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Beto O'Rourke has finally proved himself a worthy presidential candidate – don't drop out now

I’d rather have someone speaking to pain so plainly than the stoic leadership we’ve been conditioned to see as best

Michael Arceneaux
Wednesday 07 August 2019 10:35 BST
Beto O'Rourke says Trump is 'most racist president since Andrew Johnson'

It may have taken tragedy but in the past few days Beto O’Rourke has finally gotten good at running for president.

There is a significant platform that comes with seeking the highest office in the US. Of all the candidates presently enjoying it, it is O’Rourke who has arguably made the best use of it in the wake of the tragic mass shooting in El Paso at the hands of a white nationalist. That is not to say that his Democratic colleagues have failed to respond meaningfully, but the manner in which O’Rourke conveyed the exasperation and anger at the greater forces that contribute to these violent incidents this week finally separated him from his competitors.

O’Rourke choked back tears as he announced that he’d be cutting a campaign trip short in order to return to El Paso, where the congressional district he used to represent is based. It was a significant difference from Donald Trump’s remarks, delivered on Monday, about the the two massacres that took place over a single weekend – a pitiful scene in which a lifeless Trump read a script from the teleprompter and spoke of sympathy while still managing to incorrectly name the city of Toledo, instead of Dayton where the second shooting took place.

By contrast, O'Rourke got angry. Nearly 36 hours after a racist coward grabbed his guns and killed 22 people in his hometown in the name of white fragility, O’Rourke was stopped at a vigil by a reporter asking about Trump -- namely what he could “do now to make this any better

“What do you think?” O’Rourke asked, reportedly shaking his head in vexation. “You know the s*** that he’s been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know, like, members of the press: What the f***?” Throwing his hands up, he continued, “It’s these questions that you know the answers to. I mean, connect the dots about what he’s been doing in this country. He’s not tolerating racism; he’s promoting racism.” O’Rourke has continued to label Trump’s racism in subsequent interviews and those in the media who pay lip service, if not flat out lend credence to, Trump’s empty dismissals of bigotry. And in the case of the mass shooting in Dayton, O’Rourke is right to also highlight the link between those who abuse women and those who engage in gun violence – another break from the political status quo.

I understand the importance of presenting composure in moments of pain, but there is also power in displaying raw emotion. I’d rather have someone speaking to the pain as plainly as O’Rourke than the stoic leadership we’ve been conditioned to see as best.

Although I have made my thoughts on why O’Rourke’s campaign has dimmed clear, I cannot join in with the growing chorus calling on the former congressman, who gained national attention for his Texas senatorial bid, to stop running for president in favour of another. He's showed his potential to keep the debate alive this week.

First, I have always maintained his removal would not necessarily benefit the two women seeking the nomination, and therefore would not prove beneficial to the race as a whole. Second, as a Texan inspired by witnessing his run for Senate, I was hoping that he would eventually find his footing. And by calling out Trump’s racism, along with the media's complicity in not properly addressing it, O’Rourke has indeed risen to the moment. He's helping to keep the Democratic debate truly alive.

O;Rourke finally resembles the man who became a national political folk hero in 2018. Rather than take himself out early, I’d much prefer Beto O’Rourke remain in the race – and watch to see how his story unfolds.

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