Texas Is a Litmus Test for America’s Politics (with Beto O’Rourke)

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Texas hasn’t had a Democratic governor in nearly 30 years. Why does Beto O’Rourke think he can change that? Andy sits down with the former presidential candidate to discuss how the families of Uvalde victims are doing, his thoughts on Congress’ bipartisan gun bill, and how he plans to defeat Greg Abbott in November.

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Andy Slavitt, Beto O’Rourke

Andy Slavitt  00:18

Welcome THE BUBBLE, I’m Andy Slavitt. It’s Monday, June 20th. Tomorrow is the longest day of the year. I’m guessing you’ve had a lot of long days recently. But I always enjoy thinking about this pinnacle day, summer. And I hope everyone is having a good summer, kids getting off school, and things getting into somewhat of balance in our lives. I have Beto O’Rourke today. I’ve known Beto since he was a congressman representing El Paso, Texas. Well before he decided to run for president, you could argue that there is no more central place in the contest for the direction of American politics than Texas right now. Certainly few more interesting ones. Governor Abbott pushes the limit on gun rights, allowing for permitless carry the purchase of semi-automatic weapons by 18 year old, wages, culture wars against talking about race, in schools about transgender kids and their families, against masks with the most onerous restrictions on abortion rights. And yet, no Democrat is one in the state for 20 years, despite all the talk that’s happened over the years about how this could convert. So Abbott appears to keep pushing the limit further and further. And he tells conservatives in other states, you give them the map on how far they can go. And other conservative states, Alabama, Oklahoma and others follow their lead. Now the recent shooting of 19 small children in Uvalde, Texas, has gripped our attention yet again in the question is what has changed Roe v Wade, which the Supreme Court is ready to strike down any day. Now. If that’s not a bigger factor in the race, as it’s ever been, I don’t know when it will be. So this is a really central point for how these issues will color our politics. And against this backdrop. Beto is a candidate to lead the state. And he’s taking on every single one of those issues. And at a time when the decisive Hispanic electorate in Texas appears to be breaking towards Republicans. As in many of his other races, Beto is at the same time both be loved, even adored by his followers, and yet a long shot running in a conservative state. There are a few things that I want you to listen for in this interview. I do try to understand in the wake of the tragedy in Uvalde, what is the pulse of the State of the Nation. And try to understand that in the context of a potential consensus, a narrow but still productive gun bill, but also how all of the events relate to our politics and will show up in the politics since he is running a campaign come November when people vote differently. As one understand what makes a guy like him tick, you know, even though I’ve known him for a long time, I’ve found that he marches to his own drummer, if you will. We’ve talked about on the show the reluctance of highly qualified women to run for office. And to his credit, Beto has supported and helped like many of these women. Yet he’s a guy who in the face of a lot of long hearts, continues to run in these uphill races. And I would argue that he is both a candidate for governor. But in many respects, given the uncertainty around 2024 still talked about in the context of being president again. Look, all the issues in the news that affect our lives, eventually intersect politics, whether we want them to or not. And I can’t think of a better person to bring in the bubble at this moment. To help us understand how the issues that we’re facing today are going to show up in November. Let’s welcome Beto.

Andy Slavitt  04:29

How’s Amy doing? How’s the kids?

Beto O’Rourke 

They’re good. The kids are camp. Amy is actually just traveled with her for the last few days. She came with us to Austin to Houston and now she’s visiting with some friends in Albuquerque. She’s from northern New Mexico and then she’s going to join me on the road the beginning of next week so she’s good kids think God are good get through the school year and you know, they’re all kind of they’re all hitting their stride and two. I’ve got an incoming freshman, incoming sophomore in high school, and an incoming sixth grader in middle school. So good ages. Yeah.

Andy Slavitt

Are they more in tune now that they’re older with the race? Then when they were, they just seemed like they were you know, they were more little kids middle school. Your last couple of big races?

