The World At Home: Charles Laffiteau’s Bigger Picture
2019-01-01 12:39:25 -


Charles Laffiteau’s Bigger Picture


I BEGIN 2019 by expressing my belief that Beto O’Rourke will succeed Donald Trump as America’s 46th president on 20 January 2021. As some of this newspaper’s readers may recall, I made a similar prediction about a first-term Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama back in March 2007, 11 months before the first presidential contest, the January 2008 Iowa caucuses.

But I must also confess that, much like my prediction about Senator Obama in 2007, this year’s prognostication also contains a healthy dose of wishful thinking. Even though I am still a lifelong card carrying member of the Republican Party, I also plan to support Beto O’Rourke if he decides to run for US President in 2020. Why? Because as I have noted in previous columns, Republicans like me who put the interests of the American people ahead of their own selfish political and personal agendas have become anachronisms in the Republican Party of Trump.

Even though he was running as a Democrat, both before and during his presidential campaign, President Obama made no secret of his admiration for our nation’s first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. Although neither man was born there, both adopted Illinois as their home state before they got involved in politics. Moreover, President Obama chose to make his speech announcing his plan to run for president on the steps of the Old Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, the site of President Lincoln’s famous “house divided” speech.

After he was elected, and evoking Lincoln, President Obama chose to take a train from Chicago to Washington, DC instead of flying or traveling in a motorcade. Unlike President Trump, both Lincoln and Obama were also gifted orators who chose to debate the issues with civility and refused to engage in mudslinging or personal attacks on their opponents. In addition, like President Lincoln did with William Seward, President Obama chose to bring his political opponent from New York, Hillary Clinton, into his administration as his Secretary of State.

Much like President Obama, there are also a number of interesting parallels between Beto O’Rourke and Abraham Lincoln. Both O’Rourke and Lincoln were elected to the US House of Representatives but subsequently lost their respective bids for seats of incumbent senators. Like Lincoln, O’Rourke is also a skilled orator and political campaigner who can inspire an audience and energise his army of followers.

Like Lincoln’s loss to Douglas, O’Rourke’s narrow loss to Senator Ted Cruz also enhanced his national reputation. Like Obama and Lincoln, Beto O’Rourke would be running for office during a point in time in American history with our nation deeply divided. For Beto O’Rourke, the divisive issue is President Trump and his anti-immigrant, anti-free trade, anti-press and anti-democratic rhetoric and political posturing.

But before he can be elected, Beto O’Rourke must first win the Democratic presidential nomination. Given the rather large field of experienced Democrats champing at the bit to take on President Trump in 2020, that will be no easy task for any candidate, especially one who has just lost a hard-fought Senate race. But if Beto O’Rourke does win the nomination and defeats President Trump in 2020, he will join Lincoln as the only candidates to become president directly on the heels of losing a Senate race.

So where does Beto O’Rourke stand with respect to other, better-known potential 2020 Democratic presidential aspirants? Former Vice President Joe Biden topped the crowded field of potential Democratic candidates as the top choice of 32 per cent of Iowa Democrats, more than a dozen points ahead of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Given their past runs, it’s not surprising that both of these men currently lead the field. But in third place with the support of 11 per cent of Iowa Democrats is Beto O’Rourke, three points ahead of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. No other Democratic candidate polls over five per cent.

What is even more interesting than Beto O’Rourke’s strong third place showing is how high his favourable ratings are, and how low his unfavourable grades, compared to those of fellow candidates with higher name recognition. That’s worth bearing in mind as the next few months pan out.

Charles Laffiteau is a US Republican from Dallas, Texas pursuing a career in public service. He previously lectured on Contemporary US Business & Society at DCU from 2009-2011 and pursued a PhD in Public Policy and Political Economy.

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