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The Beto-Warren ticket

This morning, the New York Times reports that Beto O’Rourke’s campaign raised $6.1 million in the first 24 hours after he announced for president. That’s more than any other candidate, though Bernie Sanders, at $5.9 million, came close.

This adds considerable support to my belief that Beto will win the nomination. If that’s the case, then I think it’s also obvious who would be the perfect running mate: Elizabeth Warren.

Yes, it’s early. And yes, I’m ignoring my own advice about not making up our minds too soon and giving the candidates time to speak for themselves. It’s only partly for political reasons (or the $6.1 million) that I see Beto as the frontrunner. My main reason for seeing things this way is that, like it or not, media attention will make or break a candidate. Beto already is — and I believe he will remain — the media favorite.

Just look at how the media mangled the 2016 election. I’m not convinced that Donald Trump actually won that election. We need to hear what Robert Mueller and several House committees are going to tell us about the depth of the meddling. But one thing is for sure: The media could not take their eyes off Trump. The 2016 election was a train wreck of media malpractice and manipulated media, with the largest part of it working in Trump’s favor and against Hillary Clinton. No, this isn’t fair. Our media may be slightly chastened after helping to send a crime family and traitor to the White House 2016, but they’re still going to dispatch their reporters and cameras toward whatever they think will pull in the most eyeballs.

Much of the criticism of Beto’s campaign has been valid. But it’s also fixable. It’s true that his message has been vague. In 2018, he ran his campaign against the odious Ted Cruz without a pollster or a speech writer. With that $6.1 million, Beto can now afford a speech writer, and I expect he’ll get one quick.

The more progressive wing of the Democratic Party believes that Beto is too conservative. But I think it’s important to keep in mind that, when Beto ran against Cruz, the votes were all coming from Texas. For a national campaign, Beto will have to rethink things. He clearly hasn’t done that yet. The more progressive wing of the Democratic Party (that includes me) want a Green New Deal. We want reforms of the type that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have done such a good job of defining. I expect Beto to get on board with those things. If he doesn’t, then his frontrunner status is his to lose.

But I think it’s also important for Democrats of the left to acknowledge that many of the people who will be voting for Democrats in 2020 are not San Francisco liberals (like me). Those voters will feel more comfortable with a Democrat who is “too conservative.” That’s one of the reasons why Elizabeth Warren would be so important in balancing the ticket. She is strong where Beto is weak. Democrats must win the suburbs in 2020, and what the suburbs want is hardly radical — decency, predictability, stability, prosperity, and good lives for their children. They want to fix capitalism, not throw it over (which is what Warren wants, in spite of Republican bleating about “socialism”).

There is a saying in the business world: “Hire for character, train for skills.” There is a lot of truth in that. The right-wing demonization machine is already hard at work trying to demonize Beto for things he wrote on line when he was 15, and for a DWI case when he was 26. That stuff won’t stick. During the past few days, it also has come out that Beto was a member of a hacking group, “Cult of the Dead Cow.” Republicans will find that disturbing. But who gives a rat’s tail what Republicans think. Almost half of them are such withered souls that they think that Trump was sent by God. We Democrats should stop worrying about Trump 2020. Trump will be gone, brought down by the law. Fox News will have to find someone else.

To me, Beto-as-hacker-boy, out to save a sorry world from itself, says a lot about his character. It shows a revolutionary, transgressive spirit, rather than a dull, obedient, conservative one. He majored in English literature at Columbia, and that alone may show that Beto has an Irish heart to go with his Irish name. (The president of Ireland, Michael Higgins, is a poet.) At this very moment, I would guess, “establishment” Democrats and corporate money are knocking on Beto’s door, eager to co-opt him. I hope that Beto has the character to resist. Keep waving your arms, Beto.

Policy can be learned. But a fiery spirit, charisma, and telegenic star power cannot be learned. Those things are a rare gift. No other candidate has anything like it. Wonkdom will not win the next election. Fair or not, star power will. Like Obama, Beto’s spirit of reform is inspiring rather than angry. Only Beto has the qualities that will attract the media and the affection of the American people.

Update: Politico equates “balance” with sucking up to Republicans and snarking at Democrats. But money impresses them.


  1. Elissa Schroeder wrote:

    A Beto-Warrren ticket makes lots of sense politically, but you’re the first person I’ve heard suggest it, and I wonder about the personal chemistry. Do we know if they could collaborate successfully?

