SocraticGadfly: Beto O'Rourke, ConservaDem? (newly updated)

September 09, 2018

Beto O'Rourke, ConservaDem? (newly updated)

Beto ORourke

Yes, O'Rourke talks a good game on issues like marijuana legalization. (That's even though he does NOT walk the walk on pot issues.) And yes, pretty much like Sema Hernandez, he didn't take PAC money in the primary, or so far in the general, although a lot of his individual donors are high rollers. Yes, he's pro-choice.

But, the old saying? Talk is cheap.

(Update, Oct. 19: Key thoughts from this and other posts have been combined into a piece about why I plan to undervote this race.)

The biggie? As noted in my original post about him this year, he's a squish on health care issues. He has called single-payer "one way to get there" on health care access, stresses "access for all," and never signed on as a co-sponsor of HR 676, the House's "Medicare for All" bill. (See more here on my post about nuancing details of "universal" health care.)

For people who are Big Beto Backers, per that post, I originally agreed that HR 676 had the apparent flaw of not including for-profit hospitals. (See four paragraphs below for my changing my mind on that.) That said, per the Texas Observer, he said he couldn't support Bernie's bill in the Senate, either. Why? He wants everyone to have both a copay and a premium payment. I might "accept" that as part of a compromise to get something passed, but making that my starting point? No way. And, even then, my finish line would prefer to have only one or the other. (Most countries with national health care operate with no premium, but still having copays.)

Beto lied in talking to the Observer, too, IMO. Claiming to like Sanders' bill, while attacking a key portion of it — no co-pays — is not "liking it." That said, every non-single payer Texas House Dem in that piece offered up some version of lies or bullshit.

On Beto's stance on Bernie's bill? Let's use an analogy.

It's like saying, "I like your jelly donuts, except for them having too much jelly." Does that person really like them?

Beto ALSO promised, last year, to put forth his own Medicare for All bill. Still waiting on that.

On Facebook, others have challenged him too, including Green Party Maryland Senate candidate (and MD) Margaret Flowers. Elsewhere, Flowers says that Bernie's bill is itself considerably weaker than the House bill, and Beto can't even support it. She also provides the background to HB 676, including explaining why Conyers' bill excludes investor-owned for-profit facilities and other things.

Sema Hernandez — maybe to remain a good-graces Democrat to prepare for running against John Cornyn in 2020 — as of Sept. 3 decided to drink the Kool-Aid herself. See the letter for details.

Sorry, Sema, but not buying.

Why doesn't Beto flat-out endorse HB 676 right now, if this is the case?

Or, why didn't he ever create his own bill, as he told the Texas Observer he was going to?

Or, at a minimum, why doesn't he endorse S 1804 now, and retract his previous dissing of it?

And, per my link above, given that Beto has already rejected Bernie's bill, I see no reason to believe that he would change his stance and then endorse it next year if he becomes a senator.

Would you believe him, if he were instead running for House re-election, and he said, "Oh, next year, I'll finally back HR 676"?

Not me. I stopped believing in Santa Claus long ago.

Sema, I think, knows better. She's wanting to run against Cornyn (good luck on that, if you get the nomination; Cornyn isn't personally disliked the way Cruz is) and so is keeping her Democratic Party bread buttered and gunpowder dry. And, that explains the problem that DSA Democrats face.

If she doesn't know better, and is actually now taking Beto at his word, then we have a serious error in judgment already presenting itself.

Beyond that, Our Revolution's Harris County branch has refused to endorse Beto, as David Bruce Collins noted.

Sema, even with political ambitions, you could have kept radio silence rather than endorsing Beto. If you do run against Cornyn in two years, people like Our Revolution — the type of people that are supposed to be your focus — may well ask you about this.

Then, there's this, along related lines:
Sorry, Scap,  but as you'll see in me tweeting the link to this blog post back to you, that's not true. I note above, of course, that O'Rourke doesn't support Bernie's bill, and even if he did, it's quite arguably weaker than HR676 anyway.

Also "shock me" that as of March 14, 2019, Beto is STILL SCHWAFFLING on supporting single payer, per a transcript of a radio interview in Iowa.

And, there's two other points here.

One is that Beto is a ConservaDem at worst, a ModeratoDem at best, per the header. He's certainly not a DSA Dem, whether official like Scap, or either quasi-official or official, like Sema.

