Wake the F*ck Up, America
On this week’s episode, Michael and Pele get the inside scoop from former presidential candidate and lifelong punk rocker Beto O’Rourke. He just endorsed Joe Biden for president, but what other revelations does he have for Michael and Pele? Listen in as they discuss whether Beto is on anyone’s short list to be a vice presidential candidate in 2020. Also, a surprise announcement related to the 2024 race for the presidency!
[01:17] Michael Bennett: Black History Month? No, we’re continuing with Black History March.
[01:20] Pele Bennett: While everyone is ending their Black History Month in February, we are continuing it all the way through March.
[01:26] Michael Bennett: We even got a leap year this year. Still don’t matter. We need some more days. We’re just gonna keep doing Black History March. We’re starting this week with Beto O’Rourke, who we recently interviewed, and we talked a lot about how to talk to our kids about race.
[01:42] Pele Bennett: Here’s a guy who is saying, “hey, white people! Pay attention to how our black communities are being treated in America and look beyond yourselves.”
[01:50] Michael Bennett: We’ve got some other incredible content coming up for you in Black History March. We talked to Flint Taylor about the 1969 assassination of Fred Hampton.
[01:59] Pele Bennett: Then we talked to Martellus Bennett — you might know him, that is Michael’s brother — and his amazing wife, Siggi, my sister-in-law.
[02:05] Michael Bennett: I talked to my former teammate from the Seahawks, Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowler, Cliff Avril and his wife, Tia Avril, about parenting, and how to just be married in America. Black History Month? Fuck that. We doing Black History March.
[02:28] Michael Bennett: Today, we talking to Beto O’Rourke, who ran for Senate in Texas, who also was a 2020 presidential candidate, but recently dropped out. And we want to find out what he’s been up to. How’s the family life going? Is he doing everyday things? Or is he planning something secret? Like maybe become the vice president? Who knows? But you shall find out on Mouthpeace. The thing that I really wanted to talk to Beto about is the balance of family, because I see athletes talk about it, I see comedians talk about it. And I didn’t really see what happened with Barack Obama and Michelle, but from a distance, it seemed like they kind of kept their marriage together and they kept their children growing and they didn’t really do any crazy crimes or anything. They smoked a little marijuana, but other than that. I want to know, how do they balance family? Beto’s talking about all these crazy issues, and these really serious issues such as gun control, police violence, talking about the disproportionate rate that black and brown people go to jail. How does he really find time to balance his family life? That’s the thing I really want to know.
[03:30] Pele Bennett: And I want to know if he also has those conversations at home with his children, because he has three kids like us, and I think they’re close in age. And then also with his wife. You know, what does she — how does she play her role in a family, and in what he does? And do they do this together or separate? Is she on board?
[03:45] Michael Bennett: Yeah, that’s good. I think is really hard for people to understand what people sacrificed to go and do certain jobs in the world. But like people don’t understand what it takes for people to be in the military. People don’t understand what it takes to be a truck driver. Just different jobs that other people are going through. But then also have that lived in public, as a public figure.
[04:04] Pele Bennett: He’s all the way public. Now he’s addressing issues and different things that are very controversial. So how does that work? Because this is different from I mean, you’re an athlete and you did a little bit of that. But this is a different position that he’s in.
[04:19] Michael Bennett: He’s an actual politician. And then I just want to pick his mind on how does he find happiness, too. Because I feel like the road he’s on, he sees a lot of despair. He sees a lot of heartbreak. He sees a lot of emotional things that can really tear a person down. How has he stayed upright? I just want to know how he is able to keep moving forward.
[04:38] Pele Bennett: I think it would be — well, actually, you know, it may not be his family.
[04:43] Michael Bennett: It might not be. You never know.
[04:45] Pele Bennett: It’s kind of funny because you assume it’s people’s family, like their support system, where it’s someone close to them. But everyone I feel that we’ve been talking to is very different. Everybody has a different way of using their support or where they get their support from.
[04:59] Michael Bennett: Yeah. It’s interesting, too, because he’s so public, and he talks about some issues that are really — that white people are mad about. It’s not even the issues that black people are mad about. He’s bringing up issues like gun violence.
[05:12] Pele Bennett: Not even talking, he’s like tackling.
[05:12] Michael Bennett: That’s what I’m saying, though. Black people talk about shit and people just kind of look over, and Mexicans, for sure. Every other race. But he’s a white male bringing up things that are happening in white communities, things that people don’t want the light shine on to really know that everybody’s kind of going through the same thing in America right now. You know, we need some advice. Beto man, when you get on the show, give us some advice on how to stay up.
[05:42] Michael Bennett: Mr. Beto, man, it’s nice to have you on the show today, man. Thank you for coming through. I know you got a lot of stuff to do, but we saw one thing that was very interesting that you were a bass guitarist. How did that come about?
[05:55] Beto O’Rourke: You know, I played bass and I played electric guitar and sometimes drums for punk-rock bands that I joined, or helped to start, when I was coming of age here in El Paso. And, you know, I was never a great musician, but punk rock was this amazing community that accepted me at a time that I felt like such a freak or a weirdo in high school and in life and in society. And all of a sudden, you know, go into my first punk-rock show, I was welcomed by all these other weirdos and freaks and folks who just did not fit in to school life or their family life or life in the community. And the other really amazing thing about it was there were kids my same age who were starting bands, starting record labels, touring the country, writing their own songs, telling their own stories. And none of it was filtered through, you know, radio or big corporate record labels or really any of the filters of society.
