Since his meteoric rise to stardom in his race against Texas Senator and former presidential contender Ted Cruz (R), Beto O’Rourke has been a darling of the left. Despite losing to Cruz, O’Rourke is being touted as an early 2020 favorite of the left.
RealClearPolitics went as far as to say that the Biden/Beto is the best bet for Democrats in 2020.
And the reason for the adoration of O’Rourke is easy to see: he’s young, charismatic and almost defeated Cruz in deeply-red Texas. He had cross-party appeal, getting endorsements from major media outlets that rarely favored Democratic candidates.
But despite banner headlines like “Beto is the New Bernie,” O’Rourke doesn’t necessarily see himself as a progressive.
— David Siders (@davidsiders) December 14, 2018
He says he isn’t big on labels. Which might partly be a result of labels being attached to ideologies, and O’Rourke not really being an ideologue.
“For all his gloss and engaging rhetoric he simply doesn’t seem to stand for much,” Elle Griffiths wrote for the Independent. “Beto O’Rouke is progressive for Texas, but he’s not what the party should be projecting for 2020.”
Griffiths points to some policies of O’Rourke’s that are far more Clintonite than Sanders-esque. O’Rourke didn’t support single-payer healthcare and his views on Wall Street regulation don’t mesh with where the Democratic base — particularly progressives — want a candidate to be.
“Is the right candidate simply someone who can beat Donald Trump by virtue of not being him?” asked Griffiths. “Genuine progressives would presumably want to gain power to enact change, not just gain power for the sake of it.”
Griffiths’ criticisms are becoming more common as a counter-tide to the Betomania that has come across rank-and-file liberalism. He’s come under fire for his centrist associations and for taking money from the oil industry. O’Rourke is also backed by Wall Street-funded center-left group Third Way.
But O’Rourke doesn’t seem to mind not being progressive, and thinks he can make the case that Beto doesn’t need to be the new Bernie to win.
“I am who I am,” said O’Rourke. “I laid out my vision for Texas and this country over the last two years without taking a single poll to find out where people were on the issues or how popular it was or how it would track in this community or that — said the same thing in Amarillo that I said in Houston, Texas, so I mean, go figure.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.