#Betomania became #Betofatigue in six short months can the Texas Democrat rise again and depict voters what type of president hed be?

When Beto O’Rourke travelled to Yosemite in California to unveil his $ 5tn plan on climate change, a ruffle of amaze traversed America. How did the tall lily-white person with the funny first name known for his punk past, Beatnik road tours and fondness for campaigning atop bars get to be the first Democratic campaigner to proclaim on the crisis of our age?

This wasn’t the O’Rourke that the country had grown used to during his battle with Ted Cruz last November for a US Senate seat. Then, the Texas Democrat had propelled himself to within three percentage points of win, and with it national fame, by making viral pronunciations about NFL actors takinga knee and by instilling hope through a feel-good but instead wishy-washy call to unity.

Now here he was framed against the grace of Yosemite Falls, delivering a granular plan of action worthy of the most nerdish policy wonk. Coming from a politician from oil-rich Texas who has been criticized for his track record on fossil fuels, his proposals for the largest 10 -year investment in history and a goal of net-zero radiations by 2050 caught many off guard.

” We were agreeably surprised ,” said David Turnbull of the climate advocacy group Oil Change US.” When you assure person like Beto O’Rourke calling for the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies and an discontinue to fossil fuel leasing on public properties- that’s moving in the right tack .”

There was another group of people hoping to be agreeably surprised by the Yosemite announcement that day- O’Rourke himself and his squad of campaign advisers. They have been fighting with one of the great mystical whodunits of the early chapter of the 2020 presidential election.

That is: the astonishing disappearing act of Beto O’Rourke.

Beto
Beto O’Rourke listens to environmental counselors on 29 April 2019, in Yosemite national park, California. Photograph: Marcio Jose Sanchez/ AP

Like Houdini, O’Rourke has get from front of stage to a whiff of smoke in six short months. #Betomania morphed into #Betofatigue, seemingly overnight.

Look back on the events of 7 November 2018, when he delivered his concession discussion, having lost to Cruz in a packed sports stadium in El Paso, and you can see the differ. At that time he was lauded as the politician who could do the hopeless: challenge a virulent Republican like Ted Cruz in a solid red commonwealth like Texas and is consistent with an inch of victory.

Next stop Donald Trump? But from the moment he launched his presidential bid in March, he has been struggling. Those extremely qualities that had been the recipe of his relative success in Texas abruptly became liabilities.

His charming behaviors and good looks were thrown back in his face as grey privilege. That wasn’t helped when he handed Vanity Fair a gift of a one-liner on the eve of open-” Man, I’m just endure to be in it”- that formed numerous Democrats wince.

The mere decision to run for the White House was interpreted as chutzpah. As the Daily Beast callously introduced it:” Reacting to losing to Ted Cruz by ranging for chairwoman is like failing to land a role in a community theater production and made the decision to take your aptitudes to Broadway .”

In the latest poll from Quinnipiac university, O’Rourke is describing a glum 5% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters. He is being outgunned on 10% by Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who has stolen much of his thunder.

” We’ve seen Mayor Pete take a leading role in the beginner department ,” said Quinnipiac’s Peter Brown who predicted worse to come.” We’ve got 18 months to go and I gamble there will be other fresh faces taking the spotlight .”

So what happens next to O’Rourke now that the spotlight has shaken away from him? Can he completed the Houdini trick and make a reappearance? And if he was able to, what kind of potential president would he present to the American parties?

‘He was always extremely focused’

Examining those questions, it quickly becomes clear that all superhighways Beto lead to El Paso. That’s the dusty, sunbaked margin township in Texas where he was born Robert Francis O’Rourke in 1972.

His father, Pat, was a businessman and judge, and his mother, Melissa, passed a furniture storage. They were comfortably off and formed part of the white-hot middle class elite in a city that is 80% Latino.

O’Rourke’s opposings have tried to depict his youth as one of fecklessness and depravity. Rightwing pundits like to poke him for the name “Beto”, claiming it is a conceit designed to suggest that he has Latino beginnings, which he does not.

They also point to a drunk-driving episode in 1998, his teenaged flirtation with his punk party Foss and to the period when he struggled around in New York City working as a glorified maid. Reuters recently encouraged to that pile of possibilities negative onslaught cloth with the revelation that O’Rourke had privately belonged to the prominent “hactivist” radical Cult of the Dead Cow.

But those who have known O’Rourke for years say they do not recognize this caricature of the bungle wildernes son from the border town. Take Maggie Asfahani, a columnist and El Paso restaurateur, who had a teenaged tale with O’Rourke when he was at an all-male boarding school in Virginia.