[07:02] Beto O’Rourke: It was just as raw and as honest and direct as it could possibly be. And that was absolutely thrilling to me. So without much skill or practice, I started a band with a few friends. We started a record label, put out our own record, booked a tour across the country and Canada. In fact, we did it twice. And had the absolute time of my life. And in that band, I’d play bass, I’d play guitar. Sometimes I’d play drums, fill in wherever I could. I was probably the least talented of the musicians. I was much better at carrying the instruments and driving the station wagon that we toured the country in. But it was one of the most amazing times in my life. And even though it was, you know, almost 30 years ago now, more than 25 years ago now, it still stays with me. And it informs so much of what I do and how I do it and what I’m into and what I follow. So, yeah, that’s part of who I am.
[08:02] Pele Bennett: I love that. I feel like from what I’ve seen of you, that you have these different sides of you. Like, I can see you as a bass man, you see you as electric, I can see you as a drummer in all the personalities of you. But real quick, what are some of the bands that inspired you?
[08:14] Beto O’Rourke: I really love The Clash and their album London Calling, which came out in ‘79 or ‘80, and which I didn’t listen to until probably ‘84, when a friend of mine at El Paso High lent me his copy on cassette. That changed my life and was so powerful. The lyrics were political and compelling and powerful and personal. And the music was so muscular and forthright and honest and unmitigated by any of the, you know, overproduced arena-rock stuff that was on my radio. It just changed my life. And then I found that there was punk rock being played in local clubs, or in living rooms, or basements, or just out on the street or in a park all around El Paso. And that punk rock was not something that you had to be given or allowed into, but was something that you could make your own. And so The Clash for me really opened my eyes. But then these bands in El Paso — and then also in the United States, there is a record label in Washington, DC, Dischord Records, started by a guy named Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson. They were the singer and drummer, respectively, of a band called Minor Threat. And their ethos, this do-it-yourself, and this rejection of everything corporate, charging no more than five dollars for a show, and making every show all ages. So any kid, you know my age, 14, 15 years old, could come into the show making sure that no record was more than seven or eight bucks. And so you could, you know, send away and order a couple of records for under 20 bucks and open your mind through your ears to stuff that you would never otherwise be exposed to.
[10:12] Michael Bennett: When you was doing all those tours and stuff, did it give you a chance to see how other people were living? And did that kind of shape you into wanting to do politics? Because I could imagine you being with the people who don’t have a voice, you being around these different communities, did that shape you in any type of fashion?
[10:25] Beto O’Rourke: It really did. You were at the complete mercy of total strangers. You’d play a club and you would hopefully earn enough to be able to buy gasoline to put in the tank to get to the next city, the next club, the next bar, the next basement. But you never had enough money to get a hotel or a motel, so you’d sleep on the floor of the club, or someone would invite you to sleep on their couch, or maybe they had a spare bedroom. Sometimes they’d point you to a public park where you could sleep without fear of getting harassed. Very often they would feed you. And then there was just this sense of just having fun. I remember playing shows in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and never — coming from El Paso, Texas, and the Mountain time zone, and the Rocky Mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert. Never been exposed to anything like Baton Rouge, or Little Rock, Arkansas, or Chicago, Illinois, or Calgary, Canada. And it really reinforced for me that there are so many good people out there. And if you will open yourself up to that — and in our case, we were kind of forced to do that — you’ll be blown away by it, by what they have to give you. And Michael and Pele, I should tell you this, as well — part of the reason I was so excited that you asked me to join you on your podcast was I had just read your book. And my 13 year old son Ulysses had also just read your book. And the last chapter, kind of the last words in your book, are about being vulnerable and feeling OK with that. And opening yourself up to the rest of the world and allowing the rest of the world to to surprise you. Sure, there’s a lot to be afraid of and things can go wrong, and sometimes they really do. But you’ll never have the chance to transcend your experiences and who you are and what you know and what you’re limited by unless you’re willing to open yourself up to others. And so touring the country in a band really forced me to do that. And it helped me to decide when I got into politics to be in politics in that same way. To just be open to people, to listen to them, to go to them where they are, learn about them and their experiences, and to the best of my ability, try to tell their story as I travel the rest of a congressional district or state or, last year, the country. So, yeah, it absolutely changed me. I hope for the better. And it’s still part of who I am.
[13:03] Pele Bennett: I just want to say thank you for reading Michael’s book.
[13:05] Michael Bennett: Thank you so much. I appreciate that, man. Because that’s what I was trying to convey. I feel like my wife kind of opened my eyes to a lot of different ethnicities and different cultures. And I think that was definitely a guiding point in my life in which I wanted to convey in a book that some of the stuff is uncomfortable. And we have to tell our kids some stuff and going to different countries, learning how other people live. And I think that’s important.
[13:32] Pele Bennett: And then seeing that you are a family man and having your children and your wife a part of so many things, how do you draw those boundaries and how do you also implement your family into this? Are they very engaged? Do they get in on things? And how do you separate that and keep it together?
