The lesson that the Democratic party should not take away from the unsuccessful senatorial campaign of Francis O’Rourke is the same one that the GOP should not take from Trump’s successful 2016 presidential run: different and passionate win, however repeating the same campaign does not.
The immediate reaction of Texas Democrats should not be, in future elections, to merely try and replicate the O’Rourke camapign. Though Beto achieved an incredible margin, up 8% from the Democrat which ran for Senate against Cruz the first time in 2012, against Ted Cruz, it needs to be recognized that when a strangely unique candidate comes out of the left field (quite literally), you cannot depend on them to suddenly be the model for your party. Just like a high school quarterback who is constantly reminiscing on his glory days, just like a junkie who is always chasing the virgin high, just like a mother always yearns for her child’s younger years as they both grow older, the model of repitition always leads to implosion.
We need look no further than the Republican Party, which has essentially become the party of Donald Trump, beholden to him and his personality. Donald Trump represents the last push in a decades long campaign to grip power, grip constituencies, grip onto itself as it slowly becomes more and more a parody of itself.
The same is true of the Democratic Party and it’s fixation on Barrack Obama, which has only emboldened the former president to getting back on the campaign trail, attempting to hold onto whatever influence he can maintain in his post-presidential years (as he approaches that period in every ex-president’s life where they must begrudgingly accept that they simply aren’t the president anymore and have to find something else to do; most decide to write their Memoirs, but at the spry age of 57, Obama has hardly lived enough life to really commit something to paper, certainly unlike Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton, not enough time has passed since his time in the White House and not enough change has occurred in the nation for him to commit to such an act). The result has been that the Democratic Party has only fallen deeper into the embrace of their former leader, hoping that he will provide them with some direction that they lack. They seem quite a bit like Mrs. Dalloway or Oedipa Mass in their strange state of having an identity and yet having to redefine it.
The result has been the preponderance of a diversified field of candidates meant to reinvigorate the party by being the Next Obama. O’Rourke was, and is, still the latest version of that vision. I need not monologue on the many comparisons to Obama that has been made with O’Rourke, and likely, in the far reaches of the Lone Star state, the defeated candidate strikes an image much like the defeated Ronald Reagan in 1976 after his first go at being President, only to lose to Jimmy Carter. Reagan, though defeated, could look on smugly at history, knowing that his time was almost come. Now was simply not the right moment.
One only wonders what programs we shall be enlightened with from the Beto Radio Commentary series.
What is the way forward?
That is a question only those who are already ahead can really answer, those who are already making their way down the beaten path — the vanguards who shall be crowned the Next Obama, the New Beto, will ultimately be themselves.
Ultimately, the reason why candidates such as Trump or a would-be Senator O’Rourke win is because they are unabashedly themselves. Perhaps we could say the same of even a disgusting man such as Ted Cruz, and likely that’s the reason why Texas decided to try him for a third time. Or maybe it’s just because when the voting map of a state looks essentially the same for two decades of elections, you can’t really expect much of a different outcome, despite what new margins have been closed, despite what new progress has been made, in spite of all of this, some things never change. The people who have their jobs keep their jobs, the people who are looking for one will always be looking. I may be projecting some of my own angst here, but take the point.
The Democrats, the Republicans, if they want to survive (if We the People want to survive, really), the answer cannot be to continue eating memberberries and thinking about how great that one campaign was from last year. Looking forward is the only way forward. Seeking always bigger and better for everyone is the way forward. There will come a point when the base can be bolstered no longer and victory will no longer be so sweet. Victory’s victory, you say. Victory by 50–51% doesn’t sound as nice as 73% or even 90%. The divided line stands in the way of unity.
The note I want to end on in this: no matter how deep you bury your heels in the sand, the waves will still come and fill your foot holes with water. And then your shoes will get wet. And then your socks will get wet. And then your feet will get wet. And then you will get sick. And you will fall. With your feet in the sand. And that doesn’t sound like a very fun day on the beach, to me anyway.