Most Americans only know him as the mystery man with the flamboyant, energetic speaking style and the unusual nickname. Who is Beto O’Rourke? How did he get that unusual nickname? What is his background? What does he stand for, politically? Does he really have a chance to win the Dem nomination? The election? Good questions. Read on, and let’s see.
Robert Francis O’Rourke was born on September 26, 1972 in El Paso, TX. His family was steeped in politics. His father was a local politician in the El Paso area. In addition, he was an associate of former Texas Governor Mark White (1983-87); and he was the state chairman of Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns. Later, he switched parties and ran for various political offices as a Republican, and lost every race. His mother, who owned a furniture store, is the step-daughter of Fred Korth, who served as Secretary of the Navy under JFK.
The family bestowed the unusual nickname, Beto, on Robert as an infant. It is a short version of “Berto,” a Spanish nickname for Roberto, which is the Spanish translation of Robert. He was called Beto to distinguish him from his grandfather, who was also named Robert.
Beto’s childhood included a couple of unusual events. As a teenager, he became involved in a computer hacking group called “Cult of the Dead Cow.” His “handle” was “Psychedelic Warlord.” More on this later. After two years at the local high school, his family shipped him off to boarding school in Virginia (possibly because of his involvement with the hacking group). He spent the summer following his graduation as an intern on Capitol Hill. He attended college at Columbia and graduated in 1995 with a BA in English.
Also, in 1995 he was arrested for burglary. He and some friends were caught sneaking onto the campus of UTEP for some hijinks. The university declined to press charges and the matter was dropped. In 1998 he was arrested for DWI in connection with a car accident. Those charges were dismissed as well. Youthful indiscretions? Perhaps. But, these matters may be raised by his political opponents if he stays in the race.
After graduation Beto worked at a series of jobs as he was deciding on a career, such as caretaker, proofreader, and writer of short stories and songs. Later on, he co-founded a technology business. In 2012 he entered politics. He ran for Congress and won. After serving three terms, he ran for the Senate against Ted Cruz and lost, albeit narrowly. Based on that narrow loss in a “red” state he has become a “media darling.” How long it will last is anybody’s guess.
As I said, not much is known about Beto, except for his unusual nickname. He is a colorful character, an animated speaker, a prolific fundraiser and has charisma. Politically, he seems to be in the mainstream of the Dem party, which is fine for the nomination, may be too liberal for the general election. For example, he seems to be a proponent of open borders, or, at least, relaxed borders, soft on crime and criminals (against mandatory sentencing) and favors the legalization of marijuana. Moreover, he favors a two-state solution in the Middle East, which may offend some Jews who would normally support Dems.
If Beto is to remain a serious candidate he will likely have to overcome some severe hurdles. For example:
1. As of yet, he does not have the name recognition of, say, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, or Kamala Harris.
2. He will have to develop detailed policies and communicate them to voters. So far, most voters do not know where he stands on major issues, such the economy, terrorism, Iran, healthcare, energy, and many others. He needs to articulate his positions on those and other significant issues better than he has to date.
3. He will have to provide a satisfactory explanation of his participation in the teen-age hacking, burglary and DWI. Apparently, Reuters knew about the hacking before the Senate election, but, inexplicably, did not print it until afterwards. Apparently, the report described some rather disturbing fiction he wrote as “Psychedelic Warlord” that detailed the murder of children. Some political opponents and voters might dismiss those incidents as old news since they occurred 20 or more years ago, but others might not be so forgiving, especially in view of the Reuters matter.
4. Perhaps, his biggest hurdle will be that he is a white male in a political party that is committed to “identity politics” and seems to be determined to nominate a minority and/or female candidate, and moreover, he is not even the preferred white male, trailing Biden and Bernie.
I believe the media is enamored with him at the present time, and that will provide him with a bit of a boost. Right now, he is a fresh face, with considerable charisma. Some see him as the Dems’ “Trump” in terms of personality. (I don’t). But, eventually, the novelty will wear off, and he will have to explain his policies and carve out his niche. The field is getting very crowded. In the 2020 election, as the late Yogi Berra said in a different context: “it [will] get late, early.”
In summary, it’s very early, but, in my opinion, his chances of winning the nomination are very slim. Should he pull off an unlikely upset, I believe his chances of winning the election would be slim and none.