Rising Texas Democratic star Beto O’Rourke held a competing rally just half a mile from Donald Trump‘s campaign event in El Paso on Monday night, and he blew the president out of the water with a message of unity and optimism.
While Trump stuck to his usual racist campaign strategy of demonizing immigrants, O’Rourke leaned heavily on the same optimistic message that helped him come within three points of unseating Texas Sen. Ted Cruz last November.
“We can show the rest of the country, as we make our stand here together tonight, that walls do not make us safer,” O’Rourke said before a raucous crowd. “We stand for America, and we stand against walls.”
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) February 12, 2019
Walls do not make us safer. Walls will require us to take someone’s property, their house, their farm, their ranch, to build a wall at a time of record-low northbound apprehensions, at a time that El Paso is not the outlier in the cities on the border. … The U.S. cities of the U.S.–Mexico border are far safer than the U.S. cities deeper in the interior of the United States of America. Walls do not save lives. Walls end lives. In the last 10 years, more than 4,000 children, women and men have died trying to come to this country, to work jobs that no one will take, to be with a family member, to flee horrific brutality and violence and death in their home countries.
O’Rourke also took a sledgehammer to the president’s lies about his home city, saying that it’s safe, “not because of walls, but in spite of walls; secure because we treat one another with dignity and respect. ”
“That is the way we make our communities and our country safe,” he added.
O’Rourke tore into Trump for trying to scare people into thinking there is a crisis on the southern border.
“There is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to the U.S.-Mexico border,” he said. “Let’s make sure that our laws, our language and our leaders reflect our values, who we are, our experience, what we know, to do great things for this country.”
“The eyes of history, the judgment of the people of the future … are looking back at this moment to see what we do,” O’Rourke told the crowd.
O’Rourke beat Trump on his signature issue
Donald Trump has made immigration and his proposed vanity wall on the southern border the centerpiece of his political career. Heck, he kept the government shut down for 35 days over the issue.
While a majority of Americans have consistently opposed the president’s divisive approach to immigration, he has still had success in hijacking the issue and using it to mobilize his base of voters.
On Monday night, Beto O’Rourke didn’t just beat Trump at his own game on his signature issue, but he did it with a fact-based message of unity that appeals far more broadly than the president’s hateful rhetoric.
If Democrats want to win in 2020, they need to be able to take it to Trump on immigration, and O’Rourke showed that he is uniquely capable of doing just that.
An O’Rourke presidential campaign is looking more likely
While there has been much speculation about Beto O’Rourke‘s plans for 2020, his raucous rally in El Paso was the clearest indication yet that he is building to a presidential campaign.
At the very least, O’Rourke wants to remain part of the discussion as he weighs his decision. The dueling rallies at the border gave him the opportunity to do just that and go toe-to-toe with Trump at the same time.
The field of potential Democratic nominees is quickly becoming large, but Beto O’Rourke proved on Monday night that if he decides to run, he would be a top-tier candidate.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.