Friday, December 28, 2018

Bros and Punks

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
Beto O'Rourke is that rarest of political animals. Having been narrowly defeated, if we're to blindly accept the dodgy election results from Texas last November 6th, by Ted Cruz, O'Rourke retains his popularity even though he's in the last days of elected office. By January 3rd, O'Rourke will be out of a job. During and after his campaign, the middle-aged Beto remains a bigger rock star of sorts than he ever was during his teens (I know something about that).
     Compare that, for instance, to Christine O'Donnell, the special needs poster child of Senate candidates. Eight years ago, O'Donnell lost her Senate bid to Chris Coons by a full 17 points. (It ought to be restated here that O'Donnell tried to keep her nonexistent momentum going thanks in large part to Daniel Strone, CEO of Trident Media, when he catapulted himself to her doorstep and signed her to a seven figure deal that went down in flames faster than O'Donnell's campaign. So much for wingnut welfare, Danny Boy.)
     O'Rourke is, paradoxically, loathed on both sides of the political spectrum. The Cruz wing of the Tea Party reviles him as does the Bernie wing of the Democratic Party. In between, however, there's a vast swath of the electorate that'll vote for any Blue Dog like Hillary, or Beto, in order to keep the Republican out because they've been conned into thinking there's any substantive difference between the two monolithic parties (there really isn't.).
     And even though Donald Trump hasn't even been lounging in the White House for two years, there's speculation, straight-faced speculation, that Donald Trump will actually be around to run for office in the next two years. Equally straight-faced and straight-laced poobahs of the political punditocracy are saying at the same time that this is the beginning of the end for Trump, that after the Democrats take over the House, the investigations and subpoenas will begin flying like confetti during a 5th Avenue ticker tape parade. And then, there's the baleful specter of Robert Mueller who, by many accounts, will wrap up his final report by February.
     Smelling blood in the chum line, the opposing party, naturally, are already jockeying for position through their standard bearers. And, just as predictably, the opening salvos in the circular firing squad are already echoing across the political landscape like the first shots at the North Bridge in Lexington. Those shots have already been fired in Trump's favorite sandbox, Twitter, between Bernie Bros and Beto's Punks.
     However, a quick look into Beto's voting record over the last two years will show that his votes aligned with Trump's agenda across a broad spectrum of issues over 30% of the time (including, most notoriously, bills favoring the fossil fuel industry and Trump’s Draconian immigration policy that is literally killing children, two bad tacks for a Democratic Congressman from Texas to take). 
     Bernie Bros are also quick to point out, while Beto copied Bernie's insistence on not taking any lobbyist or PAC money (which is only half true), he's nonetheless vacuumed up cash from corporations and was supported by the Blue Dog wing of the so-called Democratic Party (who would've turned their jiggling collective back on him if it ever came out he was (gasp!) actually as liberal as the media and his voters claimed he was. Even up until almost the eve of the Midterms, anonymous Democrats were still whining to the NY Times about how O'Rourke, then down by 8 points in the polls, should throw in the towel and dispense his war chest to more competitive candidates).
     But when you break down Beto's donors and realize where the cash came from (He raised more than $70,000,000, more than any other Senate candidate, most of that money coming from, like Bernie's and his famous $27 average, small donors averaging $47), only a nit-picking purist would still try to make hay out of the fact that much of his out of state money came from West Somerville, Massachusetts. So we're left with, once again, the voting records, which tell a longer tale of the tape.

