Two facts: Texas is big and campaigning is hard.
Well, let’s be clear: phone banking is hard. Going door to door is even harder, no matter how many breakfast tacos you have consumed or number of friendly voters previously encountered. That is until you chat with the first-time voter at door number 7, convince an out-of-state supporter to spearhead an event, and even gracefully navigate a less than enthusiastic conversation. This happens quickly, and hard shifts to empowering, invigorating, and entirely incredible.
Or at least that was my experience a few weeks back when I ventured to Austin, Texas to spend the weekend volunteering for Beto O’Rourke’s Senate campaign.
Beto’s race has a gravitational pull that feels like a product of our current reality. The anxieties that have been looming over many of us since 2016 are still acutely felt, seeming to grow larger as each new headline and tweet streams in. I’ve spent the past two years oscillating between our political present and the safe and wonderful world created while watching The West Wing. But then I went to Texas.
I’ll be honest: a year ago my little knowledge around Beto O’Rourke stemmed from the fact that a friend of mine sported a t-shirt with Beto’s bolded name across it. Fast-forward to today and it feels as if everyone is somewhat aware of who he is.
Democrat, Whataburger enthusiast, opponent to incumbent Ted Cruz, El Paso native with a punk-rock past; he’s more than a candidate—he’s a man that’s eager to fight for and enact the ideals that mirror a future so many of us hope to have.
During their first debate, Beto made a punchy point about Cruz. “He’s working for the clampdown.”
Yes, the man quoted the Clash.
From the moment I landed in Austin I was put to work. Sitting inside Beto’s campaign headquarters, it was nearly impossible to not feel fired up. Hours are long and politcal chatter is aplenty; it’s a world unto its own that feeds off of the energy around. While staffers and volunteers lend a varied role in the campaign, the force of Beto brings everyone into the same exact headspace.
From those selling t-shirts and monitoring phone banks to the tireless individuals on the communications team and the man known as the Ted Cruz proxy for practice debates, you see D.C. political mavens work alongside those who know Texas in the truest sense.
This is the first campaign I’ve really been involved in. I spoke with fifth-generation Texans, had drinks with staffers following a stressful day, and witnessed the sheer determination of a fellow phone banker as he was met with one angry phone call after another.
My few days thrust into the campaign left me wanting more of the present and less of the past; preferring the realist optimism that is inherent with the former. More action, less paralysis. More purpose, less passivity.
I’m heading back to Texas in a few short weeks, and here’s the thing: anyone can join in. Beto for Texas is now in the most pivotal push of the fight. Electing Beto means organizing the largest Get Out The Vote campaign in Texas history. Like I said before, Texas is big, which means they need to galvanize a historic amount of volunteers to get those voters spurred into action.
Things that seem hard are often what matter the most—show up to the polls November 6th, get involved with Beto from the ground or from the couch, step up for another pivotal campaign, encourage others to educate before they elect.
Breakfast tacos are delicious. Doing something that may shift our future tastes even better.