It's been a few months since the midterm elections, but the bells of the Internet still chime out the name Beto O'Rourke. Although the Texas representative did not manage to beat out opponent and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz for a seat in the Senate, he's thinking a little bigger this time around. On Thursday, March 14, Beto O'Rourke announced his 2020 presidential campaign with a video posted to Twitter, and let me tell you, people are already hyped.
O'Rourke, the former Democratic U.S. Representative who made an unexpectedly strong bid for the Senate in solid-red Texas in 2018, has been a rising star with the Democratic party since his by-the-skin-of-his-teeth loss to Cruz, leading to a lot of speculation about whether he would make a presidential bid. On March 14, he set all of that to rest with his official announcement. With his wife Amy by his side, O'Rourke announced his campaign with a promise to focus on major issues of interest to many Americans, including immigration, climate change, and health care access. "This is going to be a positive campaign," he said, promising to travel the country and hear from Americans on what matters to them.
Given the enthusiasm around his 2018 campaign — despite his loss — a lot of people were ready for this.
Of course, not everyone was thrilled about it. Politics is gonna politic.
And some people just got a little too real.
Before the official announcement, there was quite a bit of will-he-or-won't-he about the bid. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey at the beginning of February 2019, O'Rourke said that he would make his decision on whether or not to run for president by the end of the month. "I have been thinking about running for president,” he said at the time. "I want to make sure that we’re all good with this. ... For me, it will really be family.” Clearly, he didn't quite make that deadline, but close enough, I guess.
While O'Rourke is taking his shot at becoming the future POTUS, his initial climb to internet fame seems so far away. The Texas Congressman first became a household name, both in and out of Texas, when he went viral for a video of him defending NFL players who knelt during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial bias, back in August 2018. The protests, started by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016, set off a wave of similar protests that became a hot political talking point, with some supporting the protests while others saw it as disrespectful of veterans or the American flag. President Donald Trump even weighed in, condemning the protests in an August tweet. During a town hall meeting last summer before the midterms, O'Rourke was asked to comment on the NFL protests, and, instead of a wishy-washy political answer, took a strong stance in their support. "They're frustrated," he said and noted that political leaders had failed to address the issue of racial bias and policing. He added,
This problem — as grave as it is — is not going to fix itself. And they’re frustrated, frankly, with people like me and those in positions of public trust and power, who have been unable to resolve this or bring justice for what has been done and to stop it from continuing to happen in this country.
O'Rourke also pointed out that there's "nothing more American" than protesting peacefully to call attention to wrongdoings in our society. "They take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it," he said. "That is why they are doing it."
Even though he ultimately lost to Cruz, the momentum for him is still there, so maybe this election will turn out better for him. 2020 is just getting started.