How Beto Did It (OPINION)

Nov 6, 2018
10:56 am
Originally published at TonyDiaz.net

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) (L) and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) face off in a debate at the KENS 5 studios on October 16, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Tom Reel-Pool/Getty Images)

HOUSTON — I am more comfortable talking about this the day of the election because there is little the Ted Cruz campaign can do to respond. It was also important to keep the Beto base confident yet diligent. It was also key to keep Cruz’s base over-confident.

One very important aspect was that the Beto campaign was brilliant at messaging without bickering.

At first, I wanted Beto to go for the jugular, but I realized what he was doing while attending one of the first events where I saw the rock star movement take flight.

It was in Houston at a concert venue called LIVE. This must have been the first political event they ever hosted. And if it wasn’t, this was the first one that was soooo packed. I did not expect that many folks to be there. And the concert venue was fitting because, besides music to get folks fired up, the folks in the room were in a great mood and ready to cheer on Beto.

I was glad that I was backstage because the line to get in was long and with that many people it felt like the Southwest Freeway at 5pm on a Friday.

And Beto fired them up. On stage, I could see the poise, the delivery, the message, and I could see the mass of folks staring up and cheering, laughing, or shouting at the exact right time.

Afterwards, I bolted to the exits because I wanted to interact with folks, and, of course, I wanted to get them even more stoked.

It was a crowd of majority Anglo folks with a lot of Latinos among them, dressed in t-shirts, shorts, and suited to keep chillin’ at the surrounding lounges and bars. I could hear folks saying that this was the first time they came to hear a politician, that this was the first election they would participate in. They were boisterous. I egged them by chanting “Beto, Beto, Beto.” They joined me.

But then I took it too far.

I then started chanting “Bye, Lying Ted, Bye Lying Ted”. And then there were crickets. I was surprised. But I was determined to get them even more riled up. I shouted “Vote Ted Out. Vote Ted Out.”

Nothing.

Then someone else started chanting “Beto, Beto, Beto”’ and the crowd picked it up.

It was then I realized that Beto had the perfect approach for new voters. It is the experienced and jaded voters who like to bicker and shout and go for the jugular. That turns new voters off. It also turns off young voters.

I asked college students this question during Beto’s barnstorming of about 40 colleges, including community colleges. I didn’t expect more than 300 people to attend the Beto Rally at Lone Star College-North Harris, way past the bustle of Houston’s 610 loop, so close to the Houston Intercontinental Airport that you have to pause your conversation on the quad as airplanes pass over on their way to landing. About 1,000 students showed up, with students still in line. At least half of the students were Latino, with the rest split between African American and Anglo students.

I asked one student about wanting to see a more aggressive style. She told me it was like listening to her parents argue. No thanks.

Brilliant.

Beto shaped his message for the hearts, minds, and votes of young folks, new voters, among them so many Latinos. They did not show up in the surveys for the evening because they are not on the voter lists. They will show up to break records, and they are responsible for ushering in a new era for Texas.

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Tony Diaz is a writer, activist, professor and media personality. More at TonyDiaz.net. He tweets from @Librotraficante

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