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Current Events Beto O'Rourke: a Texan social experiment

Nov. 10, 2018
Avatar zoe allen writer.jpg2c676fc9 2a4a 48cb a392 f278501604bf

I frantically refreshed the results of Tuesday night’s Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke for over an hour, watching the results come in from counties all around my state. I watched as Dallas County, where I cast my vote, and the cities of Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, and Austin, went blue, overwhelmingly in support for Beto, and almost every other county went red. 

The entire nation paid close attention to the highly contested Senate race between the seemingly unpopular incumbent Republican Senator and the young, charismatic former Congressman from El Paso. Most of the country was too timid to believe it, too anxious to fully say it out loud, but whispers circulated in the months leading up to Tuesday’s midterm elections—will Beto turn Texas blue? 

Ted Cruz won a second term in the United States Senate, beating O’Rourke by one of the narrowest margins that Texas has seen in years, 51 to 48 percent—slightly over 200,000 votes, according to the Associated Press. 

I watched Beto’s impassioned concession speech in my college newspaper’s newsroom that night, feeling hopeful still. Despite the sense of hope that O’Rourke instilled in me, an effect he had on so many voters across the state of Texas, I could not help but be disappointed with the results of Tuesday’s election. I know that millions of Texans faced the same feelings as me late that evening; grateful for all that Beto did and will continue to do for our state, but wishing that the outcome of the Senate race had been in his favor. 

Twitter quickly looked to point fingers after his loss. I read about different scapegoats with every refresh of my feed, the most absurd being The New York Post’s tweet that said “Bey was late and a dollar short for Beto O’Rourke support,” in reference to the singer expressing her support for the nominee hours before the polls closed on Tuesday night. However, it was clear to me that only Texans were responsible for the outcome. The Texans that did not turn out to the polls. The 71 percent of white men that voted for Cruz, and the 59 percent of white women. The Texans that I do not know, I have not met, but make up the majority of my state. 

In the thirty-six hours since Cruz picked up his second term as the junior Senator from Texas, I have thought a lot about the dichotomy between myself and those who voted for Cruz. Mostly, the lack of the dichotomy between them and me. Of all the people that I know in Texas, the state where I have lived for the last eighteen years, I cannot name a single person in my life who I know for a fact voted to reelect Cruz. 

This fact, perhaps, is the biggest telltale sign of the liberal bubble in which I live. My high school often referred to itself as existing within a “bubble,” and it has become clear to me that I exist in my own. I was timidly hopeful about Beto’s odds, but never 100 percent certain. Still, I cannot account for one person out of the 4.2 million plus people who voted for Cruz. It seems as though almost everyone in my life is empowered to vote, and more specifically, empowered to vote for Beto. If Tuesday’s election was based solely on the votes of my circle of friends, family, and acquaintances, Beto O’Rourke would have won with 100 percent of the votes. 

This is what is concerning to me: my lack of interaction with people who turned out for Cruz, my perpetual residency in the liberal echo chamber. But the echochamber is not Texas’ reality; the reality is almost the exact opposite. The reality is the 4.2 million people who voted for Cruz—an outspoken supporter of ICE, restricting access to abortions, and protecting gun rights, and a believer in the idea that the 2016 Supreme Court decision to make gay marriage legal across the nation is in violation of the Constitution (you can read a more comprehensive list of his other policy positions here). He is one of the most unpopular politicians in the eyes of the country, as demonstrated by his failed 2016 bid for the Republican Party nomination. The reality is a Texas where millions of people did not vote. It is clear that my reality is very different from that of Texas.

It is vital that I understand the differences between my reality and the reality of my state. To hope for change, to push for a state that would have elected Beto O’Rourke, I must understand the 51 percent that voted for Cruz, and perhaps more importantly, forge connections with the millions who did not vote at all. I need to listen to their stories, understand their positions, and share my own thoughts with them. Texas is more than just its cities—it is the tiny towns and suburbs too.  

This election proved that it is mostly the rural, and that the cities could not win Texas for Beto O’Rourke. And without understanding that, I cannot begin to understand Texas.