The second is that DSA Dems are still Dems at bottom line. If they're activist DSAs, they're presumably activist Dems at bottom line, refusing to take the ultimate pressure step of publicly calling for a candidate undervote to pressure that person.

To the degree that icons in a person's Twitter handle mean anything, that's why I have a sunflower, not a red rose. And, if the Green Party cracks up enough for me to drop that sunflower, I'd be more likely to add a red flag than that red rose, if you catch my drift.

Anywho, let's move forward.

I mean, libertarian guru Hayek supported national health care.

This all said, per my "nuancing" post, MediCAID actually covers more than MediCARE.


Per VoteSmart, he's actually only moderately left of center on big biz issues. He's good on snooping-type civil liberties, but not perfect on resisting Religious Right encroachments on that part of the First Amendment.

And VoteSmart may be kind.

GovTrack rates him as 56th most conservative House Democrat, based on votes in the previous Congress, during Obama's last two years in office. A graphic on this page has further illustration. Given that the Democrats have 191 House Congresscritters, that puts him in the most conservative one-third. He's roughly in the middle of the pack, in Joaquin Castro territory, among Texas House Dems.

More here on Beto's House voting history, House vote rating history and financialism. The fact that people connected to FIRE like him 100 percent is worrisome indeed. Related to that? His donors may not include PACs, but they do include a lot of hedge fund managers.

Many of his votes against the Democratic majority within House Dems benefited the FIRE sector, which was regularly one of his top campaign contributors.

Beto becomes more of a ConservaDem, along with 78 others (Yes!) in the House Dem membership, by voting to further undercut controls on banksters.

Now, Beto backers will probably claim that being part of 78 shows this is not a big deal.

Related update — Updated proof of him being a ConservaDem is his vote for bombs and against Dreamers. Let's also not forget that some friend[s] of Beto's campaign did a fake Twitter account for Sema. And, as far as I know, he never called them to account. In other words, Beto may not be a total "Clean Gene" ethically.

But, that is also nothing new, although national pundits may not know it. Brains notes how he faced multiple ethics issues and even a recall attempt while he was on the El Paso City Council. That was in part over his push for gentrification and redevelopment, a story big enough the New York Times reported shortly before the election. (It should be no wonder that neither Beto nor his daddy-in-law gave an interview for the paper.)

People like me will retort that 78 Dems doing this instead shows just how big a deal this is. It shows how badly it needs reform, even more by the number of Hispanic and Black Caucuses members who supported this.

Beyond that, David Sirota on Twitter has noted that for the current Congressional cycle, Beto was second, behind only Havana Ted, in Big Oil contributions. It is true that this wasn't a huge portion of his campaign funding, that it includes people well below the CEO level, and that he was in an expensive Senate race. BUT, many of these people WERE big names. When you get money from folks like a general counsel at Kinder Morgan, erm ....

And, per Beto's famous "no PACs" pledge, all he had to do was add "No oil and gas execs" to that.

As a result, he has been removed from the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge by Oil Change USA.

Others, especially since the launch of the movement to draft Beto for 2020 in mid-December 2018, have been hitting him hard. TruthDig, following on Sirota's tweeting about oil and gas money, notes that he really doesn't stand for much of anything. Zaid Jilani notes that in even more detail at Current Affairs.

(Update, Jan. 4, 2019: Beto is now supporting "the concept of" a Green New Deal. And, given the story is written on this date, Beto's support comes after Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Dems selectively gutted the powers the select committee to deal with climate change. In case you're wondering, VoteSmart notes he's generally strong on environmental issues. That said, any Democrat this side of Joe Manchin will likely get an 80 percent rating from most those orgs, especially the Gang Green types. Note that a few "backbencher" green groups rate him [and other Congressional Dems] more toughly. Earthrights, for those who wonder, rates Congresscritters on their focus on international and transnational environmental issues.)

Sirota now notes how often Beto voted against the majority of House Democrats in his Congressional career.

And, from before the election, Electronic Intifada reminds us that Beto is anti-BDS.

At the same time, I don't totally buy Walker Bragman's early 2019 piece about Beto fighting police and fire unions. First, such fights happened across the country during the Great Recession. Second, police unions, especially, are not representative of public sector unions in general. Third, police unions aren't at all representative of private sector unions and have even been used in strikebreaking (or to attack peaceful protestors). The piece is one step above "gotcha," but no more.


