On Tuesday, NBC News reported that a straw poll of MoveOn.org members – grassroots far-Leftists – favored failed Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke over Joe Biden. Some 29 percent of respondents said they didn’t know who they wanted or wanted candidates not listed, but Rourke seized a narrow lead with 15.6 percent of respondents, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden at 14.9 percent and Senator Bernie Sanders at 13.1 percent.
That’s certainly a troubling sign for Sanders, who wants to recapitulate his 2016 run by recapturing the hearts of the so-called Bernie Bros. But it now looks like the Bernie Bros may have been wooed by the charismatic Texas representative, and may be turning away from the crotchety old Vermont socialist. What’s more, O’Rourke has crossover power with the two other segments of the Democratic base: the intersectional coalition that Barack Obama captured so easily in 2008, and the mainstream base that Sanders could never consolidate against Hillary Clinton.
In his Texas race, O’Rourke made intersectional concerns a priority; he campaigned heavily on the idea that police across the nation are institutionally racist. “We have something wrong,” he said. “If we have the largest prison population on the face of the planet and it is comprised of people of color, we have something wrong in this country.” This comment is odd, on its face – should we be releasing criminals based on the color of their skin? – but it’s par for the course in the intersectional race to the bottom for the Democrats.
O’Rourke has also fulfilled the far-Left fantasies of a politician who will pledge to abolish ICE, ban AR-15s, and push the Leftist fantasy of single payer healthcare. He’s called for impeachment of President Trump as well.
But he’s kept his connections with the mainstream: he was never a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, instead joining the New Democrat Coalition, “a centrist caucus with Clintonian views” according to social democratic columnist Elizabeth Bruenig. He’s also been rather mild on climate change issues, at least for the radical Left.
The media coverage received by O’Rourke in his race against the Left’s most hated senator, Ted Cruz, was adulatory in the extreme. As Jim Geraghty noted at National Review:
Correspondents seemed oddly fixated on his sweat. Politico swooned, “Sweat pours off his lean, 6-foot-4-inch frame.” In Vanity Fair, Peter Hamby described him “sweating through a button-down shirt at one of his jam-packed town halls.” The BBC wrote, “His toes are well over the edge of the boards” of the stage “and his suede shoes are soaking up dark splashes of sweat from his brow.”…. Reading through all of these profiles as they emphasize the same points over and over again — He was in a punk-rock band! He skateboards! He’s handsome! He’s Kennedyesque! He speaks fluent Spanish! — one keeps waiting for the section that describes what makes O’Rourke actually unique among Democratic candidates. And that section never arrives. There is no hardscrabble climb out of poverty, no tale of military heroism, no running into a burning building to save orphans, not even an occasion of helping get an old lady’s cat out of a tree.
And apparently O’Rourke’s serious DUI on his 26th birthday is no barrier to entry for Democrats complaining about the rampant immorality of President Trump.
All of which means that O’Rourke is formidable. And more importantly, it means that Bernie Sanders may be done – thanks, ironically, to his success in getting the Democratic Party to swallow his mantras and then digest them. Sanders is no longer radical, standing outside the party. He’s in the mainstream of the party, and there are more attractive candidates in the mainstream than a near-octogenarian with a penchant for wild misstatements.