Completely objective conservatives might dismissively proclaim "Beto-mania" is a "joke" (that's an actual headline), but the barbecue tofu-eating hippies might still have the last laugh yet in the intensely covered Texas Senate race. Young voter turnout is up more than 500 percent from 2014, and black and Hispanic voting rates have more than doubled. True, we don't know if they're all coming out in record numbers to vote for Beto O'Rourke, but no one's that exited to support Ted Cruz, right? Heidi probably even had to set a day-of reminder for their own wedding.

No matter what happens next Tuesday, O'Rourke ran as an unapologetic liberal Democrat deep in the red heart of Texas. He said without hesitation that he wouldn't have voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. You'll recall that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin was a weaselly "yes." He also opposes ending birthright citizenship, even if it costs him some votes from the Dallas suburbanites FOX News frightens daily with rhetoric about an "invading army." Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly has already caved and said he's "open" to Donald Trump's ridiculous proposal, pending discussions of "constitutionality." Hint Joe Donnelly, it's fucking not.

This week, O'Rourke published an op-ed blasting Cruz's awful record on health care, and unlike pretty much everything Cruz says, O'Rourke's nouns, verbs, and occasional adjectives were based in fact.

Throughout his first six years in the U.S. Senate, Ted Cruz has largely ignored the calls from mothers across the country demanding action in Congress to address this crisis. Now he is asking for six more years to undermine coverage for people with pre-existing conditions — including pregnancy, allow insurers to refuse coverage for maternity care and other essential health benefits, and cut funding for Medicaid, which helps women in Texas access prenatal care.

Targeting Republicans' obvious weakness on health care is a common tactic for Democrats during the midterm elections. What's unusual is that O'Rourke wrote this piece for Essence magazine and directly addressed the specific struggles black women in Texas face, as well as the racial disparities that have life and death consequences.

There are too many stories of mothers in Houston, Dallas and communities of color across Texas where women have undergone emergency surgeries due to complications like blood clots, infections, hemorrhages, or "toxemia," a condition better known as preeclampsia. Despite medical advancements, the reality is black mothers in the United States remain 243 percent more likely to die due to pregnancy-related or delivery-related complications than white women.

O'Rourke has a habit of recognizing the existence of black women. It's an unconventional strategy at a time when mostly white pundits and politicos suggest the only way to defeat Trumpism is for Democrats to abandon "identity politics" and center white cisgendered men.

Democrats are strongly urged to speak of nothing but how they'll get white guys the well-paying jobs that's their own unique form of birthright citizenship. Address race only as a matter of “law and order." Sure, say something nice about black folks to distinguish yourself from Trump -- that guy's crazy! -- but make sure to reinforce racial stereotypes along the way. Both Harry Reid and Joe Biden stepped in it when “complimenting" Obama, and Donnelly joined the club during Tuesday night's debate when commenting on his staff's diversity.

"Our state director is Indian-American, but he does an amazing job," he said. "Our director of all constituent services, she's African-American, but she does an even more incredible job than you can ever imagine."

C'mon, this is 1985-era "one of the good ones" praise, the kind we'd just have to smile and accept graciously while biting our tongue until it bled. "The new black girl we hired does a great job! Really strong work ethic. Doesn't take any office supplies home. I mean, I haven't checked recently but I trust her is what I'm saying."

O'Rourke is a refreshing change. It's as if he understands that "working class" doesn't have an invisible "white" permanently attached to it and the 90 percent of black women who voted for Hillary Clinton aren't all Oprah and Beyoncé. During an appearance on "Hardball with Chris Matthews" last night, Beto delivered some high-octane liberalism without once faking the funk. He flat-out said that Trump has "contributed" to tensions in the country. He talked about sensible gun reform (in Texas, mind you). He talked about funding public schools and providing a "living wage" for teachers. He talked like a Democrat and he wasn't afraid.

Maybe that can be the Democrats new slogan for 2018 and beyond: "Not afraid."

Watch the entire Beto Town Hall below.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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