During the 2018 midterm elections, Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke quickly became a favorite even among those who couldn’t legally vote for him in his Senate race because they didn’t live in the state of Texas.
The former representative of Texas’s 16th Congressional District did everything right. He opposed the death penalty. He spoke in defense of NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem. He had all the right talking points. He was Batman to Ted Cruz’s Penguin, and everyone was rooting for him.
Speaking to the congregants at a black church in Dallas about the shooting of Botham Jean by former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, O’Rourke brought the crowd to its feet when he asked, “How can we continue to lose the lives of unarmed black men in the United States of America, at the hands of white police officers?”
“That is not justice. That is not us. That can—and must—change,” he said.
A Quinnipiac University poll released in September 2018 indicated that 97 percent of the black voters surveyed favored O’Rourke.
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As KUT reported, black voters said his campaign did a good job of exciting them.
So how is it that a man who made a very specific speech about the importance of black lives could vote for legislation that was widely viewed as the Republican response to police brutality protests by Black Lives Matter activists?
Mother Jones reports that in 2017, O’Rourke voted in favor of the Thin Blue Line Act—legislation that would allow prosecutors to impose the death penalty on anyone who killed a law enforcement officer “while he or she was engaged in the performance of his or her official duties; because of the performance of his or her official duties; or because of his or her status as a public official or employee.”
As Kanya Bennett, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, explained to Mother Jones, the Thin Blue Line Act “sends the signal that the Congress has the backs of law enforcement over the backs of other constituents, primarily constituents of color.”
That is an important point to note. The Thin Blue Line Act essentially makes police officers a protected class—similar to minorities, LGBTQ people or women. It also duplicates laws that many states already have on the books to seek more severe punishments against those who target or kill law enforcement officers.
“Police unions push bills like Thin Blue to distract from the national discourse around police violence and black lives,” Bennett said. “There is no shortage of protections for law enforcement when crimes are committed against them.”
O’Rourke seemed poised to win over black voters and many voters in general because he spoke in support of nationwide cannabis legalization and an end to the cash bail system.
It would appear, however, that what he says and what he votes for are at odds with each other.
He isn’t the first, and he certainly won’t be the last. Nancy Pelosi was recently caught on camera waffling when asked her views on the Black Lives Matter issue.
If the idea is to garner the support of black voters while simultaneously trying to avoid offending law enforcement and those who support them, then O’Rourke has the double-speak down pat. How will that fare in 2020, however, when it is widely expected that he will make a run for the presidency?
We have already had candidates “black it up” to win us over. Hillary Clinton discussed the hot sauce in her bag. Kamala Harris recently put out a video of herself dancing to show how down she is. Is all of this blackface pandering supposed to make us forget the questionable policies that these candidates support?
Either way, this news about Beto is very disappointing.
Damn, homie. In 2018 you was the man, homie. Fuck happened to you?