Not long ago, Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke was the Golden Boy. The chosen one. The white Obama. The Gen X Kennedy. We felt thrills as he air-drummed to “Baba O’Reilly” in a Whataburger drive-thru after losing a debate to Ted Cruz. We got chills as he managed to stay on a skateboard without falling, also outside a Whataburger. Our hearts sank when he definitively stated he wasn’t running for president in 2020, and then soared when he changed his mind a few months later. When we saw something negative about Beto — like his attempt to flee the scene of a 1998 DWI and his dishonesty about it 20 years later, or his freakishly prodigious sweating, or his decision to livestream his teeth-cleaning, or his tendency to jump up on restaurant counters to bellow meaningless gibberish while gesticulating like an overcaffeinated semaphorist — we either dismissed it or incorporated it into his ever-growing legend. Here was the next president of the United States, courtesy of Annie Leibovitz, and we loved him.
And by “we,” I mean the media. They couldn’t get enough of the guy. They fitted their prospective emperor with a fine suit of invisible clothes, and then scoffed at anybody who couldn’t see them.
But has the spell been broken? If you think Beto’s only qualifications for president are convincing people he’s Hispanic and losing an election to an actual Hispanic, the media and their fellow Democrats are beginning to agree with you. They think he needs to check his privilege.
As Michael Kruse writes for Politico, in a piece titled “Beto’s Long History of Failing Upward”:
For O’Rourke, the phenomenon on display in that [unsuccessful Senate] race — failure without negative effects, and with perhaps even some kind of personal boost — is a feature of his life and career. That biography is marked as much by meandering, missteps and moments of melancholic searching as by résumé-boosting victories and honors. A graduate of an eastern prep school and an Ivy League rower and English major, the only son of a gregarious attorney and glad-handing pol and the proprietor of an upscale furniture store, the beneficiary of his family’s expansive social, business and political contacts, O’Rourke has ambled past a pair of arrests, designed websites for El Paso’s who’s who, launched short-lived publishing projects, self-term-limited his largely unremarkable tenure on Capitol Hill, shunned the advice of pollsters and consultants and penned overwrought, solipsistic Medium missives, enjoying the latitude afforded by the cushion of an upper-middle-class upbringing that is only amplified by his marriage to the daughter of one of the region’s richest men.
In other words, Beto is a pampered child of privilege who has bumbled from one fiasco to another and can’t really explain why we should now make him president.
Of course, none of that stopped the guy he wants to replace…
It’s pretty remarkable to see a publication like Politico turn on Beto like this. But then, he’s currently trailing his smarter, gayer rival Pete Buttigieg in the polls. Apparently, just being a white guy under 50 who avoids suit jackets isn’t enough anymore.* He’s even bombing in front of 8th graders. Nothing is going right.
We’re still 18 months from the worst election since the last one, of course. Another Democrat throws his or her hat into the ring every other day. Nobody knows what will happen, least of all me. But if Beto has indeed peaked already, if this is as good as it gets for him, I’m sure our moral, ethical, and intellectual betters will never admit that we were right about him all along.
As always, I’m rooting for Kamala. Not because I think she’s a good candidate or would be a good president, but because it would be the funniest matchup. I really want to watch Trump call her “Brown Sugar” during a debate and shoot up 10 points in the polls overnight. At this point I’m just in it for the chaos.
*Beto is polling better than Cory Booker, at least, which is also a helpful reminder that Cory Booker is actually running for president.