Rising stars of the Democratic Party, like NFL first-draft picks, don’t always pan out. Just ask former congressional Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas or former congressional Rep. Katie Hill of California; the more meteoric the rise, the harder and faster the fall.
In our modern age of lightning-fast information, lie or truth has the power to go around the world so fast it would make Winston Churchill’s head spin.
The tides of fortune can turn that quickly in a race for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Just ask also-ran Howard Dean, whose ill-timed display of unbridled emotion at a political rally played just badly enough in the media to take him out of the race.
Dean’s campaign never recovered from that one embarrassing moment. It was a simpler time, when a single misspeak, a single moment, could cost a candidate or campaign everything.
Society isn’t as far removed today from such superficial snap judgements, though some political figures and celebrities seem strangely immune to such concerns or challenges.
The political campaign of Beto O’Rourke was not equipped as so.
Fewer candidates entered the race for the Democratic nomination with such promise. In deep blue Texas, O’Rourke had come within a hair’s breadth of beating out Republican incumbent Senator Ted Cruz in 2018. O’Rourke had the campaign mechanism, the staff, the donor base, the media coverage.
Beto’s campaign enjoyed early fundraising success as a result of his high-profile Senate campaign; it looked at first like Beto O’Rourke could go all the way.
Unfortunately for the candidate, Beto O’Rourke never quite found his footing in a race so over-crowded with Democratic contenders, all being routinely eclipsed by the strategic antics of Donald Trump.
O’Rourke’s early decision to announce his campaign from the cover of Vanity Fair magazine didn’t play well with liberal voters. Voters may have enjoyed seeing President Barack Obama grace the cover of the liberal-leaning magazine in 2009, but that was a simpler time in American life.
Beto on the cover, from his air of posed casualness to his perfect clothes, simply screamed elitism as only the cover of a magazine filled with $20,000 handbags and $250,000 cars can.
O’Rourke certainly tried to appeal to the whims of the left; he proved himself again and again to be just as willing as any Democrat onstage to publicly espouse far-left progressive positions that would have been unthinkable 5-years ago.
In this way, O’Rourke may have hurt Democrats and Democratic causes much more so than he helped them.
Beto O’Rourke may have exited the race, but voters are going to hear some of his most memorable words over and over again in the lead-up to election day 2020.
Voters are going to hear all about O’Rourke’s policy positions: From Republicans running campaign ads.
Two of O’Rourke’s positions in particular aren’t going to play well with voters in the crucial swing states Democrats need to win in order to take back the White House and keep their Congressional majority.
Beto’s promise of “Hell, yes; we’re going to take your AR-15,” is going to be used by Republican after Republican trying to paint Democrats as radical socialists who want the federal government control over every aspect of public and private life- by force if necessary.
It might work, too.
Real gun-control Democrats must have groaned in unison after O’Rourke’s spirited declaration. In his bid to distinguish himself in a crowded primary, going for his ‘breakout viral’ moment, O’Rourke set gun-control back significantly.
See, Democrats want to take guns. Of course they do. But they can’t say they want to take guns. The prospect of government confiscation brings even people who aren’t interested in the gun debate into the fray. And not on the side of Democrats.
The second policy position espoused by Beto O’Rourke that must have caused serious grief for any Democrat but the unserious, was O’Rourke’s statement that under his presidency, religious institutions who don’t affirm gay marriage would lose their tax exempt status.
Again, this is perfectly in-line with Democratic beliefs. The problem, of course, is the push-back a statement like that causes.
Any good activist worth their salt understands push-back. The key to effective advocacy for any cause facing significant opposition is to push the needle toward the desired changes in such a way as not to cause the ‘other side’ to actively work against you.
Hearts and minds must be changed for activism and advocacy to actually work. Convincing people to change their minds is hard enough without an equal and opposition reaction working against you.
Long-held beliefs like those instilled by religious training or long tradition are particularly hard to unseat.
Beto O’Rourke confirmed every conservative Republican’s worst fears about the true goal of the gun-control movement and LGBTQ+ rights groups; Democrats are coming for their guns and religion.
Worse still, he made recruiting much easier- for the other side. Even people who favor sensible measures on gun control balk at forcible gun confiscation by the government. Many people who support LGBTQ+ causes are- gasp!- religious themselves.
Even a staunch LGBTQ+ advocate might waver when it comes to the government mandating what religious institutions are allowed to believe.
Beto O’Rourke actually hurt the causes he claimed to care about and he exits the race as he entered it; an aspiring politician willing to say anything to get elected without enough experience to speak more sensibly about hot-button issues.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)