Beto O’Rourke’s Senate candidacy signals a shift in Texas politics
U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke of El Paso has taken Texas and the nation by storm in the race for the Senate. Combined with his boyish good looks and ultra-progressive platform, O’Rourke seems to be the direct antithesis to the Republican incumbent heavily favored to win the race, Ted Cruz.
With the Texas Senate election less than eight months away, O’Rourke has taken to a campaigning stratagem that is all too familiar. Running off a “people-powered” campaign similar to that of Bernie Sanders’ recent run for office, O’Rourke has refused to accept money from all special interest groups and PACs. The recent Democratic primary results show just how much his brand and ideas are resonating with Texas Democrats.
According to the New York Times, nearly 62 percent of the total votes in the Democratic primary were cast for O’Rourke, making his victory a relatively decisive one within the party but lackluster when compared to that of Cruz.
Cruz, receiving a whopping 85 percent of his party’s votes with a total vote count exceeding 1.3 million, won more than double O’Rourke’s vote count which was reported to be 641,324 votes.
The skew in the primaries was so incomparable that even if O’Rourke had won 100 percent of the votes in the Democratic primary, he still would have fallen short around 300,000 votes compared to Cruz.
Yes, it’s bad. But not as bad as it seems.
Surprisingly, Democratic turnout for this primary was reported by NBC news to be a staggering 84 percent higher than the 2014 midterm primaries, demonstrating that while Texas Democrats are certainly riled up this election, an even larger outpouring of voters will undoubtedly be necessary to unseat the incumbent in a state as deeply red as Texas.
With numbers like that, it’s clear that while O’Rourke has sparked the interest of many Democrats thus far, he still has a long way to go if he is to realistically challenge Cruz and win a seat, which hasn’t been occupied by a Democrat since 1993.
The importance of this election cannot be overstated.
There is no doubt the seat O’Rourke is running for this term is extremely consequential. With the current composition of the Senate being 51 to 49 with Republican control, each vote at this 50-50 junction plays a critical role in determining what legislation is passed or who is appointed to committee or cabinet positions. The confirmation of our current unqualified and unfit Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, would not have occurred had the Democrats had one more seat in the Senate or been able to garner one more vote from the Republican side of the aisle.
Although encouraging special election victories for Doug Jones in Alabama and most recently for Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania have demonstrated that traditionally red states like Alabama or toss-up states like Pennsylvania can on occasion veer blue, the argument for Texas doing so still remains far from reality — but that’s okay.
Ted Cruz, with his massive and highly mobilized militia of voters as well as the backing of many special interest groups and PACs, is an embodiment of conservative Texas politics. When confronted with change in societal belief or circumstance, conservatives like Cruz tend to double down on their anachronistic beliefs and ideals, and the voting body follows suit. For Texas Democrats, support of Beto O’Rourke would translate into a direct attack on these fundamental principles, which have held a choke-hold on politics in Texas for many decades.
So to all Texas Democrats, moderates and unaligned citizens still on the fence or not interested in voting because of the belief that their vote is of low political efficacy in the Deep South, consider Beto a proof of concept.
You don’t need to love every fiber of O’Rourke or even think that he’s going to win in order to vote for him. You simply need to remember that getting out to vote is in and of itself a denouncement of the ineffective and backward moving status quo that currently is Texas politics.
We cannot remain voiceless under the guise of a broken democratic system because a broken democracy is only broken when it’s not working for you. Flipped seat or not, getting out to vote this midterm election will send a message to Democrats and Republicans alike that things are going to change, and they are going to change soon.
Your vote will provide the fuel for this change, whether it be the gradual shifting of agenda and political discourse with the same Republican senator or a totally unprecedented revival of the Democratic Party in a newly-flipped Texas Senate seat.
To challenge Ted Cruz this November would be to challenge the very backbone upon which Texas politics has grown woefully accustomed. So win or lose this November, let O’Rourke’s campaign remind those who have grown apathetic and numb toward our state’s politics that Texas is fully capable of and can soon look forward to politics once again.
Opinion columnist Ryan Nowrouzki is a biomedical science sophomore and can be reached at [email protected]