RUBEN NAVARRETTE | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR
The Enigma has entered the building.
In politics, if the media agree with your views and you play nice with them, there springs forth a benevolent narrative that you’re a “blank slate” where people can write whatever story they like. (See Barack Obama.) But if the Fourth Estate opposes your policies and you pick fights with reporters, the narrative is much less kind. You’re a phony, a charlatan, a conman who will be whatever people want you to be. (See Donald Trump).
Ready or not, we now have a candidate who appears to be a mixture of both.
Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Robert Francis O’Rourke has formally entered the 2020 presidential race. It’s been quite a journey so far for the Irish-American son of El Paso county judge and county commissioner Pat O’Rourke, who once told reporters he gave his son the nickname “Beto” because he thought it might help get votes if he entered politics in a border state like Texas.
Pat O’Rourke was cynical as heck. He was also a genius. He knew the “Beto” moniker would pay ethnic dividends for his son — twice.
It would help the younger O’Rourke fool gullible Mexicans into thinking he was one of them — and many do, from what I hear — because we’re already conditioned to the insult of white actors playing them on film (e.g.: Starring Marlon Brando as Emiliano Zapata).
But this stab at cultural appropriation also allows arrogant white liberals to feel as if they’re progressive enough to vote for a Latino because they know in their heart that it’s a safe choice, since they’re really just voting for one of their own.
Upon hearing of the arrival of our savior, my first thought was: Why not wait until Cinco de Mayo? A fake Mexican holiday created by white people to sell beer is the perfect day to kick off the candidacy of a fake Mexican candidate adored by white liberals who don’t mind the hard sell.
The marketing is hard-core. The media are pitching Beto like he’s the last shot of tequila at one of those offensive frat parties you see around the country where, in order to get in, you have to don a sombrero, throw on a serape and imitate a Mexican.
Beto retired from the House of Representatives after three exhausting two-year terms, where he passed no significant bills, rarely reached out to Latinos and avoided the combustible immigration issue, according to Latino lawmakers who got beat up over it. In 2017, he launched a Senate race against an intensely unpopular incumbent and raised more than $70 million from across the country. Yet, by implementing the Hillary Clinton strategy for luring Latino voters — i.e., attract them by ignoring them — he still managed to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory.
O’Rourke — who has disclosed a personal wealth of $5 million to $10 million — suffered through unemployment the way most of us do: by spending three months traveling the country to find America and maybe himself. The spectacle was too much for CNN’s Nia-Malika Henderson, who noted at the time that a woman or minority candidate would be too busy grappling with self-employment to indulge in much self-introspection.
Still, Beto pulled it off. Chalk up one for white male privilege, where often the normal rules don’t apply to you.
Meanwhile, the media — much of which are run by white liberals who are endlessly fascinated by the adventures of other white liberals, while often refusing to give others the time of day — have gone loco for Beto.
Last month, O’Rourke was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in Times Square. Now there are two documentaries, and an Annie Leibovitz photo shoot for a cover story in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. Expect more fawning to come.
You can bet that the other dozen or so Democrats running for president — no matter what their color — are green with envy.
Things are especially ticklish for Julian Castro, the one authentic Latino in this race. O’Rourke gets to say that we should legalize marijuana nationwide. If Castro did that, reporters would poke around to see if the Mexican-American had a drug trafficker uncle south of the border.
Why does O’Rourke get special treatment? You know why. As the Texas Democrat told Vanity Fair about the 2020 presidential race, “I’m just born to be in it.”
How’s that for entitlement?
Here’s a riddle: How many Betos does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: One. To hold the bulb, while the world revolves around him.
Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. His email is ruben@rubennavarrette. com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available on apps.