Beto O’Rourke 

Yeah, yeah, I think, you know, our oldest, for example, El Paso high, has a great, I don’t know what they call it. Maybe it was called social studies when I was a kid, human geography or something, and one of the most amazing teachers and he’s really got our son engaged in what’s going on in the world, what’s going on in the country. And really through that coming back into what we’re doing as a family right now. He’s engaged, he’s interested and he’s asking questions. So that’s cool. Yeah.

Andy Slavitt  06:04

Yeah, it’s a great time for kids to be kind of aware what’s going on? And I’m sure with so much going on at Texas. Maybe we should start, if you don’t mind if we begin with Uvalde? Can you give us an update on your latest understanding of what happened there, and how the community is doing and what you think the most important priorities are coming out of this?

Beto O’Rourke

My update comes from talking to listening to the people who experienced the massacre in the aftermath in Uvalde. So parents who had their kids taken from them, colleagues of those two teachers who were killed defending the lives of those children, that they essentially already given so much of their lives for being educators in Texas, it’s already one of the toughest places to be in public education. And we asked so much of these teachers and, you know, certainly so many teachers now contemplating what they will do when a gunman comes into their classroom, talking with, you know, local elected leaders in Uvalde, people in the community, you know, been to the community a couple of times since the shooting, been to the memorial bend to the homes of people who lost their kids. And so the update from them is that they still don’t know what happened. The city of Uvalde, the state government of Texas, has absolutely refused every single request for information from the press, which as we know, is fundamental to any guarantee of democracy and any accountability or justice that we’re going to have. At the end of the day. They get bits and pieces from people who were on the scene, you know, members of law enforcement, who were there, folks who worked at Robb Elementary, you know, information rumors […], that is passed along. But these parents want answers, they deserve them. They want justice, they deserve it. They want to make sure Andy that their kids are remembered. And I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures or video of this, but there’s an extraordinary Memorial, public memorial to these victims, to the 19 kids to the 2 teachers and to the husband of one of the teachers who died in the in the aftermath of his wife’s murder. And the flowers are piled so high, they’re like three or four feet high. In front of these crosses, and  the crosses each one of them has affix to a heart. And on that heart, classmates, coaches, teachers, members of the community have just written, you know, their messages to the kids who’ve been taken from them. And you know, hey, you know, you were always the best at volleyball or what’s up, you know, thinking about you, or just these beautiful, honest, raw, heartfelt messages. And then the stories of these kids in their lives that have been told to me and countless others across this country so that their memories live, you know, there’s that and then there’s this deep, deep desire that this never happened again, and I was talking to one of the moms last week, and you know, said, I don’t know I don’t think there’s anything I can do for you. If you if you can come up with something. Nothing too big, too small. I am there for you. Just please, please let me know. But I just wanted to reach out and just share with you how sad we are for what you’ve been through and how courageous you’ve been in telling your story and your daughter’s story. And, you know, we finished the conversation a few hours later, she texted me and she said, You know Beto, there is nothing that you can do for me. But I want to know what I can do to keep any mom from ever feeling the way that I feel right now from ever going through what I’ve gone through. And so clearly what people in the valley want is action. What we owe them is action and what we owe any potential future prospective victims of a slaughter like this, and an elementary school is action right now in a majority of my fellow Texans are ready, willing, and already beginning to take that action? That’s the only good thing that I can say, that has come of this. And really, otherwise, there’s obviously nothing, nothing good about it.

Andy Slavitt  10:51

Yeah. Let’s, talk a little bit about your confrontation with Governor Abbott and would look like a slew of like 30 people standing behind him at a press conference the day after this shooting, you know, what you told him was you were doing, he was doing nothing. And it’s a little bit hard to hear you on this clip, because they’re mic’d up, and you’re out in front of the stage. But you were saying this will go on until you choose to do something different. Let’s play this for folks. Although I think many people have heard it.

Andy Slavitt  12:24

Beto, can you describe what gave you the courage and what was just sort of going through your head that moment? Can you describe it?

