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The Profound Emptiness of Beto O’Rourke

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After months spent teasing his supporters and the political media, Beto O’Rourke surprised absolutely no one Thursday when he officially announced his candidacy for president. “We are truly now more than ever the last great hope of Earth,” he said in a video posted on social media, channeling The Lord of the Rings. “At this moment of maximum peril, and maximum potential, let’s show ourselves and those who will succeed us in this great country just who we are and what we can do.”

These are exactly the kind of empty platitudes we have come to expect from O’Rourke since last year, when his failed, but lively challenge of Senate Ted Cruz turned him from a back-bench, three-term congressman to a national figure (and former congressman). Some have compared him to Barack Obama, with whom he shares a message of optimism and unity. But the comparisons end there. He has all of Obama’s self-assurance with none of his intellectual fortitude, inspirational biography, or oratory power. His rhetoric is as empty as his platform, his paeans to “coming together” the stuff of Obama fanfic.

O’Rourke’s claim to the presidency is based solely on the frenzy surrounding his campaign to unseat Cruz. Over four magical months in the late summer and early fall, O’Rourke made Democrats believe that Texas—which has not had a Democratic senator in a generation—could turn blue. He visited every county in the state, regularly drawing crowds of 50,000 fans, with a message engineered to appeal to both progressives and moderates. “You cannot be too much of a Republican, you can’t be too blue of a Democrat, too much of an independent. You can’t be in prison for too many years, you can’t be too undocumented to be worth fighting for. It is for everyone,” O’Rourke said a campaign stop in Dallas.

It helped his case that Ted Cruz is the most hated man in the Senate. O’Rourke lost anyway, a defeat that looked assured by mid-October. Even O’Rourke seemed to realize it, pivoting his already wide-angled campaign toward increasingly national issues. Many believed that once the midterms were in the rearview, and with his days numbered in the House, O’Rourke would announce his 2020 bid in short order.

Instead, he blogged.

Beginning shortly after his loss in November, O’Rourke began posting long, rambling, solipsistic posts on........

© New Republic