Asfahani clearly recalls their first encounter in an El Paso plaza when he was back on holiday. Her memory instantaneously places to rest any suggestion that ” Beto ” was an adult affectation.” I’d imagined this Mexican kid, given the name, but there was this really tall white guy. I can categorically reject all that speculation- he was’ Beto’ at least since I’ve known him in “schools ” .”

Asfahani can also, incidentally, put to rest any insulting talk about a much photocopied picture of O’Rourke flanked by his Foss bandmates in which he wears a long floral dress.

” I was intended to put one across the record, that is my dress he’s wearing ,” she said.” There’s nothing particularly complicated about it- we were all hanging out, and someone thought it would be funny if we switched clothes, girl children and guys. That was all, simply being different .”

What struck Asfahani then as now was something that’s been lost amid the presidential chatter – his seriousness.” He was always extremely focused. He was this strenuously intelligent, curious person who was into things, ever wanting to learn things, ever with a book in his hands .”

Asfahani remains in touch with O’Rourke to this day. She supposes the flak he has taken over unearned right since he entered the 2020 hasten, based on her knowledge of the man, has been unfair.

” It impresses me he is finding his way on the national stage ,” she said.” He’s being open and honest and vulnerable, hoping people will relate to that and examine themselves in it. That’s not a flaw: it has been his personality since I’ve known him .”

‘He learned how to go intensity from crowds’

O’Rourke’s has entered into politics followed his return to El Paso, the prodigal son, at age 26. Having been largely away since his teenages, he re-engaged with the city, setting up Stanton Street, an internet corporation combined with a short-lived alternative newspaper.

His political suggestions structured around his ambitions for El Paso, which in the late 90 s was economically depressed and suffered by a brain drain of young people. O’Rourke forged a bail with four friends who came to be known as the Progressives, one of whom, Veronica Escobar , now occupies the El Paso congressional sit evacuated by O’Rourke.

” What motivated him was the idea that El Paso didn’t have to settle for has become a low-key, down-at-heel city which was fine with exporting its children ,” said Bob Moore, former editor of El Paso Times who has known O’Rourke since his return in 1998.

The Progressives’ aspirations for their city passed all four friends to stand for local agency. All four won, with O’Rourke joining the El Paso city council in 2005.

Moore recalls that in his political infancy O’Rourke slash a paradoxically diffident representation for a human now emulating for the White House.” By nature he’s a deeply private party. He was very awkward when he firstly loped for agency, unpleasant in huge groups. Then he learned how to take energy from mobs, and that has just changed him .”

Despite such initial reticence, O’Rourke championed some radical and highly contentious induces. He became a passionate advocate of legalization of marijuana long before it was de rigueur, authoring a book with fellow Progressive Susie Byrd, Dealing Death And Drugs, that disagreed powerfully that the US war on medications was a disaster for both sides of the US-Mexican border.

He also fought to extend health benefits to unmarried and same-sex partners of city workers, then a hot potato in heavily Catholic El Paso.

You will hear O’Rourke projecting his track record on marijuana and LGBT privileges on the presidential campaign trail. You are much less likely to catch any reference to a third controversy that tenacious him as city councilor, and still does to this day: the redevelopment of downtown El Paso.

The plan to revitalize downtown with a new sports arena, Walmart and other facilities predated O’Rourke’s time on the council, having been initiated in 2004. But he hugged it keenly.

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Beto O’Rourke strolls with his wife, Amy Hoover Sanders, and his three children, Ulysses, Henry and Molly in El Paso on 6 November 2018. Photograph: Paul Ratje/ AFP/ Getty Images

His involvement became problematic for two main reasons. The first was his family ties to the mastermind behind the plan, multi-millionaire real estate magnate William Sanders. Months after O’Rourke assembled the council, he married Amy Sanders and William Sanders became his father-in-law.

The downtown project was a private-public partnership. The private area involved a civic organization called the Paso del Norte Group, PDNG, which Sanders set up with some of his super-wealthy friends from El Paso.

Controversy erupted when it emerged that O’Rourke was also a member. Did his position, with one foot in the private PDNG side of the bargain and the other on the public council side, amount to a conflict of interest? He was slapped with an ethics complaint, later dismissed.

O’Rourke initially voted in the council to go ahead with the progress propose, but as local opposition flourished he recused himself from several key votes. Further cries of foul play tumbled on him in 2012, when O’Rourke made an insurgent’s bid to depose the incumbent Congressman for El Paso, Silvestre Reyes.