    Monday, March 18, 2019 at 1:02 pm | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Elissa… I’m guessing they’d do fine. But don’t you also think that political complementarity would matter more, including to the two of them?

    Warren would make a fine mentor for Beto. She has the policy and academic cred, plus the Senate experience. Of all the potential intellectual and policy input for the 2020 Democratic ticket, I would value Warren’s the most. Those who see Warren as too liberal would see Beto as a balance, and vice versa. Plus it is a cliché in American politics that there has to be a Southerner on the ticket. Is Texas the South? If Lyndon Johnson fit the bill, then Beto does, too.

    I don’t intend to be critical of the other candidates. They all have their strengths. But I can’t overlook the fact that Beto just out-raised the other candidates and that the media can’t take their eyes off of him. There also have been reports that he’s the candidate that Republicans are most afraid of.

    Also, this comment stands as the record that it was I who coined the phrase “America’s boyfriend.” 🙂

    Monday, March 18, 2019 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  3. JamesM wrote:

    Agree with much of what you’re saying. The choices in 2016 were flawed at best. Warren has baggage, hopefully she can overcome it. Those on the far left need to move toward center. Half a loaf is better…. I’m lighting candles and offering ablutions.

    Monday, March 18, 2019 at 9:02 pm | Permalink
  4. Dan wrote:

    So, no Bernie?

    Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 8:51 am | Permalink
  5. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Dan… I voted for Bernie in the 2016 primary. My view at present, though, is that it’s very important that Democrats stop relitigating the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton had the good sense to understand that, through no fault of her own, she is now a divisive figure. The same is true of Bernie. A wiser man than he would have stepped down for the good of the party. He no longer inspires. He is too angry. That said, we owe Bernie a huge debt of gratitude for opening up the conversation and making it possible for liberals to be liberals again.

    Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 9:02 am | Permalink
  6. Sistine wrote:

    Totally agree! I find him refreshing.Would Elizabeth Warren want to be second fiddle?

    Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
  7. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Sistine… Unfortunately, Elizabeth Warren has not been able to raise much money, and of course that’s not a good indicator. But she is so smart and so good at policy that she deserves a role in the next administration. If not vice president, then something else.

    Part of the beauty of the candidate-selection process is that good candidates don’t have to totally lose. They get powerful positions in the new administration, the way Hillary became secretary of state under Obama.

    Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 4:39 pm | Permalink
  8. Dan wrote:

    Bernie was the most popular candidate in 2016 but was kneecapped by his own party – that is a fact. Hillary was and still is incredibly unpopular. Bernie is the best possible candidate to get the Overton window off the ledge of the far-right.

    The real problem isn’t Bernie or true leftists who rallied enough to provide almost as much as Beto but without corporate donors – it’s centrists and liberals who capitulate and compromise at every turn. AOC is proof that the old moneyed Democratic guard of Feinstein and Pelosi is fading into obscurity.

    If Beto, Biden, Warren, Booker, or Harris get the nod, Trump will win again unless Mueller stops him. Rationality doesn’t apply to the national elections, just popularity and bombast.

    Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 10:09 pm | Permalink
  9. Dan wrote:

    If that previous comment comes across an anger directed at you, I apologize. I am very frustrated with the mainstream media’s depiction of the Democratic Party. Bernie gets no love from them and he’s very popular among the youth. He’s definitely still has the fire in him to inspire people.

    In fairness, I know he comes across as “Crazy Bernie” but, I mean, the *literal* worst person in the world is our current president. I think it will take someone with the gall to put him in his place to keep this country from being hammered into a full blown post-capitalist hellscape run by gun-clinging Old Testament fascists by 2024.

    Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 10:35 pm | Permalink
  10. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Dan… I’m afraid I’m going to lose on my resolution not to get involved in arguments about Bernie. I enthusiastically voted for Bernie in the 2016 primary. Later I abandoned Bernie for the damage that many of his supporters did by demonizing the Democratic coalition and turning to Jill Stein, to Trump’s benefit. Yesterday, by hiring the dishonest Dan Sirota plus Briahna Joy Gray, who voted for Stein, I am terrified that Bernie & Company learned nothing from 2016.

    We owe Bernie a huge debt for, as you say, moving the Overton window to the left. If Bernie proves, by winning the primaries, that he can win the general election, then of course I will support him.

    As for Trump, I continue to argue that he does not have a chance of even being around to run again. Trump is too guilty of too many things. He is not going to be able to beat the law this time.

    Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at 8:10 am | Permalink

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