Beto O’Rourke 

I was driving into Uvalde and heard that the governor was going to hold a press conference and just decided on the spot as we were entering the city limits. I want to go and hear what the governor has to say. I was in El Paso in 2019 after 23 People were slaughtered in a Walmart by a guy who had listened to people like Donald Trump and Greg Abbott, talk about the invasion of immigrants who are coming to this country to get us heard Greg Abbott say it’s time for us to defend ourselves. take matters into our own hands. Those are direct quotes. From the governor of the state of Texas, this guy took an AK 47 drove it 600 miles to as he would later write, repel the invasion of Hispanics who were going to politically take over this state. And it killed you know, kids, he killed parents he killed grandparents on the last Saturday before school started in El Paso in 2019. And I was in El Paso when Greg Abbott arrived and held a press conference and said absolutely nothing about what he was going to do, what we could do to prevent something like this from ever happening again, I saw the press conference after the Santa Fe high school shooting the year before and same thing. And so here we were in Uvalde the day after that massacre that had claimed 21 lives, 19 of them little kids. And I sat and I listened to everything that the governor had to say and listen until he stopped talking and I heard nothing, nothing that would prevent the next massacre, nothing that could give us any hope at all, that we could do anything to stop other kids from being shot in the face with an AR15 or an AK47. And so I stood up and I said listen, the time to stop the next Uvalde is right now the time to have stopped Uvalde was right after El Paso, right after Santa Fe, right after Sutherland springs, or right after Midland Odessa, four of the deadliest mass shootings in US history have taken place in this state in the last five years. Listen, you know that may be the guy in power, but it is on all of us. If we do nothing, if we do nothing to change the course that we’re on, and again, with, with three kids, in public schools in El Paso, thinking about all the other kids who are out there, knowing that we just lost these 19 children, it’s time to stand up, to stand up and to be counted and to say what must be said and to take action. And I tell you, the parents that I have met and listened to in Uvalde since then, they want us, to move they want us to act. They understand that. Unlike what Greg Abbott said at that press conference that this was totally unpredictable. This is very predictable. As Lexi’s mom said, you know, this is gonna you unless we do something different right now.

Beto O’Rourke 

And so, you know, we’ve got to absolutely do everything we can to change course. Andy, as you know, we’re Texans. We have this long, proud tradition of gun ownership. It’s a responsible tradition of gun ownership. I’m fourth generation, grew up with guns in the household, Amy and I have taught our kids how to shoot but also the responsibility of owning and using a firearm, there’s a way that we can protect the Second Amendment, which I know is an anxiety for some people here. And I don’t dismiss that. And I want to make sure that I am respectful of people who are concerned about the fundamental constitutional right in a state that is very much associated with it. But we’re also capable of doing a far better job of protecting the people in our lives. And you’ve been really eloquent about this in the past that yes, we have mass shootings, Uvalde, El Paso, Midland-Odessa, Sutherland springs, Santa Fe high school, but every day in this state, there are people and all too often kids, and overwhelmingly Black and Brown kids who are killed through gun violence, and it is so numbingly common. Their names don’t even make the front page you never see their faces on the  broadcast news. It’s just you know, that’s, I guess what, what it means to live in Texas or the United States of America today. This is something we can change it, it is not a matter of course, we’re not inherently more violent or more evil than any other people in any other place on the planet. It’s just that we are ruled by or people in public office who are bought and paid for by a gun lobby that is far too powerful, and they prioritize their political prospects over the lives of our kids, we can change that. And that’s the optimism I feel. I know we can change it. And that’s on the ballot this November, in this governor’s race in Texas.

Andy Slavitt 

So when we come back, I want to talk about the kind of reaction to that and what we can do about it. So, Beto, what’s been the reaction since you made that appearance? How has the state reacted? What have you been hearing and kind of what’s been how has that shaped the dialogue?

