Former Texas congressman, who made a big splash during the 2018 midterms, announced his bid for the presidency last month
IT was an uncharacteristically cloudy day in Los Angeles when Beto O’Rourke took to the stage at a campaign rally at the LA Trade-Technical College on Saturday, April 27.
But that didn’t deter the hundreds of supporters who showed up for the 2020 presidential hopeful’s anticipated LA stop over the weekend.
Last year, O’Rourke — a former U.S. congressman for Texas’ 13th district in El Paso from 2013 to 2019 — joined the national stage when he led a fiery campaign for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Ted Cruz, a Tea Party Republican.
Like Bernie Sanders, O’Rourke is taking advantage of the timeline and tackling key states like California early in the race, ensuring that supporters and prospective supporters know that “we’re showing up for everyone and everyone deserves to be heard.”
“In the state of Texas — a state that people wrote off as too red within which to compete — we traveled to each of the 254 counties in Texas [during the midterm race]. No matter how big, small, red, blue, we made it a point to show up for everyone [and] everywhere, listening to people who deserved to be listened to and represented, and that is exactly the kind of drive we’re committing to for this campaign,” O’Rourke told hundreds of supporters on Saturday.
Standing on a rotunda stage surrounded by supporters dressed in his now-signature button down and dark slacks, O’Rourke addressed a bevy of campaign topics ranging from reproductive rights, immigration, national security spending and gun control, which he addressed first and foremost ahead of the San Diego shooting that occurred that same morning.
“For all of the victims, all those who lost a loved one and a piece of themselves in that shooting and in all shootings, we send our thoughts and our prayers,” O’Rourke declared. “But I hope that I speak for everyone in saying we need to back that up with our actions to make sure that in this country that sees more than 30,000 gun deaths in a year — a rate not seen anywhere else in this world — that we will insist on universal background checks for everyone without loopholes or exceptions and we will insist and ensure that weapons that were designed and sold to the military for the express purpose to kill are kept on the battlefields and no longer in our homes, our synagogues, our churches, our mosques and take the lives of those in our lives.”
A talented orator, O’Rourke has harnessed his social media savvy and inherent everyman charisma to propel him to the national stage where he’s acted as a firm promoter for social unity and inclusion.
“It doesn’t matter who you love, how you pray or whether you pray at all, where you live, how many generations you can found your family as American or whether you just got here today, this defining moment of truth for this country calls for a service and a sacrifice and unity that puts this country first before any personal interest or any divisions put between us,” O’Rourke said to a roaring applause.
The political ecosystem this early in an election period is typically receptive to effervescence and patriotism over specific strategy from candidates, and of the 21 Democratic candidates running so far O’Rourke stands tall in that image.
Magazine profiles have fashioned O’Rourke as a Robert F. Kennedy type, a candidate stepping away the strategies and processes of the Democratic establishment and opting for a sincerely grassroots campaign with a primary focus of equity for marginalized communities.
Last month, O’Rourke visited Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders in Nevada where he expressed commitment to listening to the AAPI community and addressing their specific needs, saying that he has “no hope of understanding things from your perspective unless we first have that conversation.”
But the issue that seems to be the most front of mind for the O’Rourke campaign is the ongoing immigration crisis that he acknowledged affects a diverse array of communities across the country.
Where Kennedy stood up for Black Americans during the civil rights era, O’Rourke has become an agent for the undocumented community. In addition to condemning Trump’s border wall plans and family separation at the border, O’Rourke supports the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and establishing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth.
“We must rewrite our immigration laws in our own image,” O’Rourke said. “It must reflect communities like the ones in Los Angeles and El Paso, and that means taking away from every DREAMer the fear of deportation and making them citizens of the U.S., their true home country.”
O’Rourke’s groundsgame-heavy Senate run was revolutionary in a time where national electoral politics is in the middle of a massive paradigm shift, but with the bevvy of Democrats running for the White House — 21 as of press time — it’ll be an uphill race to the nomination.
In the age of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez answering supporter questions on Instagram Live and South Bend, Indiana Mayor and fellow 2020 Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg directly tweeting at supporters and opposers alike, the accessibility and intimacy between politician and constituent is closer than ever before, and it’s more important than ever before.
He appeals to the faction of liberals who have grown disillusioned with politicians along the ranks of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and desire a more transparent, on-the-ground candidate who speaks without a teleprompter and isn’t swayed by corporate dollars. In his race against Cruz, Beto refused campaign donations from political action committees and corporations.
But since former Vice President Joe Biden announced candidacy last week, O’Rourke faces heavy competition in addition to the other heavy hitters in the race. Although it’s too early to configure a true front runner, RealClearPolitics puts Biden 13 points ahead of the pack and O’Rourke in sixth place.
But when asked whether or not early polls really affect voters’ behavior, one O’Rourke supporter on Saturday told the Asian Journal, “Polls mean nothing this early on. When we get to a debate, that’s when we’ll really see who has power.”