[13:46] Beto O’Rourke: You know, imperfectly. And we do our best and try our hardest. Especially when I was a candidate. It became a real challenge because Pele, you probably understand this far better than I could, but my wife Amy not only had the responsibility of taking care of our three kids when I was on the road, making sure their homework got done, they got to school on time, went to their practices, went to their games. But she was also really taking on the bulk of the emotional work in our family. So when things didn’t go right at school, or one of our kids doesn’t fit in, or things just aren’t working out, it’s on her and on her alone if I’m traveling to make it right or at least to hear our kids out and try to do what she can for them. And then on top of that, she’s also the emotional support for me when I call in from the road and I say, hey, Amy, I don’t think I can do this anymore. This is kicking my ass. And I want to come home. And I’m just dead, beat. And I’ve got two more weeks on the road and 30 more events and how am I going to make it through? And she would hear me out and listen to me, which was the most important thing in the world. And so often made me feel better just in doing that. But then would also remind me of why we were doing this in the first place. And say, hey, there are people who are counting on you right now, people counting on us. And you’ve got to be strong. And listen, it’s tough for you where you are. It’s really tough for me back here in El Paso. So let’s be tough and let’s see this through together.
[15:24] Beto O’Rourke: But now that I’m back in El Paso, no longer on the trail, I’m doing my best to be there for my kids, to cook meals, to take them to school, be at their practices, cheer for them at their games, try to refrain from giving too much advice to my to my sons when they play basketball or my daughter when she plays volleyball. But I just had a great weekend. My youngest son, Henry, he’s 9 years old. Huge Celitcs fan. And the Celitcs were playing the Lakers on Sunday. And my wife, for Christmas, gave us both a trip to L.A. to go see the Lakers play the Celtics. And so I got to spend two days with him, just the two of us. And I can’t remember the last time that I did that, but so powerful, so positive. And I’m so glad that I did that. And so it was tough when we’re on the trail, but it is a lot better now that we’re at home and able to be in El Paso at the same time.
[16:20] Michael Bennett: That’s amazing, though, because I don’t think people realize when you are out in the public the way that you are, how much you’re sacrificing to do that. I think a lot of times people just feel that the way that you live is a fantasy, so they can’t have any empathy. Well, he’s out here talking about this. It just means that you’re taking so much away from your family and that’s a different type of courage. I think a lot of people fear that type of courage. But that’s why I felt like I was drawn to you on that. And then the courage that you had to talk about the national anthem, too, I feel like that was courageous. And as a black man, I was like, man, like, he actually gets it. He gets that there’s a middle ground, even though there’s been an America that certain people have experienced. There’s another set of people who haven’t experienced that America. And for you to bring that to attention and have other people listen, because I feel like a lot of white people were like, “nah, that’s just not true.” But when you said something, it opened another set of people’s eyes to see where we were coming from as athletes and where we come from as black men and where we were coming from as human beings.
[17:25] Michael Bennett: Stay with us. I got to take a shit. I’ll be right back.
[19:50] Beto O’Rourke: I got to tell you, I was so — and still am — inspired by Colin Kaepernick, by you, by LeBron James, by others who have worked really hard to attain a position and status and are seen by millions, by hundreds of millions, all over the world. And who are willing in some way to compromise that earned position, or to put it on the line, in order to stand up for something that they really believe in, that’s important not just to them, and not just to people who look like them and have had experiences like they’ve had, but are important to all of us in this country. And I really feel that there’s nothing more American than doing that. Than be willing to put your career and and your status and your position on the line for something that you believe in. And there are so many ways to serve. There’s so many ways to sacrifice. And I’m grateful for all of them — the men and women in uniform right now. And I read from your book that your dad served in the Navy, so you come from a family of those who serve. The people who are willing to stand up in their day-to-day lives and stand up against things that they know might cost them position or status, or in some cases their lives, or at a minimum, their freedom. When someone’s willing to do that, I think you need to call that out and make sure that you give credit where credit is due.
[21:14] Beto O’Rourke: It’s the only way that I think this country becomes a better one, and has any hope of realizing its potential and its promise that, you know, as we said in the Declaration of Independence, we are all created equal. We’ve never realized that. We never truly acted that way in this country. But I’d like to think we’ve never really given up on trying to achieve that. And the leaders may come in the halls of Congress, may come in military uniform, may be wearing a football jersey, or maybe out on the court. They may just be leaders in day-to-day life in their community, but that’s what it’s going to take to make America better. So, no, I was very happy to say that on the campaign trail — although I got to tell you that there were folks on my campaign who were asking me what in the hell are you doing answering that question that way? Like we we don’t need that fight right now. We’re trying to beat Ted Cruz in Texas, become the first Democrat to win a Senate race since 1988. And you don’t need to be taken on controversial positions. I think the truth is it’s actually not that controversial. It’s just it’s an honest thing and it needs to be said.
[22:23] Michael Bennett: But that’s what makes you great. I think there’s a lack of what people call honesty these days. It seems more like a lie. And any time you try to show the truth, to try to build people up, it’s like that’s when the hate starts to come because it’s like everybody is so silent that finally when somebody speaks, they’re just super shocked that somebody would really bring attention to something like that. As I said, as a black man, as an American, human being, like, I was like, oh, yeah, that’s the guy that I could see — I think that’s why everybody was so drawn to you in a Democratic race. Just everything growing up in Texas.