A company owned by Sanders contributed $40,000 to a Republican-backedSuper Pac that invested in attack ads against Reyes, contributing to O’Rourke’s underdog victory and affording him a leg-up to Washington.

In a recent interrogation with the American Prospect, O’Rourke disavowed any conflict relating to his father-in-law. Sanders” saw it a rule that he religiously followed, never to talk politics”, he said.

But the Sanders connection still irks with activists opposed to the downtown scheme such as David Romo, a conducting member of the prime demonstrate group Paso del Sur. He said that O’Rourke’s connections to Sanders takes the gleam off his current claim that as a presidential candidate he eschews big money and is running a ” people’s safarus “.

Romo told the Guardian that in his view O’Rourke’s role in the redevelopment shoots doubt on his 2020 candidacy.” What happened in El Paso tells me that the solution to our national problems does not come from a multi-millionaire funded by billionaires who does their auction .”

Romo is a celebrated historian of El Paso’s revolutionary past and as such is an articulate exponent of the second criticism leveled at O’Rourke over the redevelopment scheme- that he surfaced with gentrification despite the impairment it would inflict on good Latino residents and historic El Paso.” He was the somewhat face of ugly gentrification .”

O’Rourke is denying that he surfaced with gentrifiers, insisting his intention was to breathe new life into the dilapidated heart of a major metropolitan. He did tell the American Prospect, though, that in hindsight he is of the view that he did” a really poor responsibility of listening to that criticism “.

‘He truly does need to answer questions’

Similar controversy followed O’Rourke to Washington. Whether it originated from his innate pragmatism as a politician who tends to decide each edition as it comes rather than following ideology, or whether it was because of his beginnings in Texas, a state that has been dominated by Republicans for the past 20 years, his voting record in Congress was impressing for the current lack of party purity.

Although El Paso veers overwhelmingly Democratic, a fivethirtyeight.com tracker shows that he voted 30% of the time in line with Trump. Compare that to his presidential adversaries: Kamala Harris( 17% ), Bernie Sanders( 14%) or Elizabeth Warren( 13% ).

That didn’t matter much in his senatorial race last-place November. But then he was running against Ted Cruz, one of the most toxic rightwing senators who even fellow Republicans call ” Lucifer in the flesh “.

In that race he proved himself to have various of the qualities that might appeal to Democratic voters looking for a presidential campaigner capable of beating Trump, first and foremost his ability to turn out the vote. He showed himself adept in appealing to young person, African Americans, Latinos and suburban white girls- electoral radicals all likely to play a crucial role in 2020 for the purpose of determining Trump’s fate.

But the road to the presidential nomination is proving to be a stonier path for O’Rourke than his direction last year. By taking his campaign national he has moved on to much more fertile ground for a Democrat than the traditionally arid clay of Texas, hitherto it has come at the price of sharply intensified scrutiny.

Which introduces O’Rourke back to his climate change announcement amid the splendour of Yosemite Falls. Fossil fuel activists may only be pleasantly surprised by O’Rourke’s robust plan, but that doesn’t mean they have forgotten that his relationship with the oil industry has been complicated.

He paused for weeks before agreeing to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge in which candidates forego all donations above $200 from Pacs, lobbyists and executives of fossil fuel corporations. The donate was particularly sensitive for O’Rourke, who according to Open Secrets admitted more contributions from oil and gas in 2018 than any congressional candidate other than Ted Cruz.

He has said his hesitancy was out of concern for everyday proletarians in service industries who should be allowed to participate. The the organisers of the pledge however stressed that merely the donations of top boss were excluded.

In the end, he did sign the assurance, two days after his Yosemite declaration.

Another sticking point is that O’Rourke voted twice in Congress to promote a 40 -year ban on US exports of crude oil. He tried to justify the voting rights in October 2015, two months before the Paris Agreement on combating climate change was adopted by 195 nations, by arguing that US crude was cleaner than that of other countries and” the petroleum that quantities the current dominant mode of transportation will have to come from somewhere “.

The lifting of the ban has led to a massive spike in US crude exportations, from well under 1m barrels per day to more than 3m per daylight currently.” There’s been a hazardous and problematic increase in the distillation of crude oil driven by exportations in the US. He truly does need to answer questions about that poll ,” David Turnbull of Oil Change US said.

It all points to the steep uphill climb that Beto O’Rourke faces if he is to claw his route back into the Democratic spotlight. The Yosemite announcement made a solid start, establishing American voters to a more serious, focused politician than they had previously been shown.

Now the real scramble begins.

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