Beto's in.. Mueller Papers update
Beto O’Rourke is jumping into the presidential race, a local Texas TV station confirmed tonight, as rumors of an impending announcement were swirling around Washington (and, apparently, El Paso).
[An update on the Mueller Papers is below.]
The biggest clue that Beto was preparing to announce came when his camp emailed volunteers on the Senate campaign, saying, “We need help sending some text messages tomorrow morning.” That’s a reference to what’s known as distributed organizing that was pioneered by an element of the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. In 2018, some of the key staffers behind it, including Becky Bond and and Zack Malitz, joined Beto’s Texas Senate campaign and took distributed organizing to the next level. They and some other veterans of the Sanders campaign have stayed with Beto, even as Sanders has re-launched his presidential bid.
The request for volunteers to send text messages may seem fairly standard, but there’s something revolutionary about it from an organizing perspective. It empowers volunteers from the very start to begin to take actually useful action on behalf of the campaign. And it requires an immense amount of trust in the campaign’s supporters, but it also requires a message and a messenger that people believe in passionately. That was O’Rourke in his 2018 Senate bid, partially because his unapologetically progressive affect stood in such stark contrast to the national understanding of Texas politics. O’Rourke also benefited greatly from running against a widely reviled Republican opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz. Whether the energy he harnessed in 2018 carries with him into a 2020 presidential run could be determined as early as the first few days of the run.
If those volunteers respond with a barrage of text messages that generate new volunteers and add up to big money, O’Rourke is in the hunt. O’Rourke, though, is viewed skeptically by a segment of the left, which worries that he is a new version of Barack Obama, a blank canvas on which the hopeful can paint their political dreams, only to be disappointed as he seeks deals with industry or the GOP. Democrats are confident that Trump can be defeated in 2020, but there are questions as to whether O’Rourke has the drive to defeat Trumpism.
He has hinted in essays from the road about the threat of fascism in America, and said that he recognizes today’s GOP isn’t interested in compromise, yet his ever-hopeful spirit has some progressives worried he’d squander his presidency hoping Republicans change. And while he has praised the Green New Deal, his roots in oil country — and his suggestion that fossil fuels can be a part of the solution to climate change — have further worried some Democrats that he may not fully grasp the existential nature of the threat.
My full story in The Intercept on O’Rourke’s entrance into the race, complete with a story about the role weed played in it, is here.
And if you read last week’s newsletter, you know that at Strong Arm Press we compiled all of Mueller’s greatest hits -- his most interesting sentencing memos, indictments and other filings -- into a single book. The paperback version is now out! It’s here.