m not as smart as I want to be,” he said. “I’m more likely than not always not the smartest guy in the room. I haven’t figured it all out.”
Richard Pineda suggested that O’Rourke had distinguished himself as a councilman and a congressman not by supporting any particular policy but instead “largely by the interaction which you had with constituents.”
His tolerance for uncertainty–and his preference for pragmatism at a time when Nancy Pelosi has called a border wall “immoral”–was in evidence last month, after he told MSNBC that he would “absolutely” remove an existing stretch of U.S.-Mexico border wall from his hometown of El Paso. Within days, O’Rourke was declining to generalize his remarks for parts of the border he doesn’t know, telling reporters “there is a role for physical barriers in some places.”
“I would work with local stakeholders, the property owners, the communities, those who actually live there to determine the best security solution,” O’Rourke said. “We saw in El Paso a solution in search of a problem imposed on us by people who did not live here.”
With the Democratic Party’s establishment squarely behind Reyes [O’Rourke’s incumbent 2012 opponent for a seat in Congress], O’Rourke ran at his fellow Democrat less for his ideology than his incumbency. He highlighted reports that Reyes used campaign funds to pay family members. He blamed him for long wait times at the city’s border crossings with Juárez. And he blamed Reyes, a Vietnam War veteran, for deficiencies in the local veterans health care system.
While Obama, the sitting president, endorsed Reyes and former President Clinton came to the district to campaign for Reyes, O’Rourke tilted against the Democratic Party’s leaders. He wrote on his campaign website that although Obama’s federal health care overhaul “seeks to address some important problems when it comes to accessing health care in this country,” it failed to address problems “specific to El Paso and the border,” including Medicare reimbursement rates and an inadequate supply of medical professionals. O’Rourke said he would “consult with the community before voting on legislation this significant,” while faulting Reyes for failing to do so.
…even Reyes’ supporters have acknowledged the incumbent was surprised by the strength of O’Rourke’s challenge, and that O’Rourke outworked him.
Autry, the pollster, worked for O’Rourke during his City Council days, although O’Rourke would later say that he doesn’t rely on focus groups or polls. When an O’Rourke campaign volunteer went door to door, Autry recalled, he or she would ask voters if they had any questions for O’Rourke. If they did, the volunteer offered to put O’Rourke on the phone or call him to the house on the spot.
“He was the hardest worker we ever saw,” Autry said.
In El Paso in 2012, he added, many Republicans disenchanted with Reyes found an alternative. “Many Republicans voted in the Democratic primary, and the majority of them voted for Beto.”
The reasons, Autry suggested, had less to do with O’Rourke’s ideology than his charisma.
“If you do your homework and you vote for what you think is best,” Autry said, “you’re going to be all over the map.”
If you do your homework and you vote for what you think is best… you’re going to be all over the map.
Listening to people instead of telling them what they should think!!!???
What a novel idea!!!
They call House members “Representatives,” right?
And this article is titled “Just What Does Beto Believe?”
That’s what Beto O’Rourke believes!!!
He believes in being a representative, not a “boss!!!”
He believes in the people of this country!!!
The working people, of all races and classes.
The ones who make this country run.
Stand up and be counted.