Beto, Stop This

Come on, Beto. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Beto O’Rourke, undaunted by previous failures, is running to become governor of Texas. As is customary for political candidates, he tweets — often — as part of this endeavor. Sometimes the tweets are quite bad. On Friday, O’Rourke uncorked a real stinker:

Much to consider here, but let’s begin with the notion that Greg Abbott, a Republican, is also a socialist. I hesitate to say something quite so obvious, but perhaps it’s necessary: Greg Abbott is not a socialist. As Abbott himself would point out, he is perhaps the furthest possible thing from a socialist. This is not a compliment, mind you; I wish more people would embrace socialism, but I know Abbott will do no such thing, and so do the voters of Texas.

So what was Beto thinking? Considered in the most generous light, his statement might be a garbled version of a similarly confused bit of Democratic messaging — that Republicans are invested in socialism for the rich alone. (This isn’t really socialism at all, but I digress.) There’s also the possibility he was trying to reverse engineer a common Republican tactic. Republicans love to call people socialists as much as they love the free market, which is a lot. It doesn’t matter whether someone like President Joe Biden is actually a socialist. If there’s even a small chance they can smear someone as a Bolshevik, they will take it, as if it is 1988 and the Cold War is still happening.

Which brings us to a rather more serious problem. A Democrat can’t just turn Republican rhetoric on its head and hope for success. O’Rourke’s messaging strategy is hopefully more complex than the contents of a single tweet; nevertheless, tweets themselves may be indicative of deep personal failings, as I well know. And that makes me worry for O’Rourke and his chances of defeating Abbott. If this is what he’s got, well, it’s not much.

Beto, Stop This