In an otherwise decent article at the Nation about battling for the future of the Texas Dem Party, D.D. Guttenplan swallows the Beto Kool-Aid as if he's in a chugging contest. Sorry to pick on you; you're nowhere near along among national political pundits, but, you parachute in to Texas and place Beto on the left-hand side of the party without even mentioning that Sema Hernandez ran against him from the left during the primary.

D.D. wound up being far from alone. Buzzfeed's Anne Helen Peterson, and The Nation's John Nichols, and many others in national media, drank the Beto Kool-Aid.

Also per D.D., bipartisanship isn't necessarily bad. But, per my top link, Beto's apparent bipartisanship for bipartisanship's stake is almost a fetish.

That said, at the same time, Beto deserves to be considered straightforwardly, without any "gotcha." In the run-up to the primary, Brains was dinging me pretty good, then I responded, and he posted that in his own version of a Texas Progressives wrangle.

That's even though I think Sema is the better candidate and said so in both posts.

It's just that part of the target practice at Beto from the left comes close to "gotcha." Maybe over it.

I may have pushed back too far on the health care. But, I think other stuff was gotcha or near it.

Still do.

And, at the same time, I can still call semi-gotcha on the PAC issue. And full gotcha on the universal service issue. And, for good measure, saying 'let's call him Bob." He's not the only "Robert" to have "Beto" as a nickname, and whether he took himself or others gave it to him, it was when he was pre-18. So, I stand by my first post, in large part.

So, Brains, I can call him a ModeratoDem, or maybe even a ConservaDem, but still think he didn't get a fully fair shake on some issues.

That said, though, if he didn't have Kennedy looks, a cute rock music early history, and weren't out front on the one issue of marijuana legalization, we wouldn't be talking about Beto as more than the latest statewide Texas race sacrificial lamb.


As Beto continues to get hammered by David Sirota, Norman Solomon, Elizabeth Breunig, Zaid Jilani and others (with me adding my own tidbits) over his Congressional voting record, taking money from the oil and gas industry for that, taking money from the FIRE sector for that, refusing to walk the walk on marijuana reform laws (I checked; that blog post of mine was before Sema officially endorsed Beto) and more, the following questions arise:
1. Did Sema Hernandez know all that? (She should have; she saw the first version of this ConservaDem piece as it was updated at that time, without the oil and gas info, before her endorsement, if I recall my Twitter timeline correctly.)
2. Why did she make that endorsement, other than moving into Just.Another.Politician.™ territory?
3. Will she own up to being, in any way, Just.Another.Politician.™?
4. Will she, if worried about fellow Roses or about the Our Revolution folks in Houston and elsewhere who refused to endorse Beto, try to rescind her endorsement?

1. Yes, as noted.
2. For that reason, as noted.
3. No, because that would undercut 1 and 2, IMO.
4. Call me back in about 12 months.

These are all issues that hold true whether or not Beto allegedly gave an explicit promise to back single-payer (not the "universal health care" fudge) after she endorsed him. (BTW, based on his actual 2018 history with Sanders' bill, I don't believe such an explicit promise was made. See below.)

And, yes, with Beto 2020 officially being a draft effort for his presidency and other things, I briefly put this at the top of the page. Actually, early 2019, I'm going to do a new blog post just about this issue.


This whole issue leads me to once again refer to a classic quote by philosopher Idries Shah:
To see "both sides" of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than just two sides.
A couple of additional interpretive points by me.

First, sometimes there are more than two issues involved, which is part of why there are more than two sides.

Second and more importantly, knowing and accepting Shah's observation in no way guarantees a "complete solution."

Because Beto would be better than Havana Ted. But, he's continued to shift even further right since winning the nomination, and the Doug Jones precedent alarms me.


PDiddie said...

Yes, it's with some personal dismay that I watch the DSA flock being sheep-dogged onto the Beto bandwagon. "Pragmatism" and all that.

My own post is on this topic, which won't differ from yours here to any significant degree, is overdue.

Gadfly said...

Per a certain primary opponent ... whether Texas Dem hierarchy is sheep-dogging her, or she's doing it to herself, I'll have a separate post about extracts from this piece and her letter in a week or so.