Somebody Else, He's Our Man!
Beto should run again in 2020 but against Cornyn, not the Republican presidential nominee.
     It seems inconceivable that a man who can raise $38,000,000 in just three months and over $70,000,000 overall, more than any Senate candidate ever, outraising his incumbent opponent by a solid two to one margin, would still lose by 2.6% to that opponent, by all accounts. one of the most unpopular Senators since McCarthy.
     And now, it seems Beto's seriously mulling a presidential bid. Perhaps Ted Cruz could counsel Beto as to the pitfalls of that ambitious strategy. Cruz won the Iowa caucus, barely, and little else after that. Now he has Trump's footprints all over his back for all eternity.
     And now, in advance of any decisions about the presidency, before any exploratory committees have been run, the 5th Estate is now awash in virtual blood over who the better candidate is: With all due respect to Senators Kamala Harris and Corey Booker, it already is shaping up to be either Beto or Bernie.
     And "purists", as they're sneeringly called by Blue Dog voters and radical centrists who will lunge for the first toothy machine Democrat who delivers the most withering bon mots at Trump and his deplorables (low-hanging fruit, though they are), have a tendency to squint more. And Beto has Bernie beat among those Democratic voters who still swoon at the sight of a picture of Bobby Kennedy, who Beto closely resembles if you don't squint. Who's more telegenic sways a lot more voters than we'd like to admit. It's been said more than once if Richard Nixon didn't look so sinister on national TV, he would've pulled it out and beaten Bobby's older brother John F. Kennedy in 1960.
     But neither camp would be attacking the other on social media while their standard bearers remain mum if each didn't see the other as a threat. Bernie Bros see O'Rourke as a threat because they know Bernie wouldn't stand a chance against Beto's superior photogenic and telegenic looks and the cult of personality surrounding him.
     Beto's fans attack Bernie Bros because they simply know that, while Bernie has better ideas, he stands little chance of many if any of his initiatives passed by a Congress with which he's simply out of step. Yet, Beto's presidential aspirations for 2020 could go up in smoke if Queen Hillary refuses to accept defeat and totters down the campaign trail one more time in her Quixotic quest for an office that she, like Trump, looks at as her birthright. Then there's the equally ancient Joe Biden, the King of the Blue Dogs, who last December 19th in a Quinnicpiac University poll finished with top honors among Democratic contenders. Moveon, on the other hand, gave the #2 score to Beto, with nearly 30% of those asked opting for, believe it or not, "somebody else.").

Beto Who?
The one other major thing hampering Beto's dreams for the White House is his very visibility. True, he got a lot of press during his Senate run but that was largely confined to Texas. In that same Quinnicpiac University poll, it was revealed that 59% of those questioned had no opinion on Beto for the simple reason they didn't know about his policy positions.
     A large source of Bernie's strength and viability as a candidate was his capturing the youth vote on that increasingly strengthening 18-35 demographic. It was that same demographic that largely made Beto such a viable challenger and, if they decide to throw their hats in the ring again, they will be fighting for the hearts and minds of those young voters. One or the other capturing that demographic would be catastrophic to the other. But evenly splitting that vote would have a negating effect, unless somehow one candidate or the other can magically engage the other 60% of those 18-35 who don't vote.
     So, while Bernie already has the brand name recognition from coast to coast, Beto still has a lot of work to do before he can begin to count on the same degree of visibility. That means Beto will practically have to remain in campaign mode from now until Election Day 2020 and win hearts and minds, and non-PAC cash, along the way.
     About the best chance Beto would have is on being on the flip side of a typical white guy ticket, with Biden being on the A side as the presidential contender. That's been trial-ballooned in the 4th and 5th estates, too, with sometimes withering reactions (although GOP insiders are shitting their pants over such a ticket).
     But the fact remains that even in the pre-Mueller probe political climate, the Democratic Party could successfully field a cardboard cutout of Obama or Bill Clinton with any other Democrats' face Photoshopped over it as long as that candidate's not under investigation by the FBI (sorry, Hillary) or a DOJ Special Counsel. Not that I believe Trump will be around in 2020 but Pence essentially has no political capital and wouldn't have much even if the presidency was suddenly thrust upon him (Gerald Ford, anyone?).
     However, it's futile to speculate who the Democratic nominee will be when there will be a long primary season before that and endless debates with stages filled with Democratic hopefuls looking their best to look presidential or least less guilty than the others. But for now, we're looking at the war heating up between the Bernie Bros and Beto's Punks because we have to assume maybe they know something that the rest of us don't.

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