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 ObamaTrump has 62 percent disapproval rating in new AP poll Rising Warren faces uphill climb with black voters Obama explains decision to get into movie business: 'We all have a sacred story' 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 Forbes KerryA lesson of the Trump, Tlaib, Omar, Netanyahu affair Trump's winning weapon: Time The Memo: O'Rourke looks to hit reset button MORE’s, it was obvious that he could be a foil to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts Hickenlooper announces Senate bid 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 CruzGOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters 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 Devi HarrisPoll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona Rising Warren faces uphill climb with black voters Inslee drops out of 2020 presidential race MORE and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOvernight Defense: Two US service members killed in Afghanistan | Trump calls on other nations to take up fight against ISIS | Pentagon scraps billion-dollar missile defense program ABC unveils moderators for third Democratic debate Sanders targets gig economy as part of new labor plan 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 Sanders2020 candidates have the chance to embrace smarter education policies Bernie Sanders Adviser talks criminal justice reform proposal, 'Medicare for All' plan Poll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona 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'RourkeABC unveils moderators for third Democratic debate The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Harris to appear in CNN climate town hall after backlash 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.