Mulhall column: Lightening the Democratic clown car
If I had an Armolite Rifle, I might have heaved a sigh of relief last Friday when Beto O’Rourke withdrew his bid for the Democrat presidential nomination.
His departure culls the number of candidates vying for a chance to play the Democrat’s Mitt Romney in the 2020 election down to some number under about 10.
In truth, O’Rourke never stood a chance. His political formula oversimplified: Embrace the most extreme stance on the most highly charged issue you can find and make it a cornerstone of your campaign platform. Maybe it keeps your name in some odd conversations, but in the end, not even those guys take you seriously.
O’Rourke couldn’t out-socialist Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, and he couldn’t out-deep-state Joe Biden, so he tried to out-culture-war them all.
To appear “woke” on gun control, O’Rourke embraced gun confiscation, and he may have actually helped the NRA by pulling back the curtain.
“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” He said. “Folks are saying, ‘Look, I would give up that AR-15 or that AK-47. I don’t need it to hunt, don’t need it to defend myself in my home.’ They recognize this is a weapon designed for war, to kill people as effectively, as efficiently, and in as great a number as possible.”
Oh yes, Democrats are coming for your guns. O’Rourke just figured he had nothing to lose by being honest about it. After all, the next Democrat-controlled federal government will pass expanded background checks, probably with ease, and that’s just for starters. Why equivocate?
To appear “woke” on gay rights, O’Rourke endorsed removing the tax-exempt status of churches that don’t recognize gay marriage.
“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” O’Rourke said. “And so, as president, we’re going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”
Gay rights epitomize Democrat disdain for Christianity. Nowhere is this clearer than in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Again, O’Rourke figured why not just tie the two together in a cage match and call it a campaign platform.
So what can we learn from O-Rourke’s withdrawal?
For one, if you’re a Democratic presidential candidate, there’s really nothing to lose in being honest — unless you want the Democratic presidential nomination.
Put another way, the more honest a Democratic candidate’s platform, the less support she generates. Beto started the race with about 15% support in national polls. Then he tacked hard, but honestly, left. He withdrew with less than 5% in the same polls.
His Texas political career may have reached its sell-by, too. You don’t step off of a national platform that features gun confiscation and church taxation as centerpieces and find solid political footing in Texas. At least not yet.
No doubt some lone star Democrats will think Beto is just the guy to challenge for John Cornyn’s Senate seat. After all, Beto gave Ted Cruz all he could handle. But that was before Beto’s recent spate of cultural honesty.
An O’Rourke presidency would have micro-managed a Christian church’s sermons from the hallways of D.C., blurring separation of church and state in a new, quintessentially Democratic way, and that more than anything may have forever changed the way a hefty hunk of voters see him, particularly in Texas.
While running for a Texas senate seat in 2020 seems unlikely, don’t take Beto’s withdrawal as some kind of departure from presidential politics.
Given enough time, his 2019 cultural honesty campaign will become a distant memory. My bet is he’ll emerge again to run in 2024, and when he does he’ll have re-tooled his platform into something even wackier.
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