Despite a record $70 million and glowing press coverage, Texas Democrat Robert “Beto” O’Rourke came up short in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Blame it on Beto’s tin ear at the border.
While a fawning media hailed the boyish 46-year-old congressman from El Paso as a “rock star” with deep-pocketed donors in California, O’Rourke’s positions on immigration didn’t play nearly so well across the Lone Star State.
Blithely ignoring the costs and crime associated with illegal immigration in his state, O’Rourke stumped for an “end [to]the militarization of our immigration enforcement system,” citizenship for “Dreamers,” a “modernized visa system to allow U.S. employers to find workers for jobs that American workers can’t fill,” and “legalizing the status of millions of immigrants already in our country.”
That agenda – shadowed by migrant caravans trudging north through Mexico — left the field wide open for Cruz and other Texas Republicans to pound away at border security, and the urgent need to repair this nation’s broken immigration laws. These are winning positions in Texas, where, it should be noted, 40 percent of the population is Hispanic.
Though other issues were also in play, neither O’Rourke’s open borders talking points nor his prodigious bankroll could save him. Had he made even a modest bow to public concerns about the border, Hollywood’s darling might have swung the election.
Beyond Texas and the Beto-Cruz contest, other elections were a mixed bag, with some immigration-enforcement candidates winning and others going down to defeat. But in Texas, which is on the front lines of massive influxes of migrants, waffling on the border did not sit well with voters.
Brenda Brauch, an Austin resident who identified herself as an independent voter, told The New York Times that the immigration issue had her siding with Cruz, whom O’Rourke outspent 2-to-1.
“I don’t want open borders,” she said. “There should be the right way to come into a country and the wrong way.” Speaking of O’Rourke, she averred, “I like his enthusiasm, but I think he’s missing some points.”
To their discredit, Texas Democrats like O’Rourke still haven’t learned that immigration enforcement is a unifying, winning issue. Strong immigration laws are the key to a safer, more prosperous, cohesive and environmentally sound country.
Mainstream media outlets also remain in deep denial. After Cruz’s victory, the Washington Post gushed that O’Rourke “emerged as a major player in the Democratic Party heading into 2020.” Not one mention of immigration.
Media credulity was on display throughout the campaign as every big-city newspaper in Texas endorsed O’Rourke. Toward the end, however, the Dallas Morning News lost patience and demanded that the candidate clarify his dodgy positions on the caravan and other immigration issues. He didn’t.
On Tuesday, Beto and his party went zero-for-eight in Texas’s statewide races. At the top of the ticket, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, running on a tough border-security platform, trounced Lupe Valdez, a former sanctuary sheriff in Dallas, by a dozen points. Until Democrats effectively address the issue of immigration, they will continue to lose elections across the Lone Star State, no matter how much money they spend.
Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006.