How Beto O’Rourke Became the New Face of Liberal America

Beto O’Rourke is challenging Ted Cruz for a Texas Senate seat ( source )

Beto O’Rourke is challenging Ted Cruz for a Texas Senate seat (source)

First one video, then two, then three rotated through my Facebook news feed. Each featured a tall, thin Texas Senate candidate with gray hair and a solemn face. Beto O’Rourke, previously unknown to most people outside Texas, became a household name almost overnight for his straightforward messages on controversial topics such as NFL players kneeling, immigration, and racial injustice. His opponent, incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, will be tough to defeat, especially in solidly “red” Texas. However, polls have placed O’Rourke and Cruz almost neck-in-neck, with O’Rourke garnering support from liberals across America. Many news outlets have commented on his meteoric rise and the possibility that he could unseat Cruz. But what makes O’Rourke so appealing to Americans in this contentious time? Two reasons: his passion for and reasonable stances on key liberal issues paired with his easygoing and everyman demeanor.

O’Rourke is not afraid to address polarizing issues. His campaign speeches and tactics in his debate with Ted Cruz make it clear that the El Paso native does not shy away from controversy. O’Rourke first gained national attention with his comments about NFL player protests earlier this year, saying that he “[could] think of nothing more American” than the players exercising their right to free speech by kneeling during the national anthem. His response has embodied the spirit of the left, which has overwhelmingly supported the professional athletes in question. Considering O’Rourke is running for Senate in Texas, his response endeared him even more to liberal voters. Taking a stance on such a divisive issue in a state that has institutionalized football as tradition lent O’Rourke credibility with liberal America. His unflinching response may hurt him in the election, but it has clinched the devotion of many liberal Americans.

Ted Cruz speaking at the Conservative Political Action Committee Conference earlier this year ( source )

Ted Cruz speaking at the Conservative Political Action Committee Conference earlier this year (source)

O’Rourke has also made headlines for his stance on a similarly contentious issue in Texas, immigration.. The congressman dove headfirst into this issue during  the September 21 debate against Cruz. He argued that Dreamers (children of DACA) should be allowed to stay in the country, citing the economic benefits they could bring to Texas and America if they stayed. O’Rourke also attacked the issue from the moral side, commenting on the injustice of sending children to their countries of origin, which in many cases are foreign places the children have never visited. By not backing down from controversial issues, O’Rourke has aligned himself with liberal voters across the country, encouraging many liberals grappling with the new direction of American politics.

O’Rourke’s appealing demeanor has also provided an edge over Cruz. From the Saturday Night Live skit about Ted Cruz attempting in vain to appeal to young voters to media sources remarking on O’Rourke’s promise in the election, many voters have seen O’Rourke portrayed in a positive light in comparison to Cruz. One source wrote, “O'Rourke has energized a young generation of Democratic voters in the once staunchly Republican state by focusing on topics and behaviors relevant to them.”  Something about O’Rourke’s steadfast resolve to stand up for his beliefs even in a typically conservative state makes him seem genuine and dedicated. His collected demeanor and normalcy are starkly contrasted with Cruz, who seems at times to be solely motivated to support Donald Trump and falls back on typically failsafe Republican issues such as the Second Amendment. O’Rourke’s daring attempt to unseat Cruz and his forthright approach have given liberal America a new hero.

Elizabeth MitchellComment