Two staffers for Democrat presidential contender Beto O’Rourke are ditching the former congressman from El Paso because they don’t believe he’s the real deal, opting instead to put their efforts behind socialist Bernie Sanders.
University of Texas students Autumn Lanning and Bryant Young told the Texas Tribune they decided to jump ship after working for more than a year in O’Rourke’s failed bid to replace Sen. Ted Cruz.
What they came to realize, they said, is O’Rourke is all talk, and his actual voting record shows he’s not the progressive candidate he plays on the campaign trail.
“We were definitely very, very caught up and invested in it,” Lanning said of the “Betomania” that gripped the 2018 senate race. “It was after the election that we started being like like, ok his voting record actually is horrible.”
The duo cited O’Rourke “fawning over” the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC in September and his dependence on Big Oil money donations, despite signing a “Fossil Free” pledge to shun contributions tied to oil companies.
“Realizing that he was the No. 2 recipient of fossil fuel money and the No. 1 is Ted Cruz … that’s really just not acceptable,” Lanning said.
“He’s very good at kind of making this word jumble of what he’s speaking about,” she said, but “he doesn’t really say anything concrete and that’s kind of suspect for progressives I think.”
Young elaborated in a YouTube video last month.
“If any of you have ever gone to any Beto rallies, or had the chance to meet him, he’s a very charismatic, honest-seeming person. He delivers his message in a really just inspiring charismatic sort of way, which I think brought on and accurately so the Obama comparisons that he was getting,” he said.
“But I think this inspirational charisma that a lot of politicians tend to have and tend to actually value in politics, I think it’s an inherently damaging thing,” Young said. “Because now that we know his voting record … a lot of people let him slide on almost every issue that’s important to us.”
O’Rourke’s weak position on healthcare as another example he’s not truly progressive, the duo told the Tribune.
The politician won’t endorse Medicare for All, instead opting for a watered-down Medicare for America plan with a “public option.”
They also noted that during O’Rourke short tenure as a congressman, he voted with Republicans on bills aimed at killing Obamacare and streamlining the hiring process for new border and customs agents.
“It just felt like he was sort of tagging onto Trump’s rhetoric about militarizing the border, and just hire as many Border Patrol agents as possible in a short amount of time,” Young told the Tribune.
While O’Rourke’s campaign pushed back on Lanning and Young’s concerns, offering varying excuses for the candidate’s flip-flops and side-stepping, a spokesman thanked the two for participating in “the largest grassroots campaign Texas had ever seen” last year.
Lanning and Young said they’ve lost friends over their defection, but they’re now feeling the Bern with a truly progressive candidate, and they’re offering no apologies.
“It hasn’t been received too well from my former co-workers,” Young told the Tribune. “There’s a lot of burned bridges there.”