BY CLAIRE ADAMS
“I know a lot of people feel this is impossible,” Beto O’Rourke stated when discussing his political campaign for state Senator in Texas. And for the time being, he was right. Since 1994, every Texas statewide election has been won by the Republican party. Texas has, therefore, maintained a reputation as one of the largest conservative states in America. Despite this political tradition, the recent midterm elections posed a threat to the longstanding line of Republican senators in Texas. Months before the election, Democrats in Texas and across America began taking notice of the young and charming Democratic candidate, Beto O’Rourke. The 46-year-old El Paso congressman represents everything his opponent, Ted Cruz, is not. Where Cruz rallies for conservative action, such as the construction of the Mexican-American border wall, O’Rourke has openly voiced his support for more liberal ideals including new gun restrictions and lenient marijuana laws. O’Rourke came shockingly close to winning the election at a loss of only 2.6 points.
For Democrats, Beto O’Rourke represents imminent change. In his campaign, O’Rourke visited every county in the state in an effort to connect more intimately with his voters. This is only one example of O’Rourke’s strong passion for his campaign and the future of his state. O’Rourke has established himself as a candidate campaigning for all of Texas, not simply the crucial voting districts. His campaign has energized the atmosphere in Texas, attracting media attention from both parties, and Democrats see O’Rourke’s loss as a hopeful indication of change.
Texas is not only one of the largest states in the country, it’s also simultaneously growing in its population diversity. According to the 2017 U.S. census, Texas was 39 percent Hispanic and 12 percent African American. Statistics found in recent years show that minority populations are more likely to vote Democrat in political elections. With growing diversity, it is more likely Texas may become more inclined toward the Democratic party. Looking at past elections, during the presidential race of 2016, Donald Trump won the state by only nine points over Hillary Clinton. Trump’s win was expected to be a much larger margin, suggesting the emergence of a two-party Texas. O’Rourke’s recent campaign and popularity are just one of the few factors contributing to Democrats’ hope for Texas’ political future, but for now the state remains Republican. There is no obvious evidence that Texas will become blue soon, but with recent trends, a Democratic win could be more likely in the future.
Although O’Rourke did not win the election, his political presence has made a mark across America. Democrats across the country are voicing their support for a 2020 presidential race for the young candidate. Even months before the election, political commentators began publicizing the idea of O’Rourke as a possible presidential candidate, and since the midterm elections O’Rourke’s buzz has only grown. Several of O’Rourke’s political peers have already voiced their support of a potential 2020 run, and he even garnered praise from former President Barack Obama. On November 16, O’Rourke and Obama met in Washington D.C., only furthering rumors of O’Rourke’s presidential bid. While it appears as though O’Rourke may be the frontrunning choice for Democrats in the 2020 election, is it unclear whether he will choose to run. His most recent statement on the topic that he is “thinking through a number of things” in regard to his political future. This paired with his meeting with Obama could indicate the beginnings of a possible campaign.
O’Rourke is undoubtedly one of the most revitalizing figures in current politics. He has a natural charisma that Democrats seem enamored with. Coming from a conservative state, O’Rourke has the ability to speak to both liberals while simultaneously empathizing with the struggles of more conservative voters. He is able to openly voice his support for additional gun restrictions on semiautomatic weapons, while also recognizing and appreciating the strong history of gun ownership in Texas. In recent coverage, O’Rourke has been compared to a young Kennedy or Barack Obama. With such high-praising comparisons, intense pressure is on O’Rourke, and the young politician is under close speculation as Democrats await an official decision.
While discussion of the campaigns for the 2020 presidential election begin to emerge, O’Rourke has remained the center of attention for many Democrats. If O’Rourke is considering the election, his best opportunity to take action is now. Due to the past midterm elections in November, O’Rourke retired from his House seat in order to campaign. He will not have another opportunity to run for another state office until 2020. This race would be against Republican John Cornyn, who is more likely to win. Winning as a Democrat in Texas is not impossible, but it is unlikely. However, winning as a Democrat in the presidential race in 2020 is more probable with the recent “blue wave” in politics, and the attention and energy O’Rourke has brought to the Democratic party is unlike any since Barack Obama. O’Rourke has a very hopeful opportunity, and is an opportunity that should not be ignored.