News & Politics

Texas GOP Gives Beto O'Rourke a Boost, 'Exposing' His Punk Band Roots

Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas gestures as he speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

I’ve been saying for years that the GOP needs better branding. During this campaign season, the Texas GOP has been putting on an unfortunate display of what I mean. Effectively campaigning for the Democratic nominee for Senate, Beto O’Rourke, last month, the Texas GOP tweeted an old picture of Beto playing with his punk band Foss. The Democrats, who understand branding far better than the GOP, have run with that tweet. No doubt, the Texas Dems are going to have a field day with this interview that one of O’Rourke’s bandmates gave.

It also won’t help the Texas GOP that it turns out that O’Rourke’s music isn’t half bad.

In the early ’90s, Beto O’Rourke and his bandmates released a 7-inch record titled The El Paso Pussycats, the name having been inspired by a failed TV pilot about a group of female crime fighters. While far removed from my punk music listening days, I must admit that the two songs are not half bad. They’re a little amateurish, which is to be expected, but they also demonstrate the band’s potential. In fact, one of Foss’ members, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, went on to find success with At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta.

In the interview, Bixler-Zavala explains what his time in Foss meant to his career and how the ethos of Foss is aiding Beto O’Rourke on the campaign trail:

Foss was actually a young band that was beginning to be taken seriously across the country, and playing drums in the band was a formative experience for the young Bixler-Zavala, who credits much of what he learned about DIY touring from his time with Foss.

[…]

And it’s this DIY primer that Bixler cites as an invaluable learning experience, not only helping to launch his own career with At The Drive-In and later The Mars Volta, but also something he claims is evident every day in O’Rourke’s strategy in this senate race. From walking door-to-door to driving across the state to meet his potential constituents, Bixler-Zavala sees the same punk rock spirit he saw when he was just a kid in a band with the congressman.

Whether potential voters like Foss’ old punk music or not is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that the GOP has very effectively humanized Beto O’Rourke while ensuring that his placement on the “cool meter” is sky high. Having been a member of a hardcore band with Bixler-Zavala plays great with many voters. What’s even better for O’Rourke is that he didn’t need to come across as trading on his past life to win over young voters. The Texas GOP did it for him. Ted Cruz must be wondering what he did to anger the Texas GOP to the point where they’ve decided to campaign for his Democrat opponent.