DALLAS, TX —No other progressive Texan can match Beto O’Rourke as a lightning rod.
Conservatives consider his views to be somewhere between sinister and Satanic. But moderates and liberals believe O’Rourke just might be the one public figure who could both generate and navigate a wave to turn Texas blue.
This week, O’Rourke announced a new crusade. He’s long been an advocate of voting rights, but now he’s put together a march on Austin to stop the voting rights legislation proposed by Gov. Greg Abbott in the special session currently underway.
(The New York Times has called the proposals “Jim Crow 2.0.”)
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The march, scheduled to take place over three days starting July 28, will take O’Rourke, members of the clergy and their supporters from the Austin suburb of Georgetown to the steps of the state capital. And any resemblance to the “Bloody Sunday” Selma-to-Montgomery march on across the Edmund Pettus Bridge by the late Georgia Congressman John Lewis is purely intentional.
In fact, O’Rourke is billing it as an homage to Lewis, who died almost exactly a year ago.
That 1965 Alabama march, in which Lewis was bloodied and battered, was an effort to eradicate Jim Crow laws and secure civil rights for African Americans. O’Rourke’s procession is intended to prevent Texas from returning to those days.
Conservatives counter that these laws are necessary in order to “secure the vote” and ensure that only legal ballots are cast by eligible voters. Just Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick defended the bills at a press conference, saying, “It’s not about voter suppression, or restricting anyone’s right to vote.”
Such pesky facts don’t deter those Texas politicians who understand their influence would be waning faster than it is already if it became easier, rather than more difficult, to vote.
As for O’Rourke, who just yesterday channeled $600,000 from his PAC, Powered by People, to help the Democrats exiled to Washington DC continue to hold out. According to O’Rourke, more than 17,000 donors generated the money that he funneled to the embattled lawmakers.
So while Republicans are doing their level best to thwart democracy, O’Rourke is actually using the very power of the democratic system to try to secure people the simple right to express their opinions at the ballot box.
It’s what John Lewis would have called “good trouble,” and it’s no wonder conservatives see O’Rourke as nothing but trouble.
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