The last time a Democrat won any statewide election in Texas was 1994 — the longest stretch for Democrats to go without winning an election than in any other state. For 24 years, longer than I’ve been alive, my home state of Texas has been under a sea of red. While the metropolises of Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas consistently support Democratic mayors and candidates for president, the tides of the state of Texas rush to the right and continue to support Republican congressmen, elect Republican senators, and electorally back Republican candidates for president. For over two decades, the Democratic Party in the state of Texas has been a powerless straw man, one that falls time after time at the hands of its conservative counterpart. But this political cementation crumbles today because of one man.
Congressman Beto O’Rourke is campaigning for the U.S. Senate against the incumbent Senator Ted Cruz ’92. His movement is one of progressive ideals and policies that aims to embrace hope, community, inclusion, and positive steps forward in a time so rife by cynicism, hatred, and bigotry. His campaign stands starkly opposed to Cruz’s and offers a more hopeful look to the future of Texas and the country. O’Rourke proudly envisions a nation where Texas can lead the way forward on some of the most salient issues to divide the United States. Cruz, on the other hand, surrenders his politics and his own moral compass to President Donald Trump’s unethical, unprincipled presidency and aligns himself with a man who has repeatedly maligned his father, his wife, and himself. O’Rourke represents the politics of the possible and embodies the nature of what politics means in our times.
While many will claim that such policies in the deep red state of Texas are only going to hurt O’Rourke among voters, I would respond with the Congressman’s continued and growing popularity in polls pitting him against Cruz. An average of polls gathered between the two candidates carried out by Real Clear Politics holds Cruz at 47 percent while O’Rourke maintains a deathly close 42.5 percent. Additionally, whereas Cruz relies upon political action committees and corporate donors for millions of dollars of contributions, O’Rourke has embodied a campaign finance strategy much in the light of Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential bid in 2016. Through his rejection of corporate PAC money, O’Rourke has continued to match and outraise Cruz in each quarter of the election, making over $23 million so far in the campaign from individual donors and groups.
In a time when the speculated “Democratic wave” is talked about constantly on news outlets, O’Rourke’s campaign in Texas has already demonstrated the existence and dominance of such a wave. Through this belief in the possible, in the investment in hope and progress over surrender and conservatism, O’Rourke has soared and defied convention. The politics of the possible have empowered O’Rourke and millions in the state to once again believe in politics and to hope for progress after 24 years of surrendering to convention.
O’Rourke’s campaign embraces progressive policies that many would deem unsupportable among the Texas electorate. The congressman demands the renewed protection of DREAMers under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the creation of immigration policy that continues to welcome immigrants from all countries rather than construct barriers to entry, the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana, and the comprehensive reformation of the criminal justice system to put an end to the systemic injustices levied against black and brown Americans. O’Rourke does not hide his opposition to Trump and makes no concessions to appease those who voted for Trump. Instead, O’Rourke emphasizes the essence of community that must be realized in politics, continuously repeating his desire to work with everyone regardless of party.
Texas has one of the lowest rates of voter turnout in the country. Arguably, this idea of the possible has been dead in Texas for over a quarter of a century. But with O’Rourke, we as Texans not only have someone to believe in but also something — a movement that is sweeping across the Lone Star state.
The very fact that O’Rourke has been able to galvanize the people of Texas in such a way to achieve statewide and national recognition demonstrates the power of this moment. When our President sings a tune of authoritarian, chaotic, and toxic conservatism towards an unknown destination of “greatness,” the campaign of O’Rourke shows that politics is the arena of the possible against the probable. Politics is a test of humanity’s hope rather than a reminder of what we have to fear.
In our current nation, politics is not merely the outcome of electoral decisions or the ranking of polls and statistics. Politics is the struggle of the possible against the waves of the probable. It is the fight, struggle, debate, and battle for the achievement of a hope, a dream, and a better imagination of what humans can create in communion with one another against the status quo. O’Rourke embodies this ideal of politics as the fighting spirit of what can be achieved in Texas despite the odds of tradition and partisanship against him.
There is a chance that O’Rourke might not win, despite my deepest beliefs and hopes for the people of Texas, the place I call home. His campaign has shown me hope, progress, and success that I never believed imaginable. The politics of the possible is alive in Texas, fueled by the people who have come together to realize it. I only hope that this movement surges in Texas and restores a faith in politics for Texans and Americans alike.
Kaveh Badrei is a junior Wilson School concentrator from Houston, Texas. He can be reached at email@example.com.