Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
I’ve tried to be pretty serious in most of my columns. I may even come across as preachy at times. Even the most righteous among us must sometimes be knocked down a peg or two for the sake of their own humility and the public good. So I believe a self-roast is in order.
I want to apologize to the readers of The Diamondback for offering such an egregiously bad take when I argued in a column back in November 2018 that Beto O’Rourke should run for president. Reading it now, I can hardly believe that I was serious at the time.
Let this column serve as a living, breathing, permanently-on-the-internet testament to the dangers of rushing to conclusions without carefully investigating the facts and considering the evidence. Thanks to MSNBC, my leftist friends on Twitter and long Thanksgiving conversations with my extended family members (the three most reliable sources!), I have come to see the error of my ways.
I was so overcome with Democratic Party adrenaline after the 2018 midterms, so high on the buzz from the exit polls, so immersed in the narratives spun by the pundits and podcasters that I was unable to fathom just how fast the hype from O’Rourke’s U.S. Senate campaign would fade.
In my column, I offered no evidence for the claims I made that he listens or that he cares. In fact, I went as far as to boldly state that he does not pander, which is ridiculous. O’Rourke parades his Spanish language fluency around, goes by a common Spanish nickname and says nice things about repairing divides, yet he’s voted with Republicans on conservative immigration bills.
Some Democrats (and my past self) might argue this proves O’Rourke can mend partisan divides and unite our polarized populace. To me, it sounds like O’Rourke lacks a clear set of policy priorities and is too willing to compromise the rights of marginalized groups in the interest of appeasing powerful players in the center.
I also claimed that he would mobilize young people because of his youthful energy and cute posts on social media, a grossly low bar that is off-base and insulting to the intelligence of my peers.
I still believe that the mobilization of young people will determine the future of American politics. But O’Rourke was one of the top recipients of money from fossil fuel companies during the 2018 election cycle. When asked about his plans to fight climate change, he has offered no substantial policy proposals. With their lives and futures at risk, young voters should be skeptical of any candidate who flip-flops or side-steps on issues such as health care and climate change.
I could make the same argument against Pete Buttigeig, Cory Booker and a number of other look-good, feel-good candidates who flutter the hearts of many privileged, liberal, straight white women like myself — voters who like the sound of diversity but are initially resistant to radical approaches to redistribute wealth and power in our society. Thankfully, other writers have made those arguments about Buttigieg and Booker for me.
Candidates are never perfect. Neither are student opinion columnists. But both should be held to high standards: They need to be eager to learn, grow and apologize when presented with feedback and new information.
That’s why, my fellow students, you should be wary. Be wary of candidates who look nice and shiny on paper, who make you feel good when they talk, who offer glittering generalities like “hope and change” or “the smallness of our differences.” O’Rourke had me fooled for a minute. But a quick peek beneath the surface of viral speeches, curated Twitter accounts and pristine web pages reveals a far more complex reality.
As we venture into the murky waters of the 2020 primaries, don’t be fooled by elected leaders, pundits, podcasters and columnists who might be quick to let their personal biases get in the way of the truth.
Olivia Delaplaine is a senior government and politics major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.