Beto O’Rourke, the rising star of the Democrats narrowly loses the Texas Senate race

A candidate in the US midterm elections in Texas, Beto O’Rourke came unexpectedly close to victory in a historically Republican state. And his popularity has touched the entire nation.

Two years after Hillary Clinton’s disastrous defeat in the 2016 presidential elections, after which Barack Obama was replaced in office by Donald Trump, many Democrats are placing their hopes for reclaiming the White House in a 46-year-old man from the deep South of the United States, who refuses the logic of direct confrontation and aims for social peace-building. And who doesn’t deny his past, even its most questionable parts.

Beto O'Rourke democrat texas united states
Beto O’Rourke speaking at a Democratic rally in Austin, Texas © Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

Beto O’Rourke raises a record 70 million dollars for his campaign to challenge incumbent Republican Ted Cruz

The rising star of the US Democratic Party is called Robert Francis O’Rourke, known as Beto, born in 1976 in El Paso, Texas. At the midterm elections he tried to take the state Senate seat from incumbent Ted Cruz, one of the most well-known members of the Republican Party and a candidate in the 2016 presidential primaries. With almost the entirety of votes counted, the conservative kept his seat with 50.9 per cent of votes. O’Rourke, instead, was chosen by 48.3 per cent of electors, an excellent result considering that the most optimistic polls has put him 6 points behind his adversary.

Read more: Midterm elections 2018 live, the United States votes for Congress

The challenge wasn’t an easy one: Texas is a Republican stronghold (even though larger cities like Dallas, Houston and Austin tend to favour the Democrats). In the state a “dem” hasn’t been elected for 25 years. But for Beto O’Rourke, the midterms may just be a prelude to a much more important battle. And, given his political expertise, he knows this well.

One of the most encouraging factors for the Democratic candidate, among others, is the exceptional fundraising campaign he was able to conduct. O’Rourke raised over 70 million dollars (more than twice compared to his rival), a significant portion of which came from small personal donations. The figure is a record for a Senate run. And a lot of the support didn’t even come from Texas but from a number of other states, as reported by Time magazine.

Beto O’Rourke, former punk rock musician

But who is this new face among the Democrats – whose rising notoriety is comparable to that of another progressive member of his party, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, vying to become the youngest congresswoman in history – all the way from the border with Mexico? O’Rourke was first elected to El Paso city council and has been a member of the US House of Representatives for over five years. Before going into politics, however, he led a completely different life as the member of a punk rock band, which has led to criticism from his political adversaries.

However, the Democratic candidate has shown great ability in making his past one of his strong points. During a debate with Ted Cruz, for example, he accused the Republican of “working for the clampdown”, an expression from song lyrics penned by historic punk band, The Clash.

And that’s not the end of it. In late August, the Republicans published a photograph of O’Rourke after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI). At the time, the 26-year-old had just caused an accident and attempted to flee the scene. He decided not to hide from this part of his past, even though the more puritanical segments of the voting public find it extremely problematic.

Read more: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The Democratic star of the midterm elections who comes from the Bronx

Beto O'Rourke debate ted cruz
Beto O’Rourke in a debate with Republican senator Ted Cruz © Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News/Pool

A new, peaceful and effective way of communicating

“If there’s any value in the stupid decisions I made more than 20 years ago, perhaps it’s a contrast to the experience that so many people have in the criminal justice system,” he commented. In fact, O’Rourke was released without charges and he maintains that this is essentially down to the colour of his skin. In fact, his way of speaking candidly about these topics is completely new. And it has been effective: since the beginning of the campaign, his speeches have gained a lot of visibility all over social media.

His ideas are also spreading: starting from his support of football players who take a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence towards black people.

The fight against guns and climate change, and the battle for universal health care

In addition, O’Rourke refused to reduce his campaign simply to direct opposition to President Trump. The latter, however, has become well aware of the Democratic candidate, calling him “a total lightweight” and accusing him of being a radical leftist who aims to open the border. But the Texan decided not to rise to the president’s baiting comments: “I don’t know that it makes any sense to respond,” O’Rourke said in an interview with US television channel ABC. “The bitterness, name-calling, partisanship that has unfortunately defined so much of the national conversation, you can add more to it or you can stay focused on the future and why you did this in the first place”.

In the policy sphere, the Texan politician has come out strongly against the proliferation of guns in the United States, attacking the powerful lobby of the National Rifle Association (NRA). He has insisted on the need to fight against climate change, even though Texas owes its prosperity in large part to fossil fuels. O’Rourke has spoken in favour of the introduction of universal healthcare and the decriminalisation of the use of cannabis. If he were ever to take part in the Democratic primaries leading up to the 2020 presidential race, it’s likely that he would remain faithful to himself and his ideals.

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