[22:55] Pele Bennett: Yes, we’re both from Texas, so that alos drew us to you.
[23:00] Beto O’Rourke: You’ll appreciate this. We spent a lot of time in Bryan, Texas, in College Station, Texas, and at A&M. Not a place where I thought I’d be welcomed as a Democrat, and a very progressive Democrat at that, talking about some of these issues, including a criminal justice system that disproportionately is seeing black men and women, brown men and women behind bars for crimes or infractions committed by all people of all races. Or a health care system that is the least insured in the country, and is at the heart of a maternal mortality crisis that is two to three times as deadly for women of color. I wanted to say that because it’s true, and I wanted to say it everywhere I went in Texas in all 254 counties. But to be honest with you, when I went to College Station, or Bryan, Texas, or A&M, I thought this is not going to be received very well. But I was surprised. It was. And I think in all these places in Texas that Democrats have written off or taken for granted or think or too red or too rural or too conservative. I think if you’re willing to speak the truth and if you’re willing to call things out for what they are, and then willing to offer a solution for how we make things better, you might be surprised at the way that people respond to that. And that’s what I found in some of these places in Texas, including when I talked about Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players taking a knee. We don’t have to be limited by what we think is popular or possible according to the conventional wisdom. We speak our mind. We speak the truth. And I really do think that good things will follow.
[24:41] Pele Bennett: So we have to, of course, dove into the Democratic candidates that are still in the 2020 presidential race. Will you answer this: do you have a favorite?
[24:50] Beto O’Rourke: I’m really interested in seeing how these Democratic candidates respond to the issues that are really important to us in Texas, and how they’re going to help these down-ballot candidates. We have a racist gerrymandering in place that has drawn African-American and Latinos out of congressional districts solely based on their race and ethnicity to diminish the likelihood that they would ever vote or participate in civic life. That, with voter I.D. laws, with other suppressive tactics have been alarmingly effective. If we get a Democratic majority, we start drawing people in, and then start making progress on things that are important to us, like health care and gun violence and criminal justice and immigration. So Bernie Sanders was just here in El Paso — actually was really grateful that he came to El Paso. We are an afterthought if we’re ever thought of at all in this far west Texas county that is a Mexican-American majority community, one that saw the worst mass violence against Mexican-Americans in U.S. history, 22 killed by a white nationalist racist in August armed with an AK-47 — a weapon of war that has no business being in our lives or in our streets or in our communities. A guy who was not only fueled by hatred, but in some ways was directed by President Trump, who’s talked about Mexicans and Mexican immigrants as invaders, as subhuman. Laughs when people talk about shooting them to stop them. The fact that Bernie Sanders came to El Paso, Texas, meant a lot to me and others in this community. The fact, frankly, that Michael Bloomberg came to El Paso, Texas, meant a lot. I want to see if the other candidates are going to come here and speak to us. And you know, Michael, you talk a lot about this, about going to where people are, being open to new experiences and the experiences that may not be your own. I want those candidates to come here and do this in El Paso. So I’m very interested, of course, and will support the hell out of whoever the nominee is. But I really want to see what they want to do for us here in Texas. And I’m hoping in the remaining days we get to see that.
[27:06] Michael Bennett: Man, you talk about gun violence, and I just saw somebody in Idaho went to a state house and his granddaughter brought a loaded weapon into there. And I’m just like, it’s a far cry between the right to bear arms and the safety of our citizens, like you said. Like there shouldn’t be war weapons in our classrooms. Our kids are having to learn about this gun violence. They feel so unsafe — to think that they that we grew up feeling safe — so I’m glad that you have the courage to bring those issues up. But how do you convince somebody who’s had a gun as part of their life, and now they’re being told to be taken away? But in a sense, you’re trying to get them to understand it’s not really about the gun, it’s really about the safety of our citizens.
[27:52] Beto O’Rourke: I think you just said it.
[27:54] Michael Bennett: I’m sorry. OK, Beto and Michael Bennett, 2024. Let’s do it.
[28:00] Beto O’Rourke: I’m in. I’m in. No, you’re absolutely right. That was a chilling photo to see an 11-year-old girl with a weapon of war strapped to her back, brought in by her father or grandfather, in front of the legislators who will make a decision on this issue. To say that that weapon is not intimidating would be a lie. And when you see it play out across this country, in the state house in Kentucky, guys in combat camouflage with body armor, face masks so that you cannot see their identities, wearing AK-47s and AR-15s — these are weapons designed exclusively for the purpose of killing people. They are not meant for hunting. They’re not meant for self-defense. They’re supposed to kill as many people as effectively and as efficiently as possible on a battlefield. To bring that into a state house and to try to intimidate lawmakers. Same thing happened in Virginia, the state house there. And OI read from your book what it meant to you to see the Charlottesville White Nationalist riot, those marchers saying, “Jews, you will not replace us.” Shouting racial epithets. And then the president saying that there were very fine people on both sides. To see in that same state, masked gunmen, all of them almost white men, try to intimidate lawmakers, that is terrorism by another name. You do not have to kill somebody with that gun to try to terrify them into taking action based on your political beliefs.
