It was inevitable that as soon as Beto O’Rourke‘s name started rising in the polls of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders that he would also start being attacked by his competitors.
By some estimates there could be as many as 20 Democrats vying for the 2020 nomination, so competition will definitely be very fierce and intense. And even though he has not said he was running, O’Rourke’s name keeps showing up near the top in all recent polls.
For the past several weeks there have been more and more articles in the media attacking the charismatic young Texan’s progressive credentials. Even though his 2018 senate opponent Ted Cruz blasted him for being TOO liberal and progressive, members of the far left have been saying he is not progressive at all and votes like a Republican.
O’Rourke himself has tried to stay out of the fight, saying he doesn’t believe in labels.
And now, according to NBC News, supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) are denying that there is a coordinated campaign among them to discredit O’Rourke for not being progressive or liberal enough.
But NBC also has reported increasing numbers of Sanders supporters criticizing O’Rourke.
Norman Solomon, a Sanders delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, told NBC that:
“Americans are seeing underneath the superficial gloss of projections onto Beto. “I think this week can be understood as a kind of turning point, where — for the first time really — millions of Americans are seeing pieces that look underneath the superficial gloss of projections onto Beto.”
“What we’re seeing is someone who’s a big step up for red-state Texas statewide and actually a big step down for where the majority of Democrats are nationwide. … If we buy the Beto package, we’re gonna have buyer’s remorse later on.”
David Sirota, a journalist who worked for Sanders during his 2016 campaign, wrote this month that only Cruz had received more campaign donations from the oil and gas industry than O’Rourke during the 2018 cycle, NBC noted.
For his part, O’Rourke has pointed out that those contributions were from individuals, and he refused donations from corporate PACs, unlike Cruz.
Since both O’Rourke and Sanders are among the top contenders in a potential 2020 Democratic presidential primary it is not surprising that the arrows are already flying in O’Rourke’s direction. Sanders supporters are known for being very intense and for holding very strong progressive beliefs. Many see Sanders’ platform as a type of litmus test, and if other candidates don’t support every part of it then they will be attacked for not being progressive enough.
If Sanders doesn’t run, his cause will probably be picked up by other progressives such as Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California. But many Democrats still see Beto as one of the most progressive choices in the large field of candidates.
Jon Favreau, a speechwriter for Barack Obama, told NBC News that he believes “there’s not much appetite among Democratic voters to relive some of the dumb Twitter fights that we saw in the 2016 primary.”
“There are plenty of progressives who might run — from Beto and Bernie to Kamala and Booker and others — and I think it’s more productive to focus our time and energy talking about why we support the candidates who inspire us,” he added.
There is no question that all other potential 2020 Democratic candidates are worried about Beto O’Rourke. He has gotten favorable feedback from Barack Obama, Rev. Al Sharpton, Andrew Gillum and Chris Matthews. He raised record amounts of money in his senate race, and inspired millions of Americans while doing so.
It’s slightly over one year until the first 2020 primaries and caucuses begin. Between now and then we can expect to see more attacks on Beto O’Rourke from Democrats as well as from Donald Trump and other Republicans.
We hope that the 2020 Democratic primaries don’t turn into a bloodbath of negative campaigning, where Democrats start eating their own. This could be disastrous for the country and could lead to the election of another Republican president in 2020, which is the last thing the country needs.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.