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The End of Betomania

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The End of Betomania
Former Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke takes part in a televised town hall on CNN dedicated to LGBTQ issues in Los Angeles, Calif., October 10, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Good riddance to Mr. O’Rourke.

If one were searching for a moment that best captured Beto O’Rourke’s ill-fated bid for the White House, it might have been his March campaign stop at Penn State University. O’Rourke appeared on stage surrounded by a mostly friendly crowd of twentysomethings who appeared eager to hear the young, allegedly impressive, candidate from Texas speak. In his grating and pretentious cadence, Beto rattled off a series of slogans to the audience:

“This campaign cannot be about tearing people down!” “At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team.” “You, if you so choose, can be part of the largest grassroots effort this country has ever seen.”

One irritated female attendee — probably realizing she had been cheated out of two hours of life that she’d never get back — stood up and asked O’Rourke, “When are we going to get an actual policy from you, instead of just, like, platitudes and nice stories?”

Like, never.

“I never prepare a speech,” O’Rourke told Vanity Fair in March. Recalling one event, he said, “Every word was pulled out of me. Like, by some greater force, which was just the people there. Everything that I said, I was, like, watching myself, being like, How am I saying this stuff? Where is this coming from?” Who knows?

Katie Glueck of the New York Times endeavored to capture the “greater force” propelling the O’Rourke campaign; at a “Beto 2020” event in Des Moines, Glueck discovered a stack of notecards on a deserted table, each bearing instructions for a set of prepared chants. A sample:

“I O W A, Beto’s Going All the Way!”

“All People, No PACS”

“CALL: You Beto RESPONSE: Believe it”

“CALL: Hell Yes RESPONSE: We Can”

“B-E-T-O, Beto, Beto”

That his campaign apparently paid people to come up with this vacuous trash is one (of many) reasons that Beto O’Rourke is not “going all the way.”

The Right has had great fun mocking the O’Rourke campaign, but it is to Beto’s credit that he took the Left’s premises to their logical conclusions. He was the most honest person in their primary field, saying things that Democrats have long said in private or on Vox. “Hell yes,” he wanted to take your AR-15 and your church’s tax-exempt status. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone, any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” said a man hell-bent on stripping the constitutional rights of millions of law-abiding citizens.

That contradiction was one of many at the heart of his campaign. Depriving law-abiding gun owners of their constitutional rights is necessary to the safety of the republic, but any attempt to secure the southern border and promote the safety of our immigration regime is bigoted per se. The same country that is institutionally racist needs to further consolidate power in the federal government. America is a racist hellhole, and the man sent to save it is a privileged white guy from Texas.

That was another strange thing about Beto’s campaign: He ran, in some sense, against himself. He went on national television and lamented the fact that he was “a white man who has had privileges that others could not depend on or take for granted.” He told Vanity Fair that he is “part of the problem,” considering that he is “a white man” in a “government at all levels [that] is overly represented by white men.” Strange sentiments from a man who goes by a childhood nickname that makes him sound Hispanic, for purposes, per his father’s admission, of personal and electoral gain. Also strange when one considers that he or his father necessarily assumed that the nickname would help his cause in a “racist” and “violent” country like ours; America, O’Rourke said at a campaign event, “is still racist at its foundation, at its core, and throughout this system,” and it’s “still inherently violent.”

In other words, he was running to be president of a country he hated, whose people he despised, and whose institutions he routinely denigrated for his personal and electoral benefit. And he had the gall to ask for your endorsement at the ballot box.

When Beto brought his presidential campaign to a merciful end, he said: “This is a campaign that has prided itself on seeing things clearly . . . we have to clearly see at this point that we do not have the means to pursue this campaign successfully.” No reason for despair, however. Beto promised the gathered faithful that he would be with them, even unto the end of the age: “Everyone who is not physically here but has been a part of this campaign is a reason that we ran in the first place. You will always be with us, and I will always be with you.”

It’d be nice if he could just go away instead.

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