[29:15] Beto O’Rourke: And when you match that with terror that was expressed in murder, like in El Paso, where a guy came to to kill Mexicans, as he said afterwards to police, that then you understand what we’re up against. So what I say to that life-long gun owner, you know, and I know from reading your biography, you were raised to hunt and to fish and to shoot and to farm. You understand what life is like in a rural community. What I say to you is I don’t want to take your hunting rifle. I don’t want to take your handgun. I really don’t want to take any of your weapons. But I do think that an AR-15 or an AK-47, which is designed for war, which can be used to terrify and terrorize and intimidate, that has no place in civil society or in our communities. And in a country that loses more than a 100 human beings a day, more than we see in almost any other country on the face of the planet, disproportionately black, Latino men and women, boys and girls — disproportionately in Texas, women who are not protected against domestic abusers. You’ve got to agree, even if you’re a gun owner, even if you’re a Republican, even if you don’t like me, even if you hate my guts, that what we’re doing right now is not working. And you have kids, you have grandkids, you have family, you care about them as well. So let’s do something like universal background checks. Let’s close all the loopholes. Let’s have extreme risk protection orders. And then I know not everyone agrees, but I would argue let’s stop selling these assault weapons. And then I would also argue let’s have a mandatory buyback for these weapons of war, because they are they are weapons of intimidation and they’re weapons of terror, especially in communities like mine in El Paso, in states like ours in Texas, where we’ve had four devastating mass shootings just in the last two years. So I hope that builds some common ground and some common cause, even with people who don’t agree with me on every other issue.
[31:34] Michael Bennett: That’s deep, man. To think about 100 bodies a day. Like I can’t even I don’t think people really know that as a fact. Like that is terrifying if you really think about it. And for something that we can solve as citizens by just having the idea that our community matters, that our neighbors matter. There’s so much hate sometimes that you just — I don’t know how somebody like you being in the place you are, the things that you see, how do you constantly keep your hope? And what do you tell people who are losing hope that still want to stand up and go out there and do stuff, but every time they see the news or see something, it just kind of brings them back down.
[32:15] Michael Bennett: Yeah, that’s such a good question, and I wish I could tell you that I’m always hopeful, and that I always see the light at the end of the tunnel. I sometimes succumb to despair or get depressed, become despondent, think how in the world is this going to work? We’ve been trying for so long on some of these issues to make things better. And sometimes it seems like they’re getting worse. In some cases, we know they truly are getting worse. We’ve talked about criminal justice today. We have the largest prison population on the face of the planet, one that is disproportionately brown and black. That has actually gotten worse over time, not better. On gun violence, it’s getting worse. And it’s also hard to believe this, but some of the protections that have been hard-fought and hard-won are now being repealed and removed. A woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own body in state house after state house being challenged, being contested and being overthrown, despite the law of the land in Roe vs. Wade. And then to have that all happen under the regime, or administration, of Donald Trump, who knows no law that he’s willing to uphold if it’s going to advance his own career, his own interests and his own power. To see a feckless Senate allow him to get away scot-free with undermining our democracy and our national security and inviting the involvement of a foreign power in our elections, not just in 2016, but going forward in 2020. Yeah, that shit gets me down. And it makes me wonder how we’re gonna make it. But I think when I think through this, I realize if I give in to that, then what hope is there? And why should I be involved? And why should we continue? And I’ve got three kids who I feel very accountable to and very responsible for. And at some point sooner or later, they’re going to question me and Amy. They’re going to say,” hey, guys, when all this shit was happening, when they were putting kids in cages, when when we were seeing all this happen across the country, what did you do? How did you acquit yourself? Did you stand up for us? Did you do the right thing, even though it was hard, even though it sometimes looked hopeless? Or did you give in?”
[34:34] Beto O’Rourke: And I want to be able to tell them, “look, we did everything that we could. And we did it with some really, really amazing people. And at the end of the day, we came through and we delivered for this country.” And that’s really what moves me. I can’t always see the light and and it doesn’t always pencil out how this is gonna work. But I can’t give in and I cannot give up. And I’ve got to do everything that I can for my kids, for my community and for my country. And, you know, find those victories where you can and celebrate them at every opportunity. And we’ve got to know that there are a lot of other really good people out there who are doing their part as well. We started an organization in Texas called Powered by People. And basically we just invite folks to come in and volunteer on political campaigns. We don’t raise money to give to candidates. We don’t get involved in buying TV ads or get on Facebook or any of that stuff.
[35:29] Beto O’Rourke: We just try to get people to engage with their neighbors and fellow citizens, have those raw, honest conversations on someone’s porch about getting registered to vote or getting out to the polls or bringing your folks or your kids or your brother and your sister to vote in what I think are going to be the most important elections over the course of our lives. And when I’m knocking on doors with those volunteers in Powered by People, I feel hopeful. I’ve got a smile on my face. I no longer wonder what it is I’m supposed to do with my life at this moment. I just know I’ve got a knock on that next door, meet that next voter, bring that next person in to our democracy. So there’s nothing like work and action and movement and motion of momentum to make you feel good. And as long as I’m moving, I feel good.
[36:15] Pele Bennett: I love that you circle back with your family because everything is your foundation, with your children, with your wife, on having that conversation also because like you said, it’ll reflect them on the times later when they become adults, and they look back to see what their father did. So I think that’s important to start that conversation in-house so that your kids know what’s going on and they see the impact that you’re going to make and have made, you know, that will affect their lives later in the future. But it also sounds like you are not done making your impact in politics. Is there something else that you want to do moving forward? Or what is coming next.
