The setup in the Great Hall was relatively simple: just a small stage in the center of the room — one assumes to prevent Beto from jumping up on any and all available surfaces — and a few chairs to one side. It almost looked like a concert venue, with the students smushing up against each other around the stage in a mosh pit. When Beto finally bounded into the room the crowd erupted into cheers and applause, before being led in the “Tar Heel” call-and-response chant by the Texan, who was, himself, wearing a UNC hat and a Carolina blue shirt.
With the way he acted and the way the crowd responded, it was easy to forget that O’Rourke isn’t some rock star or actor or cult-leader, and is, in fact, just a politician. Moreover, he is a politician whose most significant electoral accomplishment to date is losing a senate race to a guy so disagreeable, his best quality is arguably the jokes about him being a serial killer.
But the failures of the past are in the past — as are, it seems, Beto’s promises not to run for president because it would be unfair to his family — and Beto is moving onward and upward. He was, as he put it, “born to be in it” after all! And who is he to deny his birthright?
Lord, as the prayer goes, grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man.
This mediocre white man went right into his spiel, thanking North Carolina for being so welcoming and calling for an end to division.
“For those Republicans, and I hope there are some in the room (with a brave MAGA-hat wearer present, there was at least one) you’re in the right place. Independents, you are welcomed as well. At this moment we want to make sure we are not defined or limited ourselves by our differences,” he said, waving his arms around so much he made the sign-language translator’s rapid movements look positively pedestrian.
Unity was a common theme in Beto’s talk. He spoke about ending racial barriers, ending hate, bringing healthcare to those who don’t ha—"WHY DON’T YOU SUPPORT SINGLE-PAYER THEN?”
The curse of the BamBeto: trying to appear centrist in today’s political environment doesn’t go over well with everyone.
Beto took a second to regroup, reminding the audience he’d take answers at the end.
“The question is whether I support single-payer”…pause… “there’s nothing wrong with it. It may cost us somewhere between $25 and $30 trillion to be able to implement,” he said. “That’s one way to go” — time to hedge some bets — “and I have no problem with that if that’s what you want to pursue. There’s another path that we can take howe—”
“YOU CARE MORE ABOUT INSURANCE COMPANIES THAN YOU DO—”
“LET HIM TALK!” (the interrupter becomes the interrupted!)
“YOU WANT INSURANCE COMPANIES MAKING PROFITS RATHER THAN THE PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY THAT NEED THAT CARE DESPERATELY.”
“I hear you. I just heard you out and I was just trying to answer the question that you asked of me. If you’ll allow me to continue I will,” Beto said. “Cool with you?”
It was, apparently, cool with the heckler.
“Now that I have your permission I can continue,” Beto said to laughter and applause.
And so he did.
Beto’s answer to the healthcare problem is a Medicare-for-all plan that, with no actual plan written, is rather vague at this current stage and sounds rather like a more politically-palatable single-payer plan. This lack of clear policy ideas is a criticism that has followed Beto from the start of his campaign. He is seemingly content to play the role of a Kennedy-knockoff, with nice-sounding platitudes while the other candidates make policy plans he can jump on board with.
But Beto will be Beto, he’ll wave his arms like one of those mythical cancer-causing windmills Trump’s so afraid of. He’ll sweat like mad in a well-air conditioned room. He’ll flip-flop, side-hop and bebop his way through tough questions, always maintaining his air of easy and unearned self-assurance. But he’ll look the part of a classic politician while doing it — tall, moderately handsome, amiable, sleeves-rolled up in an “it’s time to get to work” fashion. And in today’s political climate, apparently that’s enough for some people.
But just because the style and substance of the last few years have been so objectionable doesn’t mean we should go for a man who has the old style we all miss so terribly down pat without checking his substance. After all, Beto reportedly once gave his wife a bowl of feces and told her it was avocado. There’s got to be an analogy in there somewhere…
 Edit Board’s own Seth Newkirk!
 “It” being kind of ambiguous; “it” could be the Oval Office, the presidential race or, based on his poetry, a cow.