Rhetorical Recap: A Man in Continous Motion

Beto O’Rourke Candidacy Announcement Speeches, El Paso, Houston, and Austin TX, March 30, 2019

I don’t know whether Beto O’Rourke keeps a diary. Seems old-fashioned, but you never know. If he does, here is what may have raced through his mind and onto an audio recording app on his phone at the end of the day last Saturday, after he gave the customary presidential campaign declaration speech before a live crowd. I have not attempted to mimic his speech or writing style. 


Bernie Sanders flexed his political muscles by delivering two declaration speeches on back to back days. I gave three speeches in one day and held more than one thousand watch parties to boot! I timed my oratorical debut on the presidential hopeful stage for the day before the first campaign finance reporting deadline. I had apologized for my remark about my wife Amy staying home with our children; today I answered doubters of my commitment to gender equality by having Amy introduce me and show people she can bring it.

I am a man in continuous motion. My arm plunges and soars like a symphony conductor’s. I jump on and off diner countertops. The podium Amy and others used to introduce me was removed so I could roam the stage and speak in the round. And I spoke extemporaneously: no Teleprompter visible because no Teleprompter used.

I strummed a traditional chord by centering my speech around my hometown and upbringing. I name-checked my parents and sisters, and sang praise to the world-class public school teachers at Mesita Elementary and the small business community I joined. I credited these people in my life and thanked “you,” El Paso, as I wove my issue positions and commitment to bipartisanship into my narrative:

You elected me in 2005 to serve this community on the city council, not as a Democrat, not as a Republican, but as an El Pasoan, working with our fellow El Pasoans to improve this community, to turn around our mass transit system, to invest in neighborhoods and people, to protect our public spaces, and to never shy away from the fights in front of us, like extending healthcare benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees regardless of the consequences, regardless of the recall elections that would follow.

I am a prodigal son, a Walt Whitman yawper (though not barbaric), the shirt-sleeved crowd-plunging heir to Robert Francis (my real name) Kennedy. And I extend this Sensitive Seeker lineage forward because I am also a punk rocker who entered and exited the stage today to “Clampdown” by The Clash, the same song I quoted in a debate with Ted Cruz last year. “Clampdown” has the words:

In these days of evil Presidentes

Working for the clampdown

I have also drawn from Bruce Springsteen for my persona. I told Vanity FairI was born to run. I took a road tripwith my House bro Will Hurd (R-TX) in 2017. We live-streamed it; I did not campaign against him in his tight race in 2018; I couldn’t do that after producing a digital buddy movie that enshrines the ideal of bipartisan governance.

I made a silk purse out of the Senate race I lost to Ted Cruz by sustaining my El Paso theme and focusing on the collateral benefits of the turnout that I generated, especially young voters:

In El Paso, it was your story that I told all over Texas in every single one of these 254 counties, all people, no PACs, all the time. Everyone counts, everyone matters, so we showed up everywhere to listen to everyone….We were able to win votes from Republicans and Independents, expand the number of Democrats who voted in an election, and this state, this state, which before 2018 had ranked 50th in voter turnout, this state saw voter turnout approaching presidential year election levels. This state, this state saw young voter turnout up 500 percent over the last midterm election.

From there I made theskateboard jump to declare my candidacy and landed on my depiction of our national troubles, which flowed from the policy issues we face to the meta-issue of a democracy corrupted by fear-mongering and “unrestrained money.”

I saved my immigration policy module until after I demonstrated fluency on the other issues that matter to me. I took left-of-center positions, right in this year’s Democratic mainstream. I did not talk about costs, revenues, or the budget.

Trump teed me up on immigration (as though I needed that!) by threatening to close the border to deal with the surge of undocumented people trying to enter our country. He calls them “illegal aliens.” I call them “asylum seekers” pouring into “the largest binational community in this hemisphere,” including Ciudad Juarez. He fans fears of their entry; I point out that:

20 years running, we've been one of the safest cities in the United States of America. We are safe, not despite the fact that we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers. We are safe because we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers. We have learned, we have learned not to fear our differences, but to respect and embrace them.

I filled El Paso Street with supporters to the horizon where the Paso del Norte Bridge could be seen. I decided not to put a remote camera there and have a cutaway shot of the people being detained beneath it while I spoke about thechain-linked fence and barbed wire.

I did more issue modules, blending in references to immigration:

Let's earn, let's earn the respect of the people around the world, not just by how we treat those in other countries, but how we treat those within our country, and how we treat those who are at the border of our country.

If we do that, we can make sure that we once again become the indispensable nation convening the other nations of this planet around some of our shared challenges like climate change, like nuclear disarmament, like ending all of these wars that we are currently engaged in…

I closed sounding notes of gratitude, unity, and idealism:

Together, together we can make sure that America fulfills its promise for ourselves, for each other, and for every generation that succeeds us.

Then I waded into my mosh-pit of supporters.

I know some people discount me because of my relative youth and, perversely, my personal popularity. I hope these detractors and doubters remember that I do not have a day job, so I can run nonstop.

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