Beto O’Rourke  18:36

Lots of different ways to answer that, you can you can look at the data. So Quinnipiac, perhaps the gold standard or close to that, in political polling in America today. Released a poll in the last couple of days here in Texas. And one of the questions they asked was about Texans views on gun violence and gun safety and gun legislation, overwhelmingly, like in the 90% plus range. Texans agree that we should have universal background checks. So this cuts across gun owners, non-gun owners, Democrats, Independents, Republicans. Texans overwhelmingly think that we should raise the age of purchase of a firearm and not just an AR-15 and AK47, this is not Beto, O’Rourke This is not the Democratic Party. This is the people of Texas; Texans overwhelmingly believe in a Red Flag Law or an extreme risk protection order. In other words, if someone who has a firearm is saying, you know what, I’m going to kill myself or I’m going to take this gun in my school, in my workplace and go hurt somebody else. We through a Red Flag Law could intervene and remove that firearm from the home until we can ascertain that that person is no longer a danger to themselves, or anyone else but.

Andy Slavitt 

With full due process.

Beto O’Rourke 

With full due process and that’s why so many gun owners are supportive of this. I was in this town called Hondo, which is right next to Uvalde. And I was, I’d been in the valley the day before I was on my morning run. And I ran by a guy. And he’s out watering his lawn in Hondo. And, you know, we kind of wave at each other. And I keep moving on down the block. And he says, he yells at me, because he’s recognized me, belatedly, are you Beto O’Rourke and said, I am and he said come back over here. And as I run back to him, I recognize that he’s got a Confederate battle flag hat on, and he’s in a relatively conservative red part of you know, South Texas, and immediately judging the book by its cover, I’m like,  don’t know how well this is gonna go. And we start talking. He said, hey, I just saw you on the news, saw what you did yesterday. And he said, I want to thank you for coming to this community. And I want to thank you for standing up. And I said, well, I just want to tell you how sorry I am for what you all have been through. And I want to find a way that we make this better and prevent it from happening to anyone else. And he said, you know what, I’ve got 6 or 7 guns in that house right now. And I’m a lifelong gun owner. And I believe in this right, and he said, but we got to do a better job. And I want to have the conversation with you about what we can do. And you know, he may not agree on a ban on the sale of AR15’s or AK47’s. But on those three issues, universal background checks, red flag laws, safe storage laws, where you have a firearm in the house, and you have a 17 -year old, 16-year old, somebody who may be a danger to themselves or someone else, you keep that gun locked up. So it can’t be used against anybody. He was on board for all of that stuff. And so it goes to show the intransigence on the part of those in power in Texas. And in fact, not just intransigence, Greg Abbott last year, signed something called permitless carry, which took a license to carry program where if you wanted to carry gun in public, Texas said we’re cool with that, just makes sure we do some background checks and vetting and you are trained on how to use this thing before you take it out there. He took all of that away, turned his back on law enforcement who begged him, please, Governor do not do this because more cops have been gunned down in the state of Texas than any other state. And permitless carry is going to make our jobs a lot deadlier and make it more difficult to protect and serve the people of the state. It’s not just intransigence, it’s total fealty to the gun lobby, to the gun manufacturers, and to the NRA, that’s not reflective of this guy in Hondo, Texas, or the O’Rourke, family and El Paso, or 30 million people across this state. And again, it’s why I have some optimism that when this is on the ballot, as it will be on the eighth of November, people are going to show up and they’re gonna vote their lives, the lives of their kids, and the common sense interests of the people of Texas.

Andy Slavitt 

I want to dive into a couple things you said Beto, because there’s so germane to all of us right now. First, I’m curious what you think of the emerging potential Senate compromise legislation? Does this tell you that, hey, you know what, there is some common ground as a starting point between the guy you ran into gun owners and others that is a basic standard that will provide some help on to everything but will help. Or does it tell you people or the issue has gotten political residents and people are just looking for a quick kind of message bill, are you encouraged by it?