[36:48] Michael Bennett: We already answered that. The 2024 Bennet/Beto. That’s our thing.
[37:00] Pele Bennett: Besides that.
[37:01] Beto O’Rourke: I got to start getting ready for that. I got to start getting ready for that yet. But in the meantime, I’m just gonna focus on this effort, Powered by People in Texas. And trying to help these really courageous state house candidates who, in very many cases, are running for the first time in their lives for elected office, are really underfunded compared to what the incumbent is going to be able to raise, have the entire power structure set up against them, are defying the odds and the conventional wisdom, and yet have the audacity get out there and do it nonetheless. There’s a woman named Elisa Simmons in Tarrant County in Arlington, Texas. She is the former head of the NAACP branch there. I met her when I was running for Senate in 2018, and she hosted a roundtable for me. Never met her before, never really spent much time in Arlington. She said, “Hey, Beto, do you know that Arlington is the largest city in the United States of America without a mass transit system? Do you know why that is?” I said, “well, I guess that the city fathers and mothers just, you know, didn’t want buses and were more interested in cars and vehicle traffic and highways.” And she said, no, that’s that’s not it at all. She said buses were associated with communities of color. And at the time, Arlington did not want communities of color coming in there. And so they didn’t build out a mass transit system. And yet we now have communities of color in Arlington. People at all ends of the economic spectrum. And when we think about those, though, who are at the lower end of the economic spectrum, not only are they struggling with living under the poverty line, they cannot get on a bus to go to their job or go to school or to see a doctor if they’re fortunate enough to be able to afford health care.
[39:01] Beto O’Rourke: And it is further deepening their poverty and their inability to transcend it. And so by listening to her, I was able to understand that this decision was not a decision that was made in the absence of race or social justice or other issues that were important to Arlington or this country, that this stuff is all connected. And she took the time to make sure that I understood those connections. And now the fact that she’s chosen to run for office and is going to use that knowledge to make life better if she’s elected for the people in Arlington and across the state of Texas, that’s inspiring to me. So I’m getting behind her and these other great state house candidates to make sure that I do everything I can to help them be successful, to help them win their races and help serve the people of Texas. So though I’m no longer a candidate, Pele, you’re right. I’m still engaged. I’m still involved. I’m still in the fight. And I’m really loving it.
[41:31] Michael Bennett: Michael Bloomberg being a billionaire and Trump being a billionaire, them being rich, does that really not allow them to really have a connection to what’s happening in everyday America?
[41:44] Beto O’Rourke: It’s a really good question. I think by default and definition, being a billionaire makes it a lot harder for you to connect with the majority of this country. Your life is, by definition, exceptional, extraordinary. Unlike the lives any of the rest of us are leading. And there’s something to be celebrated about that. You know, if you’ve made that much money, you’ve accumulated that much wealth, you’ve clearly done something that none of us have been able to do or been capable of doing. But I’m also really worried about the precedent that it could set that you need to be a billionaire, you need to be extraordinary and extravagantly wealthy, in order to play in national politics and to pursue the presidency. I mean, I think this idea that any one of us could hold elected office, regardless of our means or our background or any other difference between us, is part of the genius of America. Again, not ever fully realized. And let’s be clear about who has the chance typically to run for office and the network of donors and funders who make that possible and who has access to those networks and who does not. But I think that that would be further exacerbated by relegating national politics, and certainly the pursuit of the presidency, to the very wealthiest in this country. And I want to say this: I think Mike Bloomberg has done a lot of good with his wealth. We talked about gun violence earlier. He’s funded Everytown. He’s made sure that this is a central issue in campaigns all across the country, is working on climate change. He’s done some really amazing things. But I am a little concerned at this idea that wealth will trump merit, will trump other lived experiences that are also important, and frankly may be better connected to the everyday lives of our fellow Americans. So I don’t know that having that wealth should disqualify Mike Bloomberg, but I don’t think it should grant him the presidency either. And so whether it’s Sanders or Biden, I think that they should have the chance to make their case to the American public. And then we should have the chance to vote and decide. I think there’s still a lot for us to learn from these candidates. And I’d love to be able to get that information, and not just on TV ads that that very wealthy people can pay for.
[44:12] Michael Bennett: You know what you should do now? I got it. This is what you should do: you should drop a new album. Honestly, the word, how you use the adjective trump, and you did it like three times. Like that was some double entendre shit. Like you need to go and drop another album. This is the time.
[44:32] Pele Bennett: Michael, you don’t play any instruments.
[44:33] Michael Bennett: And I don’t play an instruments, but I can make the sounds like an instrument.
[44:36] Pele Bennett: Maybe you can rap on it.
[44:40] Michael Bennett: I was wondering, since we’re getting ready for 2024 candidacy, B-B, Bennett/Beto, I’ll be out front. You could be second. So that would make you the vice president, so you would still get a good job. But are you on any shortlist for any vice presidency, do you see yourself being involved in that way? I know you don’t want to tell us. Actually, don’t tell us.
[45:03] Pele Bennett: Michael doesn’t want to lose you.
