It is already starting to get a bit difficult to remember and keep track of the candidates I’ve seen, and this is after seeing about a third of the prospective candidates. A list which seems to keep growing.
Beto O’Rourke did the usual short stump speech and then town hall question thing followed by a chance to get your picture taken with a candidate. His speech was shorter than most, Buttigieg length, but he took more questions than most so it was just shift in how he allocated time. Beto O’Rourke gave long detailed answers to the questions, covering a lot of related topics for each question. Sometimes he didn’t directly answer the question that was asked though.
The policy that emerged from Beto’s responses is pretty similar to that of the generic democratic platform of the moment. For example, $15/hour minimum wage, free community college, debt forgiveness for public service, medicare for all (I think he said that, I’m now not feeling 100% sure), and paid family leave.
Beto got asked some good questions, and some difficult questions, so thanks to the UNH crowd for that. The first question asked him to commit to no fossil fuel money supporting his campaign, and responded that he will be 100% individual funded, no PACs, lobbyist, corporations, etc. (After writing my draft of this I happened to see a video of Beto saying he couldn’t sign this same commitment when asked at an event earlier in the day, so I’m not sure what his actual position is). Two questions were about the opioid crisis, with the more interesting one asking about how to address the demand side of the issue. Beto acknowledged he didn’t have a good answer to that, but that he would look into it. He did mention he is in favor of a plan in Pennsylvania in which prescriptions for overdose medications are given with all opioid prescriptions, that drug use in the homeless population is often a symptom of the homelessness rather than visa versa. He also noted that there are individuals that seek imprisonment to obtain medical and mental health treatment because that is the only way they can get it, so we need to address those symptoms.
He also was asked about how to get those that benefit from white privilege not just to acknowledge that privilege, but do something about it. Beto O’Rourke didn’t really answer that question, in that he didn’t give any instructions to his audience. However, he did discuss the diversity and friendliness he has experienced in El Paso, and how by being welcoming it is a very safe place to live despite being so close to a supposedly dangerous border. So he responded by presenting an example that it isn’t that hard to get along in an effort to inspire action. The individual who asked the question seemed to appreciate the response.
Where Beto O’Rourke distinguished himself to me, and where he focused his presentation, was around listening to and appreciating the diversity of the nation and what can be accomplished together. He highlighted his tour of Texas and listening to everyone he could there, and Beto made sure to thank and acknowledge the questions and experiences that each person shared when asking their questions. In his first trip to NH he made stops in every NH county. He also highlighted diversity in response to my decision making question.
When asked during the picture taking period afterwords how he and his staff would make decisions, he focused on surrounding himself with a diverse staff that can present a range of views and opinions. That it is important to be a president for the nation as a whole. There are some follow-ups that would have been nice to ask, namely how you will select an action from the diverse options that come from a diverse staff but, his staff was eager to keep the line moving.
Beto O’Rourke did have a couple of quirks, one of which I found very distracting. One is that he does really like to talk with his hands, for what little that is worth. It’s a benefit as far as I’m concerned. The distracting one is that he tends to speak in run on sentences. I think his entire speech, or at least most of it, was literally a single sentence and a good number of his question responses were too.
Summary: The Beto O’Rourke approach, along with the Cory Booker approach, and to some extent the Tulsi Gabbard approach seems to be a focus on inclusiveness and diversity, and as a foil and counter to the Trump administration and partisanship and rhetoric of the time. Beto adds a focus to listening and empowering constituents. As with the other’s with this approach Beto doesn’t seem to differentiate himself on policy, however I think he is better at this approach than the others.
Ranking of those I’ve meet so far:
- Tier 1: Andrew Yang
- Tier 2: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders*
- Tier 3: Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke
- Tier 4: Cory Booker
- Tier 5: Tulsi Gabbard, Pete Buttigieg
- Tier Nope: tbd
- *(Based on past meetings and campaign launch video, w/o the decision-making question response)