Beto O’Rourke 

I am. And it’s interesting. You asked me before we started the interview about my wife, Amy, who you know, and I told her, we told you we’ve been traveling lately together on the campaign trail. And we had a conversation about this. And, you know, we were two minds on the one hand, given the level of gun violence in Texas, and given some of the just common sense ideas like raising the age to purchase an AR 15 that are supported not just by people like me, but the Republican mayor of Fort Worth, Texas, the fact that we couldn’t get that in the compromise package in the Senate was disappointing, right? But I listened to an interview with Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who probably more than any human in America, at least any elected person in America has been working on this after the massacre in Sandy Hook and you know, when you meet the senator when you listen to him, I mean, this is all consuming for him. He was there that days with the families, he’s been with the families ever since. And this guy could very easily say, you know what, screw these Republicans. They won’t do the common sense thing. They won’t save lives. They hate kids, they, you know, they’re bought and paid for, to heck with them. And instead, he didn’t allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good. He was able to, you know, defy the fact that compromises become a four letter word in America. And he got something better than what we have today. Is it enough? Absolutely not. And he’d be the first person to tell you that. But is it better? Yes. And will it save lives? Absolutely. will it save enough? No.

Andy Slavitt 

Are you surprised Murphy came to the table?

Beto O’Rourke 

Yeah, you know what? And I want to say I’m grateful for his willingness to do this. He’s got to bug people within his party. He’s got a buck people who are probably significant donors to his campaign. And listen, there’s a cynical part of us that says, look, he does this. So he can say that he’s done something, and then we don’t have to revisit this issue. But what Murphy said in that interview the other day that really got me as he said, Look, we get this done, we’re able to prove to Republicans as well as some Democrats, that there will not be a political price to pay for doing the right thing on sensible gun legislation, you’ll defend the Second Amendment never waver from that, but to do a better job of protecting people’s lives, and you’re going to probably win reelection, and, you know, so he’s saying, let’s prove that point with this. And in addition to saving lives, and we build the predicate and the base to do bigger things down the road.

Andy Slavitt  26:38

So you’re saying he takes the toxicity out of the issue by showing that there could be compromised without political cost?

Beto O’Rourke 

That’s right. That’s right. And then you have this small, let’s acknowledge very small victory, but an important one nonetheless. And then you say, You know what, so we were able to do that, you saw that there wasn’t a big political price. But in fact, maybe even there was political reward, including for Republicans. Let’s advance to the next stage of this, let’s keep finding common ground. And there’s been no significant movement in American history that was won overnight or over a couple of years, or a few election cycles. This stuff very often takes decades, you look at the fight for voting rights, something you and I’ve talked about in the past. And you look at Texas, which outlawed voting by Black Texans for 21 years, from 1923, to 1944. And then another 20 years to end, the Jim Crow restrictions on registration and participation, until you get to 65. When Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, I mean, that was a 40 year plus push just in the state of Texas, it was a much longer push since the end of Reconstruction. You look at it through that kind of timeline or context. And you see that as disappointing as our lack of progress has been on gun violence, we can’t give up because if we give up, we can see that this is our future, our fate and our fortune. And none of us, especially those of us with kids are willing to do that.

Andy Slavitt 

So when a lot of us are holding our breath for is, I think one of the main themes you talked about here in your own race against Abbott, which is will Americans finally hold officials accountable who defy this? I think what you describe as I think, and most people understand there’s a reasonable consensus, reasonable consensus being that the Second Amendment is enshrined in the Constitution, but it not limitless. And that, you know, as you’ve talked about, there is a referendum in the governor’s race on some accountability for those actions that permitless carry, etcetera, versus what you’re talking about. And I think there’s so many of us that would love to believe that there will be accountability, that this is an issue, people care enough about that it will cause them to vote out people who are just keeping families in danger. But I think it is not a case that’s been proven yet on the side of particularly in the sight of guns. So what compels you to think that people are going to be held accountable finally in the ballot box?