[45:07] Michael Bennett: Yeah, I want you right now. But if you decide right now, who would be somebody that you could get behind, or do you see yourself being on a shortlist, would you do it?
[45:16] Beto O’Rourke: I don’t see myself being on a shortlist. First of all, presumptuous of me to think that anybody would want me to be on the ticket with them. I don’t know that that would be the case, but I don’t know if you saw this, but we were talking about the girl in Idaho with the AR-15 strapped to her back going before the city council, the state legislature. There was a picture of these armed, masked white men with weapons of war marching up the steps of the state capitol in Kentucky. And I tweeted that picture out and the words that accompanied it were, “wake the fuck up, America.” Like, look what is happening right now. Like this is going down in America as we speak. I want to feel free to say “wake the fuck up America” when it needs to be said.
[46:09] Michael Bennett: Album. Drop that album, Beto! Do what you do with that company in DC, do that with rap, do that with every type of music because music means that right now. There’s so much lies in music, and the way how music is shaping our kids, the way they tell our young girls to dress and our young men to do things. Like that positivity of honesty, that needs to be back in the music. So I say you drop the label again and get you a couple rappers, get you in your studio, come up to Hawaii to record.
[46: 47] Beto O’Rourke: Pele, I’m gonna ask you if — I know you’ve got a million things on your plate, but if you could help manage my career, the albums that we’ve got to produce, the B and B ticket that we got to get ready for in ‘24. Like you, I hope in some way I want to be able to speak my mind and feel free to do that without worrying about, you know, do I upset the party, do I upset the president at the top of the ticket? I just think this is a moment that cries out for truth and honesty in the most raw and real terms that we can possibly express them in. And again, I think that is why I was drawn to your book and why my son, who’s 13 years old, who I wondered — is he gonna want to read a book titled “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable?” And he’s a big, big sports fan. And it’s his entire life. And I said, hey, Ulysses, you know this guy, Michael Bennett? Yeah, of course I know Michael Bennett. Well, he wrote this book, I I just finished it. You may or may not like it. I’ll leave it by your bed. And if you pick it up, great. If not, that’s OK, too. You know, two days later he’d finished the book. Was really into it. And I think, you know, even though he’s 13 years old, he also craves this kind of truth and an understanding of where we are right now. Too much has been too safe and too saccharin and too produced. And we haven’t gotten at the tough truths underlying some of the problems that we have in America.
[48:20] Beto O’Rourke: And until we do, we’re going to keep repeating the same mistakes. And we’re going to continue to have people like Donald Trump in this country making life even that much harder for so many millions of our fellow Americans. So, yeah. This is a time to be honest. And that’s what I want to do.
[48:36] Pele Bennett: Amen. But I want to go back and talk about your wife. I want to say shout-out to Amy, because she sounds like an amazing person. She’ll be on track number three. You’re putting your truth out there and being public and how your family also has to engage in that, you know, what is a role that she plays in your life, in your family?
[48:57] Beto O’Rourke: I wish she could be here and answer that question, too, in terms of what she does. So she’s very involved in education in El Paso and our school systems, trying to improve the teachers and the pipeline of teachers coming in. Working with public schools and outside funders and organizations who want to make sure that every kid in El Paso has a great shot at a world-class education. And so on top of everything that she does for our family, she’s very committed in her career to improving the quality of public education. And I’m super proud of what she does there in the community. You know, and at home, she is part of every decision I make in my life. I just don’t do it unless Amy is good with it. Or very often the idea might originate with Amy. For example, when we were first thinking about running for Senate — and we had this conversation about, you know, how do we talk about Trump with our kids? This was back in 2016, 2017. And how do we explain all this stuff to them? And then Amy asked the even better question, she said, well, how are we going to explain ourselves if we fail to meet this challenge? And so she really was the one who helped make the decision to run for Senate. She knew that this was something that we could do where we might have something to offer. And it might very well make a difference. And then also is very often the backbone or the spine of the operation. I’ll be tempted to take the easy way out of an issue or not take a position on something. And she’ll call bullshit on that. She’ll say, hey, hold on a second. You’ve got to be honest about this stuff. And look, I know it’s not gonna be easy. I know you’re gonna take a lot of guff for saying this, but tell people how you really feel about this, even if it’s not popular. Her integrity, her ethics, her moral compass is second-to-none. And I always want to be a better person because of her. I always want to be worthy of her love and the fact that she chose me and that we get to do this. I want her to be proud of me. And I’m super, super proud of her. She means the world to me.
[51:21] Michael Bennett: I mean, I think that’s really cool, because a lot of times people don’t really highlight their wives like that. We like to highlight both sides. I like to highlight my wife. I like for her to highlight me. And I just think it’s so much positivity to bring to make marriage sound so beautiful, make marriage sound something that’s a commitment but at the same time, there’s honesty and there’s some growth in it. Yeah, we call it Crock-Pot love. Deep love. Not that microwave pot-pie shit, that real shit. Cooking gumbo and you gotta stir the roux. So it’s nice that you talk about your wife like that. And it gives your kids a way to look at how they should treat their spouses. You’re being an the example of that. And I think you should put that in a Hallmark card. That was beautiful, man. You set the standards right, how you should love your woman and how to go about your family. I think for me, I didn’t know you very well. I heard what you did. But when I watched the documentary and at the end and how you embraced your kids, I knew. I was like, that’s a man who loves his family. When he came home and he felt the emotions of his family, what his family was going through. It wasn’t like you were being selfish. So I just wanna thank you for coming out today.
