Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke served as a U.S. congressman from El Paso, Texas from 2013 – 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, O’Rourke previously served as mayor pro tempore of El Paso and as a member of the El Paso city council. O’Rourke received much national fanfare over his much-ballyhooed 2018 U.S. Senate campaign, where he lost to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). The Cruz-O’Rourke race was 2018’s costliest state-wide political race in the nation. O’Rourke is now seeking the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination, and has recently polled around fifth or sixth place.
O’Rourke, who is a fourth generation Irish-American, attended Columbia University and formerly played in a New York City-based punk rock band before moving back to El Paso. At an earlier age, he had a DWI by drunkenly driving into oncoming traffic and then attempting to flee the scene. He also used to belong to a computer hacker group called “Cult of the Dead Cow.” O’Rourke is married to Amy Hoover Sanders and is the father of three children.
Although O’Rourke’s Senate challenge of Cruz was the subject of many fawning media profiles, O’Rourke’s 2020 presidential campaign has yet to achieve the same attention.
Electoral History: O’Rourke first ran for a seat on the El Paso city council in 2005, and he continued to serve on the council until 2011. His tenure on the council was marked by his controversial support of eminent domain initiatives and drug decriminalization/legalization measures. In 2012, O’Rourke first ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives; he barely eclipsed eight-term incumbent Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) in the Democratic primary for Texas’s 16th congressional district. He subsequently won the general election and was then re-elected in 2014 and 2016. In 2018, O’Rourke gave up his House seat to challenge incumbent Cruz in the U.S. Senate race in Texas. O’Rourke proved to be a prolific fundraiser, reaching record-shattering totals and receiving overwhelmingly positive attention from an adulating national press. Despite the money raised and media attention, Cruz prevailed over O’Rourke by 2.6%.
On The Issues: O’Rourke is a firm leftist, although he positions himself as a mildly more centrist option than some of his truly far-left 2020 Democratic presidential nomination contenders, such as Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and (perhaps) Cory Booker. Outside of the main political issues, he is known for his pro-drug legalization stance and related opposition to the “War on Drugs,” his clamorous anti-cop rhetoric advanced during his race against Cruz, and his unique hostility to Israel.
Constitution: O’Rourke is a firm legal progressive. He emphatically supports Roe v. Wade and has equivocated on whether he supports D.C. v. Heller, the landmark Supreme Court decision that established that the Second Amendment protects an individual right. He supports “campaign finance reform,” thereby opposing the Supreme Court’s pro-political speech 2010 case of Citizens United v. F.E.C. O’Rourke’s support for a more robust federal regulatory role is consistent with legal leftism’s preference for more robust federal power at the expense of state power.
Economy: O’Rourke supports rigorous antitrust enforcement and a $15 federal minimum wage. He has opposed the Trump administration’s willingness to employ tariffs on China and Mexico as a means to pursue greater geopolitical ends. He has been generally supportive of labor unions. O’Rourke has voiced support for a carbon tax as a means to combat climate change.
Health Care: O’Rourke has offered support to “Medicare for America,” a “Medicare for All” alternative that would retain private health insurance options but move uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, and all other newborn citizens to government-run health insurance. As a congressman, O’Rourke was legislatively active in efforts to incrementally reform the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. O’Rourke supports universal health insurance coverage, but equivocates on whether “Medicare for All” is the best means to accomplish that end.
Immigration: O’Rourke is a consistent leftist on the issue of immigration. He supports amnesty for DREAM Act-eligible illegal aliens, and supports various other pro-amnesty policies that would magnetize America’s southern border and empower various Mexican cartels and trafficking rings. O’Rourke, despite being an El Paso native, opposes a border wall with Mexico and has even said that he would tear down El Paso’s local wall with Mexico. He has been a perpetual, vocal critic of the Trump administration’s efforts to enforce our beleaguered southern border amid the hitherto unprecedented migrant influx of 2018-2019.
Foreign Policy: O’Rourke is uniquely hostile to Israel, even by the standards of the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination field. He strongly opposed President Donald Trump’s move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and has voted against U.S. funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which the Jewish state employs to defend itself against would-be genocidal state and non-state foes engulfing it on all sides. O’Rourke, consistent with modern Democratic sensibilities, opposed President Trump’s exiting of the U.S. from President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran, and has strongly criticized the human rights record of Iran’s leading regional foe, Saudi Arabia. He generally supports a smaller U.S. military footprint overseas.
Abortion: Harris is emphatically pro-abortion and supports ending the Hyde Amendment, which has historically banned taxpayer funding of abortion.
Guns: O’Rourke has frequently supported gun control policies that would infringe upon Americans’ Second Amendment rights. He supports expanded background checks and limitations or bans on certain weapons and magazines that are currently in wide distribution. O’Rourke supports a ban on the undefinable sub-class of firearms referred to as so-called “assault weapons” — a line of thought that, if taken to its logical conclusion, could lead to the banning of all semi-automatic firearms in America. Furthermore, O’Rourke has gone farther than any of his 2020 Democratic presidential nomination rivals in emphatically calling for a mandatory “buyback” program — i.e., government-mandated gun confiscation — for all civilian-owned “assault weapons.”