Beto O’Rourke 

I mentioned that that Quinnipiac poll that measured Texans views on gun violence and gun legislation. The last time Quinnipiac polled in Texas was in December of 2021. I had been in the race for governor for all of one month, and they asked Texas voters if the election were today, Greg Abbott or Beto O’Rourke and Greg Abbott was ahead in that December poll by 15 points, you know, not just double digits, but you know, significant double digits. That same poll that came out day before yesterday in the state of Texas had Greg Abbott up five points. So over the intervening six months, his lead has declined by 10 points. A majority of Texans think the state is on the wrong track disapprove of the job that he’s doing. And in those six months, this guy, Greg Abbott has spent millions of dollars on TV, trying to burnish his reputation and drag mine down. And in those intervening 6 months, I’ve spent a total of $0 on TV trying to do the same. So I have a lot of optimism given the fact that the people of Texas who are wise to what is happening and understand that not only his inaction, but his action on the part of the gun lobby to make it easier for more people who shouldn’t have guns to carry them publicly and use them against our fellow Texans. This guy is a danger to the state when you add to that the inability to keep the lights on when the temperature dropped and the power grid failure that killed 700 people, a child protective services system, our foster care system in Texas where 100 kids died in the custody and care of the state of Texas since the year 2020, so badly run by this guy, the total ban on abortion with no exception for rape or incest, a band that begins Andy, at conception, in the state of Texas, you might think this is the law of the land and Taliban ruled Afghanistan. This is Texas in the year of our Lord 2022, a state which as you know, leads much of the developed world in the rate of maternal mortality because not only is it now impossible to get access to an abortion provider, but try getting a cervical cancer screening when every reproductive health care clinic in the state almost has been shut down. And the rate of maternal mortality for Black women in Texas three times higher than white women in the state. People are understanding how dangerous this guy is to them and to our future. And when they hear us talk about the things that we want to work on as governor, improving our public schools, expanding Medicaid, which I know you are the world’s expert on, but we’re the last, one of the last states every one of our border states, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, three of them with Republican governors have expanded Medicaid, we’re one of the last holdouts we’re rejecting $10 billion a year of our federal income taxes that are going to other states instead of coming back to Texas. That resonates here in Houston, where I’m talking to you from today. It resonates in Pampa, in Dalhart, in Amarillo, in Abilene, these ruby red counties and cities in the state of Texas, where we’ve seen 24 rural hospitals shut down over the last 10 years, people want leadership, they want solutions. And they want action. So yeah, I’m pretty optimistic.

Andy Slavitt

Good. Well, when we come back, we’re going to talk about some of the issues that are not only animating the race, but the future of both parties nationally, we’ll get some new perspective on that. So Beto, you laid out a series of really hot button issues, starting with guns may be the least controversial among them. But choice, we didn’t talk about even trans-rights, and kids, and families, and schools. Education Policy, what can’t be taught. You know, there are a series of these litmus tests in Texas, but there’s also the economy. And, you know, Americans are among even with all those issues. I’m sure Texas is no different are really animated by inflation, gas prices, and the things that are making their lives just harder. To ask you, which of those issues are going to be most important in your race, but I really want to know is, you know, your race is predicated on maybe one making progress on those issues that have long been hot button issues in Texas. And then also though, to the Democrats, is there an economic message that resonates and are we potentially being so hurt by what’s going on in the economy that those were all even overwhelm some of these other issues?

Beto O’Rourke  34:51

Imagine Andy that you are a Texas public school educator. So you’re a classroom teacher, you’re a counselor, you’re a librarian. and you are being asked by the governor now to turn in the parents of transgender kids for child abuse. Under new CRT legislation, you’re confused about whether or not you’re allowed to tell the true story of Texas history. You’re underpaid, on average by $7,500. Against what a teacher is paid nationally, not the highest paid teachers just what the average is nationally, chances are you’re working a second or third job just to make ends meet. These educators are leaving the profession by the 1000s right now. And then to your question about the economy in addition to inflation that has global and national causes. In Texas, you have a governor, who’s the primary driver of higher costs, property taxes, we don’t have an income tax in the state of Texas, property taxes have gone up $20 billion since Greg Abbott was elected seven years ago, it’s a 40% increase, people are being priced and taxed out of their homes. You’re asking what do I, what should Democrats in the state of Texas be talking about? We’re talking about lowering your property tax bill, paying educators what they are really worth at a minimum that $7,500 more per year, just to make sure that we get up to par, and then not stopping there. Taking Medicaid expansion, which brings in $10 billion into our local economies, we hire more providers, we connect more people with care return more people to the workforce, it’s hard to find the employees to fill the positions that we’re creating. Many of them cannot afford to go into work because they’re not well enough or able to afford the prescription to treat their diabetes, or their glaucoma, we’re going to fund child care in the state of Texas, as you know, so many parents at home with their kids, because they cannot afford to put them in a daycare, those parents not finishing their education, are able to walk into that mom and pop business and work that job that they have an opening for, we’re going to be the leaders who ensure this state is truly living up to its full potential, and its promise economically, while reducing the burden and the cost of living for people across the state of Texas.