[52:39] Michael Bennett: Oh, thank you. I really am honored that you all asked me. And I’ve loved learning about both of you, both through the book and the podcast, and how you all make your marriage work and how you make decisions together, and how you keep your great family together. And stuff’s not easy, but it’s important and it’s really good when it works out.
[53:02] Michael Bennett: All right, everybody listening to this: go vote. 2024, B-B, Bennett/Beto. It doesn’t matter who’s first. Everybody’s a winner. So thank you for coming on.
[53:16] Pele Bennett: Thank you.
[53:23] Michael Bennett: All right, everybody, it’s that time of the week where we have our little pro tip and Pele does her thing. Sometimes we respectfully disagree on certain things, but the same time, we still love each other.
[53:40] Pele Bennett: The pro tip of the day is how to compliment your spouse.
[53:46] Michael Bennett: And how to take those compliments, too. Because sometimes spouses don’t take those compliments when you’re trying to highlight and be a compliment.
[53:51] Pele Bennett: It’s because sometimes it’s coming from a different place. Are you being real? Are you being genuine? Are you joking?
[53:57] Michael Bennett: So I don’t know. Is it better to text the compliment because they can’t see your expression, they can just assume.
[54:05] Pele Bennett: So I loved how he complimented his wife, but he also spoke so lovely of her that it was almost like I think she needs to run. I want to hear more from her. I’m like, what else does she have to say?
[54:15] Michael Bennett: I also think in relationships we don’t take time to highlight our spouses. Like, you know, whenever your wife makes a great meal, you’re like, “baby, that shit was really good,” but if something’s bad, we’ll say it’s bad. I’ve done that before. I’m being honest. I’m not gonna be a hypocrite.
[54:29] Pele Bennett: That’s fine because I’m not about to make it again if you thought it was nasty.
[54:32] Michael Bennett: But when you do something so great, or your wife looks so good, compliment your spouse because it’s so important to highlight your spouse. Not just to do it, but also because it’s true. I think a lot of people always highlight the negativity of their spouse or what the other one other person isn’t doing. Not enough people are like, I can’t say that. My wife doesn’t do that.
[54:58] Pele Bennett: Like defend your partner? No, I think it is good to highlight, but sometimes it’s not being negative. Sometimes you gotta call shit out. So holding them accountable as well.
[55:07] Michael Bennett: He said that. He highlighted that part too, how his wife calls him out on shit that he’s scared to speak about. But that’s true relationship, the honesty that somebody is coming from a place when you’re doing bad, they tell you. And then when you’re doing great, they should tell you the same thing. So I think that’s important as a relationship where both people have that.
[55:27] Pele Bennett: I agree. You need to hold each other on a standard and stay to it. Stay true to it.
[55:34] Michael Bennett: Stay true to it. Stay true to it. That’s the pro tip. Stay true to it. Stay true to your relationship. Stay true to the love that you share in the great times and the love that you have during the hard times. Because you have to stay true to keep their boat going forward. Because there’s so many things that pile up in your boat, that pile up in your life that can make your love overturn. But if you keep your love steady, like you won’t have to worry about the negativity that people are trying to put in your life. You got a great person who has a vibe for you, that’s riding for you, that loves you, that cooks for you, that take care of you and you do the same. You can’t ask for more in life.
[56:10] Pele Bennett: Yeah, but you also said you have to take it. You have to accept it. Why is it difficult sometimes? If you have a compliment and you’re like, OK.
[56:20] Michael Bennett: Because you think it’s not coming from a genuine place.
[56:21] Pele Bennett: Is it more hurtful for that person to say it like that? Or for the other person to hear it?
[56:27] Michael Bennett: I don’t know. I think sometimes that the other person is so used to the person not saying anything positive, that finally when they do say something positive, it seems like sarcasm. Yeah, but at the same time you’ve got to be able to accept it for what it is. I mean if they’re giving us positive energy, let’s take that. Take what you can get.
[58:08] Pele Bennett: That’s it. That’s it. That’s the end. You don’t have to listen to Michael anymore. But come back next week for me on another episode of Mouthpeace with Michael and me, Pele Bennett on next week’s episode, we talk to author Flint Taylor about the history of police violence in Chicago.
[58:23] Michael Bennett: Please subscribe to us or like us on anything that you’re listening to. Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, whatever you’re listening to get away from your family, whoever you don’t want to be around. And make sure you rate us or give us a comment. Even though we don’t give a fuck about your comments, give us a comment. Mouthpeace is a production of Lemonada Media, which you can find online on all social platforms @LemonadaMedia. You can follow me on social media, @MosesBread72. I love bread, and biblically, I always thought I was Moses.
[58:52] Pele Bennett: And you can follow me on Instagram at @pelepels. Mouthpeace with Michael and Pele Bennett is executive produced by us, the Bennetts. Our Lemonada Media executive producer is Eli Kramer, and our producer is Genevieve Garrity. Our assistant producer is Claire Jones and our audio is edited by Brian Castillo. Thank you to our ad sales and distribution partners at Westwood One, and to all of our sponsors for making this show possible.