Beto O’Rourke: Sure.

orourkeMy opinion on Beto O’Rourke is less than fully informed, but not from lack of trying.  And that might be the biggest problem that I have with O’Rourke’s candidacy right now.  I’ve done a lot of reading, but other than learning that O’Rourke is generally a moderate Democrat who was a teenage hacker in a punk band – I’m not sure I know who he is.

O’Rourke hasn’t done a lot of media yet for the 2020 campaign, and so there is still a lot of opportunity for him to energize me with a great message.  I have no reason to dislike him, and I’m certainly not opposed to a President who is a charismatic, moderate Democrat.  I just am not really taken in by the initial “rockstar” persona – I want to know that he’s crazy smart, articulate, and thoughtful.  I don’t know that just yet.

There are a number of positives from the O’Rourke campaign.

There are a few things that I found that I do like:

  • O’Rourke specifically calls for investment in stabilizing Central America, acknowledging that any “crisis” of immigration through the Mexican border can’t be solved by a wall, but can be mitigated by helping to stabilize the region so that people do not need to flee their homes.
  • He also calls on investment into security at our ports of entry, again as opposed to a pointless wall.
  • O’Rourke and Buttigieg are in the same place on healthcare, from what I can tell. Allow anyone to enroll in Medicare if they want it and continue to allow for private insurance.  O’Rourke does not specifically call out the need to address the lack of efficiency and overhead that makes the cost of healthcare so high, but that may just be because it isn’t particularly interesting and unless you are a geek like I am, that probably doesn’t win votes.
  • I also really like that he addresses criminal justice reform pretty directly – not only advocating for legalizing marijuana (which is by now pretty mainstream) and expunging the criminal history of anyone who has been prosecuted for possession, but he also goes further and talks about the need to end cash bail and for-profit prisons.

But there are a few negatives to note, as well.  

  • There was an ethics concern about his participation in the Twitter IPO as a member of House. This was 2013, it was resolved by O’Rourke selling his shares and handing over that profit to the Treasury Department.  There does not appear to be anything underhanded about the incident – and I wouldn’t really mention it, except that it will come up in the campaign.
  • The more significant issue may be around big oil. It’s likely difficult for a Texan to get out from under the oil industry, and while it seems that O’Rourke is trying – he may not be succeeding.  He signed a pledge to not take money from the fossil fuel industry, but seems to have specifically left out language in the version of the pledge that he signed that would also pledge to not take money from executives within the fossil fuel industry.  This seems to be a big misstep for him – not necessarily because he might be accepting money from big oil execs (although there is reason for alarm there), but because it certainly comes across as disingenuous to sign a pledge in which you’ve changed the language to give yourself an out.

Overall, I’m okay with O’Rourke for President – but I’m not yet inspired.  If he won the nomination, I could enthusiastically support him as the Democratic candidate, but he’s definitely not my top pick.  Do you disagree?  Is O’Rourke your guy?  What am I missing?

Update 4/21/19: I spent some time listening to an interview conducted by David Axelrod.  I have some better sense of who Beto is – and I like his calm demeanor.  However, he does a good job of evading a question.  I don’t think his answers are disingenuous, but I do feel like he can be a bit evasive when he doesn’t like the question.  I really don’t love that about him.