Andy Slavitt

So, that it sounds like both a local, a real economic message, but also one that has local resonance. And well, to start with the fact that I believe a Democrat hasn’t won for statewide office since what is it, 1994? So yeah, there’s been a long promised or long anticipated sense that this is a state that could become at least purple and potentially blue. You’ve done more to elect Democrats in the state of Texas than anyone. And you’ve spent more hours than anybody will ever know, helping turn that tide with really great candidates. Yet, I think a lot of people’s thinking is predicated on Hispanic voters to some degree. And there seems to be a sense, and maybe you can interpret it differently for us if it is if it’s the wrong interpretation. But Mayra Flores recently won the election in Rio Grande Valley near you, flipping a longtime Democratic Congressional seat. You know, the national dialogue that is the Democrats advantage with Hispanics is eroding that Hispanics are in particularly in Texas and Florida are more conservative, on guns and on immigration and abortion rights than the Democratic Party is. This is just a major, major, major assumption of democratic politics and which party will be in power over the long term? Is there something or the Democrats missing something here is if the tide indeed not going, the Democrats direction?

Beto O’Rourke 

I think some larger issues here, you know, if over the last 20 years, that the great sin committed by the Republican Party in Texas has been to seek to disenfranchise voters, specifically voters of color and Latino voters. Then that sin committed by Democrats was to take these same voters for granted and to say, Listen, you’re Brown, you voted for Democrats in the past, or at least your folks did. I can count on you voting for Democrats going forward. I’m gonna go work on the white suburban women because that’s the hot demographic right now that we’re supposed to win over if Democrats are going to win power and keep power going forward. And we’ve seen the talking heads, you know, talk about this, this or that other important demographic, and then often when national Democrat show up in Mexican American majority or Latina majority communities, their message is immigration. And again, you know, your skin’s Brown, you must care about immigration more than you care about anything else. Well, I think people have justifiably said, you know, what I care about my kids schools, I care about the kind of job that I can find. I care about whether I can see a doctor or afford a prescription or, you know, take my husband to a mental health care provider when he needs it, why aren’t you talking to me about that stuff? And why aren’t you showing up and listening to me, and treating me with the respect that I’m owed. So, you know, I think there’s some Democrats who wants to, hey, there’s nothing to see here, you know, keep moving right along, we’re doing just fine. But I think if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, and with this party, then we’ve got to acknowledge the kind of mistakes that Democrats have made in the past, what I’m doing is going to every community in the state of Texas, and especially focusing on places like the Rio Grande Valley, you know, Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr counties, for example, Sebata, where I’m going to be next month, and listening to voters at open ended Townhall. Anybody can come. Anyone can ask any question level, any criticism, share any idea with me, and I am, the better and stronger for it afterwards.

Andy Slavitt 

So two more questions for you. The first one is intended to be highly personal. It’s really kind of a what makes you tick Beto type question I said in the introduction I gave before we started this interview, that I have a hard time thinking about somebody who’s more beloved, by their supporters than you are. And I think you give energy to that, by speaking the truth by being very common sense. By being relatable. And, you know, there’s something about you, which is, I just won’t quit until I never been It’s hurting. I know you’re hurting over the shootings. No, you’re hurting over the economy I know you’re hurting over whatever the issue is. And I’m just not prepared to quit. I just think that’s part of what will I think that’s part of what appeals to people about you. Yet you are running in a race where you’ve been described as a long shot. I’m just curious, like, what is it in you, that cause you to say, yeah, I’m gonna go spend a couple years of my life and something that I may very well not win. And you know, what, I’m gonna pick myself up if I lose, and I’m gonna go do it again. And again, and again.

