Beto O’Rourke, a skateboarding former punk rocker feted as one of the Democratic Party’s rising stars, announced Thursday he is running for president – joining a crowded field of candidates vying to challenge Donald Trump in 2020.
“The only way for us to live up to the promise of America is to give it our all and to give it for all of us,” O’Rourke, 46, said in a video, filmed alongside his wife in their El Paso, Texas home.
O’Rourke has been discussed as a potential frontrunner since dazzling the grassroots during an unexpectedly tight race last year to unseat Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, his charismatic stump performances and message of inclusion turning heads in Washington.
‘Man, I Just Want To Be In It’
On Thursday morning, he was already taking questions from voters in Keokuk, Iowa – following in the footsteps of other Democrats keen to raise their profiles in the state that will vote before any other in the 2020 primary process.
He has vowed to run a positive campaign that would seek to “bring out the very best from every single one of us” and unite a country riven by political, social and cultural fissures.
“You can probably tell that I want to run,” he told Vanity Fair in this month’s cover story, featuring a photography spread by Annie Leibovitz.
“Man, I’m just born to be in it.” Beto O’Rourke seemed to come from nowhere to the brink of a presidential candidacy—but he’s been on this journey for his whole life. O’Rourke spoke with Joe Hagan. Photographs by Annie Leibovitz. https://t.co/WhmQGZnbUg pic.twitter.com/a7DCoaZdtd
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) March 13, 2019
In the article, published online hours before his official announcement, O’Rourke acknowledged his ambition for the top job — although he stopped short of confirming his run.
“Man, I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment,” he said.
O’Rourke has entered a pool of 14 other Democrats seeking to oust Trump.
They include several U.S. senators – Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar and the leader among current candidates, liberal powerhouse Bernie Sanders.
The last main piece of the 2020 election puzzle on the Democrats’ side is former vice president Joe Biden, who has said he will reveal his political plans soon.
To one Iowan’s question on running alongside so many other Democrats, O’Rourke said it was “critically important that we not denigrate, demean any other candidate.”
“Any single Democrat running today … would be far better than the current occupant of the White House,” he said to applause.
O’Rourke, a bassist in the moderately successful El Paso band Foss who became known for going skateboarding to blow off steam on the Texas campaign trail, has been tipped to quickly achieve rockstar status.
But that will come with intensifying scrutiny from the media, Democratic power brokers and donors, as well as voters.
As a three-term congressman, O’Rourke was more politically cautious, joining the House’s centrist, pro-business New Democrat Coalition.
In his Senate run, however, he ran an unconventional campaign, espousing progressive positions on immigration and health care, while traveling to every county in strongly Republican Texas in a bid to heal political divisions.
O’Rourke is yet to endorse Medicare for All, the single-payer healthcare plan brought to prominence in 2016 by Sanders and now supported by most of his Democratic competitors.
In Thursday’s announcement, he broadened his political vision with promises to prioritize criminal justice reform and tackle climate change.
On immigration – one of the most divisive issues of Trump’s presidency – O’Rourke called for legal paths for immigrants “to work, to be with family and to flee persecution.”
His native El Paso, which borders Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez, was recently visited by the president for a rally filled with dire warnings about Mexican criminals and calls for bigger and longer border walls.
.@BetoORourke wants to be positive. But the monopolists and cheaters and riggers won’t concede anything.
When you have a problem of foxes eating hens, kumbaya is a recipe for slaughter. pic.twitter.com/HDKAsIsmQt
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) March 14, 2019
“All of us, wherever you live, can acknowledge that if immigration is a problem it’s the best possible problem for this country to have,” O’Rourke insisted.
But O’Rourke’s presidential announcement has been met with measured skepticism by some more progressive Democrats who find his rhetoric to be overly vague and who accuse him of being overly conciliatory to powerful corporations and special interests.
“When you have a problem of foxes eating hens, kumbaya is a recipe for slaughter,” Anand Giridharadas, author of “Winner’s Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” said on MSNBC Thursday morning.
‘Nothing to Lose’
O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign was time-consuming and he signaled that he felt disconnected from family as a result.
“My family hasn’t seen me,” he told Oprah Winfrey in February. “I haven’t been there for them.”
His disappointment about his narrow defeat was clear when he embarked on a low-key road trip and blogged about the experience, writing on January 16 that he has been “in and out of a funk.”
But it also showed a candidate appearing to enjoy himself.
He could be seen skateboarding between events. He jammed onstage with country music legend Willie Nelson, and pledged to “listen to everyone, regardless of the differences.”
In a new documentary on his improbable Senate campaign, “Running with Beto,” the rising star offered sage advice for candidates like himself: “Run like there’s nothing to lose.”
More on the Subject
Young people are getting married, buying homes, and having children at historically low rates. For the first time since World War I, life expectancy is in decline while suicides are at historic highs and Americans are more likely to die from an opioid overdose than a car crash.
Andrew Yang, an accomplished entrepreneur and a 2020 Democratic candidate for president of the United States, is hoping to change all of that. His platform, which includes a modest universal basic income, universal healthcare, and student debt reduction, is aimed at expanding opportunities for people to pursue meaningful careers and more dignified lives.
With the 2020 race underway, The Globe Post spoke to Yang about his vision for America and his ambitious plans to save society from what he sees as its bleak future.