(EDITOR’S NOTE, 1/3/18, 3:45 PM ET: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Beto O’Rourke voted for the Trump tax cuts. We have corrected the error.)
In seven of the previous nine presidential primaries without an incumbent, the nominee eventually chosen was already polling in the top three by January the year before the election. Judging by this precedent, the Democrats’ next nominee will likely be Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, or Beto O’Rourke.
O’Rourke’s intense race to steal Ted Cruz’s Senate seat, which he lost last month by less than 3 percent, has catapulted him to national prominence, branding him a progressive champion in one of America’s reddest states.
Rep. O’Rourke’s popularity among progressives has raised eyebrows, however, among those familiar with his voting record. According to a new Capital & Main investigative report by David Sirota, O’Rourke voted against his own party 167 times during his six-year tenure, despite representing a district that votes Democratic more than many districts in bright blue states like Massachusetts, according to the Cook Political Report.
Republican legislation supported by O’Rourke has been criticized by consumer, environmental, and civil rights organizations for lifting regulations on Wall Street, bolstering the Trump administration’s militarization of the Southern border, and undercutting efforts to curb climate change. During the last two years particularly, O’Rourke was in the top fifth percentile of all lawmakers voting against his own party, voting for President Trump’s policies approximately 30 percent of the time.
Among other policies, Rep. O’Rourke has voted with Republicans to make Customs and Border Protection agents the only federal law enforcement officers not required to pass a polygraph to be hired. He voted to lift the U.S.’s 40 year oil export ban (twice), and against the inclusion of an independent payment advisory board in Obamacare, which Sarah Palin and right-leaning media were erroneously labeling “death panels.”
Beto O’Rourke is a member of the New Democrat Coalition, a wing of House Democrats allied with business interests. He is also enthusiastically supported by high-ranking Obama and Clinton Democrats, along with Wall Street-funded think tanks like Third Way.
When Capital & Main’s David Sirota posted a link pointing out that O’Rourke “is the #2 recipient of oil/gas industry campaign cash in the entire Congress,” second only to Ted Cruz, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and outspoken Clinton loyalist, accused him of “doing Trump’s bidding.”
Oh look. A supporter of Bernie Sanders attacking a Democrat. This is seriously dangerous. We know Trump is in the White House and attacking Dems is doing Trump’s bidding. I hope Senator Sanders repudiates these attacks in 2019. https://t.co/41A4uxtWGY
— Neera Tanden (@neeratanden) December 4, 2018
The fervent support for O’Rourke by Democratic elites is a strange dynamic for one whose progressive credentials are often mentioned in the same breath as progressive like Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Kamala Harris (D-California), or Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).
O’Rourke did not respond to questions for comment on the Capital & Main story. However, Jacobin writer Branko Marcetic did point out that O’Rourke sometimes voted against his party due to more progressive objections, noting he “bucked Obama on several important issues, pressuring him to close Guantánamo, supporting legislation to curtail NSA spying, opposing war in Syria and arming the country’s rebels, and demanding Obama get congressional authorization for his continued war on ISIS.”
“O’Rourke is a decent, progressive candidate in slowly purpling Texas,” Marcetic wrote, “but when you put him on the national stage and drill down on his record, he becomes just another flawed Democrat …. Politicians like Beto O’Rourke represent a step forward for states like Texas. Making them national standard-bearers is a step backward.”
Nathan Wellman is a Grit Post contributing editor in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @LIGHTNINGWOW. You can also email him at info AT gritpost DOT com.