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Beto is the poor man's Obama — Dems can do better

Beto is the poor man's Obama — Dems can do better
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Beto O’Rourke is in! After a reverential Vanity Fair profile and awkward couch announcement at his home, he is now seeking to become ... something.

Speaking in vagaries and platitudes, Beto says he plans to make us all into the better people he hopes we can be. We’ve been through this with Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden expected to tap Rahm Emanuel for Japan ambassador Baltimore businessman enters Maryland governor race Press: Let us now praise Liz Cheney MORE — and have no reason to fall for a worse imitation 12 years later. 

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In many ways, Beto-mania is a poor man's version of Obama's ascension to the national stage in 2007. Obama had a similar unveiling before his presidential announcement in late 2006. Just a year and a half in office as an Illinois senator, he received the cover of Men’s Vogue from the same Annie Leibovitz who shot Beto’s iconic-jeans-next-to-a-pickup-truck look.

Beto’s moment on VF’s cover may be the same attempt to catch lightning in a bottle. But lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice very often. 

Some enterprising journalism student will soon have to write a profile about all of the profiles that were written about Beto during the Texas Senate race. But the number of Christ allegories are a symptom more of the press’ wishes than any accomplishments Beto had when he announced he is seeking the White House.

Obama was a phenomenon when he announced his candidacy in early 2007. With a squeaky clean family persona and 2004 convention speech that overshadowed John KerryJohn KerryChina emitted more greenhouse gasses than US, developed world combined in 2019: analysis Overnight Energy: Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process| EPA official directs agency to ramp up enforcement in overburdened communities | Meet Flint prosecutor Kym Worthy Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process MORE’s, it was obvious that he could be a foil to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSchumer: 'The big lie is spreading like a cancer' among GOP America departs Afghanistan as China arrives Young, diverse voters fueled Biden victory over Trump MORE after her Iraq War vote.

Beto has none of that.

El Paso’s former congressman garnered national attention — and $70 million — for his hoped-for role of unseating Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill Senate descends into hours-long fight over elections bill Ocasio-Cortez hits Yang over scrapped Eid event: 'Utterly shameful' MORE. Although Beto ultimately couldn’t finish the job, he came closer to unseating a Republican senator than any other Texas Democrat in the last 40 years.

It seems coming close only works in horseshoes and for aimless, white middle-aged millionaires.

Surprisingly, the personification of coming from a privileged family hasn’t hurt the candidate. To an astonishing degree, Beto taps into the inner workings of the Democratic base even more than intersectional candidates like Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisRepublican Sean Parnell jumps into Pennsylvania Senate race Biden sees Trump rematch as real possibility Ode to Mother's Day MORE and Cory BookerCory BookerIn honor of Mother's Day, lawmakers should pass the Momnibus Act Bush testifies before Congress about racist treatment Black birthing people face during childbirth, pregnancy Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls MORE. He is an aimless product of privilege with a short resume and the added benefit of his wife's millions. He can skateboard, he can play guitar, he can make being unemployed look like an adventure. He can call in favors to get away with Aggravated DWI and fleeing the scene. For aspiring white trust funders just dropping off the keys at the Austin U-haul station, Beto speaks to them — for them — in a profound and shallow way.

Bizarrely, Beto’s improbable 2018 Senate campaign against Cruz almost proved a point about the power of white privilege, with a white man attacking a Latino son of a refugee, currying favor from the most tony estates in Williamsburg and Fairfax County.

Beto can replicate a portion of Obama's coalition of the I-would-be-successful-but-I-never-saw-the-point-of-trying branch of white young Democrats, as well as middle-aged liberal women, and garner garish profile pieces in glossy magazines each week. However, without building Obama's base among black voters and with the millennials financing Bernie SandersBernie SandersWyden: Funding infrastructure with gas tax hike a 'big mistake' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel The Memo: Outrage rises among liberals over Israel MORE's campaign with their student loan debt, Beto's lane may be closing in the Democratic primary.

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We can see his golden ticket to the nomination expiring in the early lefty coverage of his announcement. Although there is excitement surrounding Beto among many in the Democratic Party, it doesn’t extend to every corner. CNN published an op-ed about his run as dripping with white privilege. Paste declared him the candidate for “vapid morons.” Perhaps Slate of all places had the best pitch: why?

Political observers may be seeking the “why,” but the candidate surely isn’t. He made repeated firm denials last year that he wouldn’t run, and hasn’t seemed to justify the change of heart — the why of all of it. Last year he claimed it would tear apart his family; why run at this juncture, considering his 8-year-old son Henry would cry “every day” if his father went through with it? There doesn’t have to be a why, he will eventually say during a stump speech (I can imagine). There is only the possibility of greater things — why not?

Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke clarifies remarks, leaves door open to gubernatorial bid O'Rourke says he's not planning on run for Texas governor O'Rourke slams Cruz for video of border visit MORE hasn't lived his life to be president. He's lived it to be a Kerouac novel sprinkled with perpetual aloofness. He's a mysterious figure ready to show that he is always seemingly thinking deep thoughts while actually demanding your adoration for its own sake. Many of the same outlets that cheered him on in 2018 will soon catapult him as their favorite candidate, even if he doesn't explode in the polls.

America — and even the Democratic Party — can do better than Beto.

Kristin Tate is a libertarian writer and author of “How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.” Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.