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How Trump could monster Beto O’Rourke in 2020

The former Texas congressman ticks a lot of the right wrong boxes

February 12, 2019

12:30 PM

12 February 2019

12:30 PM

It will be a delicious irony when the 2020 Democratic nominee ends up being another rich white dude. Picture the scene in July next year, at the party’s National Convention in Milwaukee. After all the talk of a new, rich diversity, after all the noisy women candidates have canceled each other, after Cory Booker’s self-righteousness sets itself on fire, and after the superdelegates figured out another way to block Bernie Sanders, the Democrats have done the dumb thing and plumped for Beto O’Rourke. He gives a tiresome, Obama-lite oration on the need to put history back on track and rediscover a spirit of open-borderness. He gives the second half of the speech in Spanish. The media sings his praises. But everybody knows deep down he’s a flawed candidate who could be monstered by the dreaded Donald Trump in November.

Beto ticks a lot of the right wrong boxes. He’s bang in the Democratic party middle on climate change; gun control; abortion rights; taxes and marijuana – which is to say well to the left of the majority.

His competing rally with Trump at the border (geddit?) must have felt like a clever stunt for his campaign team. Media outlets thrilled at his ‘live fact-checking’ of Trump from across the border. It’s the sort of fun, easy, split-screen contrast that rolling news channels love. But isn’t it all so phony?

He’s young, he does social media, and he’s a dork. He’s Bobby Kennedy for gym bunny millennials. He played in a band. He was a bit of a loser in his twenties. It’s hard not to know these facts because there have been so many fawning profiles written of him.

But Beto might not be quite as likable as he first appears. He’s the husband of a real-estate heiress who pretends to be the common man. His Medium and Instagram posts suggest a slightly deranged ego, one his political advisers seek to massage more than restrain.

He’s also lost the only major election he’s ever fought, which, even though it was Texas, should ring alarm bells for Democratic voters. Yes, he raised vast sums of money. So did Hillary Clinton.

The real trouble with Beto is that he’s a chronic virtue-signaler. He’s fixated on immigration as a way of presenting himself as the anti-Trump, the good guy not the bad one. There are votes in that. There’s also a lot of votes against it. President Trump knows that, on immigration, he is much more in tune with the American mainstream than his political adversaries. If Beto really wants to fight the election on the border, with Mexico flags at his rallies, he’ll play right into Trump’s hands.

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