SocraticGadfly: Beto is trending! — first longform nat'l political puff piece

August 21, 2018

Beto is trending! — first longform nat'l political puff piece

From Anne Helen Peterson of Buzzfeed, Beto O'Rourke, I mean, "Justin Trudeau with a Southern accent" (thanks, Twitter friends) now has his first nationally written political puff piece. A full 8,000 words, and with a few major errors, though it is worth a read in many ways.

First, the errors.

The first error I saw was one I expected, and was even kind of looking for. Peterson three times says that O'Rourke favors "universal health care" without mentioning, or even looking for, the reality of his stances. Specifically, I'm thinking of how ConservaDem Beto not only refused to back John Conyers' HB 676 in the House, on semi-specious but not totally specious grounds, but also refused to support Bernie Sanders' Senate bill on explicitly neoliberal grounds, namely that it didn't require people to pay enough out of their own pockets.

Honest mistake? Well, maybe.

But, not really.

Rather, this reads as a piece by someone not that familiar with politics, and who added actual politics and issues into a political profile piece.

Second big error reinforces this thought of mine.

Peterson talks about how Beto hasn't accepted union money. The truth? By federal election law, candidates cannot accept union money directly. CANNOT. Period. (Unions can give to a campaign PAC, but not to a candidate. CANNOT.)

The third is presenting small donors as driving the needle on his campaign contributions.

While he is doing better than many candidates in this regard, nonetheless, by dollar amount, not by number of donors, Open Secrets notes that nearly 60 percent of his contributions come from large donors, above $200. (Some 68 percent of Obama 2012's donors came from that same group. So, Beto's doing well. But not perfect. Beto is getting less, as a percentage, from small donors than Bernie did in his 2016 presidential run.)

Oh, and while he doesn't accept money from PACs, he DOES take money from employees at non-PAC lobbyists. And, J Street's money, among those, was PAC-bundled. PolitiFact still gives him a fully true rating on this. (The FEC doesn't consider PAC bundling of individual donations to be PAC money; IMO it's a bit more grayish, though I would largely accept that.)

A fuller look at his top donors explains other things.

Tenet Healthcare folks have given him nearly $20K. Why Because Beto does not back single-payer! Tech industry folks give him a lot. By industry, here's his donors.

By email, Peterson told me thanks for reading when I pointed out the health care error. We'll see if she says more, on Twitter, about the other errors I dinged her on.

Back to this issue. "Universal health care"? That's not far different than Rethugs calling the hospital ER "universal health access" or similar. And Beto knows that. More generously interpreted, it may be like "Medicare access for all." However, that's not "Medicare for all." It's the old "public option" that Dear Leader Obama talked about in 2008 then ignored. It would treat Medicare like private insurance available to the under-65 crowd. Pseudo "progressives" who back it generally do so with zero details of how it would work and mention it just to keep up the pseudo when challenged by people who want the real deal.

Finally, while I'm here, one other issue — legalizing marijuana. Yes, this is primarily a state issue, but to some degree, it's also a federal one. And, while Beto talks the talk about marijuana, as far as I know, he has sponsored no bill to even address the DEA continuing to list pot as a Schedule 1 drug, let alone do anything more than that. (Peterson doesn't discuss this issue in her piece, which itself indicates how much Beto's putting it on the back burner in red-lands Texas. In turn, it seems like Beto is stereotyping old, white, red-lands Texas on this issue, as old, white, pro-pot Willie Nelson is from Abbott.)

In fact, last year, a bill was introduced in the House to force the Drug Enforcement Administration to move marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3. The bill has three co-sponsors in addition to the Congresscritter who introduced the bill. None of them is named Beto O'Rourke. The sponsor, Congressman Gaetz, even spoke about the bill on the floor.

Per Brookings, rescheduling down to Schedule 2, though it might mean less to state governments, would have at least symbolic value. As for what Brookings states about worries about international law obligations, I believe Canada just legalized pot nationwide, becoming official Oct. 17. And nearly 50 countries have decriminalized it.

That said, I noted that Peterson's piece is worth a read in many ways.

Her on-the-ground tailing of O'Rourke, more at red to deep-red stops, like Abilene, Kerrville, and even a place like Iraan referenced in an aside, was fun to read. It also notes turnout for these events, and indicates enthusiasm is real. More real than Wendy Davis' by far in red-state areas; more real than any statewide Dem has done in such places in decades.

Peterson also notes that, despite his speaking Spanish on the trail, O'Rourke doesn't want to play the traditional games with South Texas Hispanic power brokers, and has somewhat the same stance toward urban East Texas African-American power brokers. I think this is problematic. That said, maybe, on Hispanics, he doesn't think he can bolster the turnout needle that much. Or else he's hoping Lupe Valdez will take care of that not just for herself but for him. She's riding on his coattails and he may be hopeful that some reverse coattails happen.

Peterson does note the historic turnout issues with Texas Hispanics, so she's not naive about politics in Texas in general. She just swallowed too much Beto Kool-Aid.

She also repeats other stereotypes, like having a San Antonio resident talk about all the hippies in Kerrville. It's been half a dozen years since I was there, but, last time I was, I saw no hippies. On her own, related to that, she perpetuates the myth that all California retirees fleeing the state for other climes are liberals. Not even close. That's a bit of intellectual laziness right there, which ties back to the errors up top.

Basically, can Beto as a male, and a better campaigner, do a better version of Wendy Davis' plan of 2014? Remains to be seen.

And, contra Peterson on an issue related to this. Apathy in Texas Hispanics IS a uniquely Texas issue. Hispanics turn out in lower numbers in Texas than any other state where they're even semi-significant statistically. And a new piece at New Republic accuses Dems in general of taking Hispanic votes for granted. (Many younger Hispanics, by religion, are evangelical Protestant, not Catholic, and can be more open to Republican pitches in part because of that.)

Oh, and without mentioning his name, Peterson's O'Rourke to Obama riff on young Senate campaigners was for me another turn-off, not a turn-on.

And, Beto your ownself? Your campaign may be big. Other than visiting all those red-lands areas, it's not bold, though, for the reasons listed above.


Related? Jonathan Tilove, whom I usually like a lot, is talking up Beto for Prez 2020, and not just as a political analyst, but with a clear personal op-ed angle of liking.


PDiddie said...

I would only correct you to say that this piece is about the 100,000th fluffer for Bob, going back about a year. All of them have been similarly fawning and obsequious and devoid of fact-checking. Several of them repeated "Texas isn't a red state it's a non-voting state" as if this was breaking news.

Great job with the takedown here.

Gadfly said...

You're right on the general angle. I should have used the word "longform" or something like that. This is surely the first of this length.


Oh, I'm probably going to do something separate on the pot issue. My curiosity bee got buzzing, and wondering, "just what the hell has Beto actually done on this issue"? Answer: nothing.