Beto O’Rourke  42:40

You know, if I truly thought it were impossible, I wouldn’t do it. And not only for myself, but I’ve got to think about Amy and our kids. And, you know, everything that this means to them and everything that they endure to be part of this, I’ve got to think about these amazing people who comprise the campaign, the folks who have said, Hey, Beto, I’m gonna give you the next year of my life. And I’m gonna do everything within my power to make sure that we win the 76,000 plus volunteers who offered to take a clipboard and go knock on doors, if it was impossible, I would not do that to them. But I know that we can do this. And I look at things like, you know, the outcome in 2018. We didn’t beat Cruz, deeply, deeply, deeply disappointing. But as you mentioned earlier, we helped two Democrats replace Republicans in the House of Representatives flipping control of that chamber, 12 New Democrats replacing Republicans in the state legislature, 17 African American women elected to judicial positions, just in one county alone in Harris County, which is home to Houston, Texas, and the largest voter turnout in the state of Texas, since 1970. And we get to build upon that, that’s the base. And so I feel very confident that this is possible.

Andy Slavitt  44:01

Well, it’s really fascinating hearing your inspiration. And I think I don’t want people take for granted how hard it is. And he talks about the impact on your family, to and just to be out there representing your values at a time when, you know, I honestly think you are out there saying things and, you know, you’ve mentioned polls a couple of times, but part of what I liked about you Beto among many other things is what you say is almost regardless of whatever however, it’s gonna poll. It’s just like, This is what I believe this is what I think and I honestly think people want to support people, not because they agree with every single thing they say. But, but they want to know that they’re coming from a place of integrity. So that’s, that’s it this particular time. I think, when all these issues that matter to us are clashing with our politics. It is your race. So now you run it. That gives us an amazing national spotlight. I wanted to spend time asking you about the national race, but I think we’re left to do that next time. You’ve given us amazing insight and I so appreciate you being here and hanging out with you again.

Beto O’Rourke 

Thank you so much. All right. Adios.

Andy Slavitt

Okay, because it’s Monday, that means one thing, two days to the next in the bubble podcast, look, take care of yourself on Tuesday, you’ll be fine. But we’ll be back on Wednesday with a great episode. Dan Pfeiffer is going to be here to talk about the January 6 hearings about the big lie. Dan has done an amazing job and has amazing perspective covering these issues. If you don’t know him, he’s the co-host of a podcast called Pod save America. I think it’s called. Anyway. He’s great. I think you’ll really love it. We have another riveting Friday conversation. And the next week, two big episodes, one that I know people have been waiting for a long time. With Michael Mina and Patrice Harris, talking about testing and latest innovations in testing around COVID-19. That’ll probably be other COVID news to cover as well. And then Wednesday, Adam Conover. Very interesting guy and a legend funny person. Well, he is a funny person who talks about serious things like the government and what’s happening to this country and he’s got a production with Barack Obama. Netflix called the G-word. That will be next week as well. I do hope you listening in on Wednesday. That’s all for now.


Thanks for listening to IN THE BUBBLE. We’re a production of Lemonada Media. Kathryn Barnes, Jackie Harris and Kyle Shiely produced our show, and they’re great. Our mix is by Noah Smith and James Barber, and they’re great, too. Steve Nelson is the vice president of the weekly content, and he’s okay, too. And of course, the ultimate bosses, Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs, they executive produced the show, we love them dearly. Our theme was composed by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill, with additional music by Ivan Kuraev. You can find out more about our show on social media at @LemonadaMedia where you’ll also get the transcript of the show. And you can find me at @ASlavitt on Twitter. If you like what you heard today, why don’t you tell your friends to listen as well, and get them to write a review. Thanks so much, talk to you next time.

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