The past month has seen a number of presidential hopefuls come forward and announce their candidacy for the 2020 Democratic ticket. Few have seemed to rile up young, Liberal voters as much as Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, the charismatic 46-year old former congressman and failed senatorial candidate from El Paso, Texas. It’s reported that his campaign raised $6.1 million in just 24 hours’ time since announcing, more than any other Democratic candidate thus far.
Contrarily, he’s also seemed to move conservative voters to action, who, in the days following Beto’s announcement, unleashed a slew of memes and prods against the candidate— especially ones referencing his 1998 DWI charge from when he was 26 years old.
Over this past St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the GOP’s official Twitter account posted an edited photo of Beto’s mugshot from the incident with the caption, “On this St. Paddy’s Day, a special message from noted Irishman Robert Francis O’Rourke – PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY.”
On this St. Paddy's Day, a special message from noted Irishman Robert Francis O'Rourke. pic.twitter.com/JRjMEXhZRY
— GOP (@GOP) March 17, 2019
The meme itself is multifaceted, hinting at Beto’s appropriation of a Hispanic nickname to garnish a voting demographic’s sympathy (despite being inherently Irish), and also reminding America that young people do foolish things— a phase of life to that politicians aren’t expempted from. Jabs at the irony of Beto’s subsumed identity on St. Patrick’s Day are fitting, but the dead-horse reminder of his misguided youthful exuberance comes in poor taste.
While the DWI, which is now two decades old, may seem to reflect poorly upon Beto and his candidacy, the conservative movement’s feigned vitriol looks far worse and, in some ways, actually helps the Beto campaign. It grants him a level of relatability that no Instagram video, profanity, or skateboarding can match— the relatability of imperfection.
With each Democratic candidate pandering to youthful progressives, an already young candidate with a history of street cred as a bad boy simply makes him even more desirable. While candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris try to overcompensate or dream up relatable instances, Beto’s relatability is literally writing on the wall and it magnetizes him. Likewise, the chastisement of Beto over the incident further exacerbates the portrayal of the GOP as the party of old men— the same type of unforgiving old men who scold carefree youth for their imprudence.
America has been hearing of Beto’s DWI since March of 2017 when he announced his senatorial run, and Texas voters knew of it long before that. Obviously, it’s missing its mark and is an ineffective tool in dismantling Beto’s political prowess. Had his actions resulted in the injury or death of someone, the reaction would likely be far different, but, even then, precedence says otherwise. Although, his video-recording while driving death toll is still ultimately to be determined.
It would behoove conservatives to recall other prominent political figures, even ones within their own movement, who’ve had less than stellar personal histories and still went on to be fine leaders in their respective roles: FDR led America through the Great Depression and World War II without press trying to break the story on Lucy Mercer’s identity, staving off the Soviets and putting a man on the moon placated the public from asking JFK about Marilyn Monroe much, and George Bush 43 and Barrack Obama certainly weren’t harangued for their collegiate substance abuse during their encounters with the War on Terror and Great Recession. These misfires are just anecdotal notches in their long life stories and Beto’s DWI will be as well.
So why are the professional legacies of presidents indifferent to their personal errs? Because America measures its presidents by what they accomplish in the boardroom, not the ballroom. The idea of the president holding the facade as the beacon of virtue is as only as old as social media, which is why America has derived into the contextually binary character comparison between Presidents Obama and Trump.
Conservatives cannot, in the same yearly breath as the unearthing of President Trump’s scandalous affair with a porn star, grant the President a utilitarian-justified character hall pass and then assail a presidential candidate for a mistake during his youth. To claim the tenets of imperfection and the implementation of required change and then not apply them to this individual’s 20-year-old case is both disingenuous and unbecoming of conservatism.
Beto O’Rourke offers plenty to critique. From gesticulating like a walking tube man advertisement to his views on national security and abortion, or a simple lack of political achievement whatsoever, there’s no need to dig beneath the surface for ammo. His DWI was a mistake of youthful arrogance, not of character, and, thankfully, not irreparable. If someone cannot find redemption in the court of public opinion for such a mistake despite transparency, a sincere apology, and atonement, the precedent for the future appears woeful for liberals and conservatives alike.
While Beto’s DWI is a major fault, it shouldn’t be career-ending. It’s time for conservatives to practice what they preach and move past it.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.