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Beto O’Rourke, the charismatic former Democratic congressman from Texas, who in November nearly unseated Senator Ted Cruz in a traditionally-Republican state, threw his hat into the ring for his party’s presidential nomination. With him, there are already fifteen Democrats vying for the spot.
As one would expect, many of these same Democrats who were falling all over themselves a year earlier, singing O’Rourke’s praises because he gave Cruz a good scare and, in doing so, put Texas in play for the Democrats, are now looking for defects all over the place, since his presence could dilute support for other candidates.
Now, the critiques are that Beto, at 46 years old, is “too green,” not progressive enough, a man, and white. What’s more, they say, O’Rourke lost to Cruz, but they do not say that it was by less than three percentage points in a state like Texas. Perhaps the group that most resents O’Rourke are Bernie Sanders’ supporters–about whom some could say he lost the nomination in 2016, is progressive, a man, white, and 77 years-old. Of course, both are very talented in raising money.
And that is where it starts. The Democrats will continue trying to settle amongst themselves who is the most progressive, whether she is a woman or belongs to an ethnic minority, whether he is or is not white, or if the candidate is “sufficiently” African-American, as happened to Barack Obama in 2008 and is happening now to Senator Kamala Harris.
I completely understand that the primary process is for the candidates to outline their public policy positions and introduce themselves to the voters who at the end of the day will decide, first who will be their party’s nominee and then who will be president.
But I hope from the bottom of my heart that the Democrats’ primary elections process will not turn into a bloodbath, because the only one who will benefit from that is Donald Trump.
When I hear an analyst say that O’Rourke has to offer more “substance,” it makes me wonder if he does not realize that Trump is president, with zero substance, but replete with racist and hate-filled policies.
When I see Democratic figures criticizing each other, I ask myself if they have forgotten that Trump is the real danger.
Just this past weekend Trump vetoed the measure to reject his false emergency declaration along the border and he did it from the White House, where he continued to say that we are being “invaded” by immigrants who are criminals. He did it the same day that a white supremacist from Australia took the lives of fifty Muslims in two New Zealand mosques.
When a journalist asked him if terrorism by white supremacists is on the rise, Trump said no: “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”
The suspect in the New Zealand massacre had written in his manifesto that Trump was “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
Trump is doing exactly what he did in 2017, when he failed to condemn the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, after one of the participants rammed a counterprotest and killed a young woman, Heather Heyer.
This past weekend, via Twitter, Trump attacked a dead man–John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona–over reports that a McCain associate had turned over information to the FBI regarding what the Russians knew about the president. Trump once again evidenced his obsession with McCain even after his death, the same way he is still obsessed with Hillary Clinton and Obama in this, his third year as president.
It is Trump who issued the Muslim ban, ended DACA for Dreamers and TPS for hundreds of thousands of people who lived in this country for decades. It is Trump who separated families at the border as a mechanism of “deterrent,” and put children in cages at detention centers. To this day, many have not been reunited with their parents.
It is Trump who, with the stroke of a pen, has destroyed the asylum laws of this nation and, on a daily basis, blocked this legal chance for thousands of Central Americans who are fleeing the unprecedented violence that undermines their countries.
It is Trump who closed the federal government for thirty-five days over a wall along the border that no one supports and resolves nothing, a wall of hate that he insists on putting up.
It is Trump who puts forward fiscal measures that only favor the rich and powerful in this country, to the detriment of the rest; it is Trump who mocks climate change, putting in place practices and policies that put all of humanity at risk.
And it’s Trump who, on a daily basis over the past three years or so, has never ceased to offend, denigrate, and undermine women, immigrants, minorities, the press, and our national institutions.
That is why I hope that the Democrats will spend the primary election process outlining their differences with Trump, and that they do it without destroying each other. The lesson of 2016 cannot be forgotten.
They cannot lose their compass nor their perspective, because the price to pay is too high.