Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who recently announced his intention to seek the White House in the upcoming 2020 election, is facing mounting scrutiny from liberal critics who claim his “white male privilege” is affording him coverage his female competition lacks.
“In a year where we have more choices than ever, more women, and more persons of color than ever – none of them seem to be deemed a phenom,” Democrat consultant Mary Anne Marsh said.
The Democrat consultant continued, lamenting that “Instead, it’s Beto O’Rourke in the Bernie Sanders role, to the detriment of every woman running.”
“Not one woman got that kind of coverage – not one,” said Marsh. “Not Kamala, not Kirsten, not Elizabeth Warren, not Amy Klobuchar in a blizzard,” adding, “So, what have we learned? Nothing.”
Tracy Sefl, another Democrat strategist and former adviser to Hillary Clinton, said “There’s a romanticizing of” O’Rourke.
“A woman could never say ‘I was born to do this,'” said Sefl, adding, “But you know what? I think that some women were, and it pains me that a woman couldn’t get away with saying that.”
Since announcing her 2020 run, Elizabeth Warren has dispensed three major policy proposals, held 30 campaign events and visited nearly a dozen states.
Since announcing his 2020 run, Beto O’Rourke has made one visit to Iowa, where he vaguely outlined his positions, including from atop a cafe counter.
Guess who’s getting the star treatment.
The breathless, sweeps-like cable television coverage that greeted the former Texas congressman’s first campaign events stunned and frustrated many Democratic operatives — particularly women — who viewed it as an example of the double standard at work in the historically diverse presidential field.
To them, O’Rourke, a white, male candidate had already been ordained the next sensation, his entry into the race greased by live television shots and O’Rourke-centric panels.
And that was after the national press swarmed him in El Paso during a recent Donald Trump appearance there, after O’Rourke graced the latest Vanity Fair cover, and after Oprah Winfrey, who had her choice of accomplished women candidates to feature on her program, instead zeroed in on the white guy from Texas.
“I feel like the media is always captivated by the person they seem to think is a phenom: Bernie. Trump. Beto. But they always seem to be white men who are phenoms. In a year where we have more choices than ever, more women and more persons of color than ever, none of them seem to be deemed a phenom,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic political consultant.
“It’s a replay of Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton. Instead, it’s Beto O’Rourke in the Bernie Sanders role, to the detriment of every woman running. Not one woman got that kind of coverage. Not one. Not Kamala. Not Kirsten. Not Elizabeth Warren. Not Amy Klobuchar in a blizzard.”
“So what have we learned?” Marsh continued. “Nothing.”
While the 2018 midterm elections set the stage for women making historic gains in Congress — and last month marked another groundbreaking moment when five women officeholders joined the presidential race — no woman on the Democratic side received the kind of wall-to-wall coverage O’Rourke received.
And unlike O’Rourke, who rocketed to stardom last year as he raised a record-breaking $80 million in his unexpectedly close defeat to Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, all of them had won their last election.
“I fully appreciate that he can espouse progressive values as a Democrat, that’s a benefit for the Democratic field. I don’t welcome being fed the retro candidacy,” said Tracy Sefl, a Democratic strategist and onetime Hillary Clinton adviser. “There’s a romanticizing of him. It’s the artful Vanity Fair cover — but in reality he was in Keokuk, Iowa in a coffee shop. The coffee shop had more reporters in it than Iowans. That’s the product of romanticizing.”
Frustrations over the hyper-coverage of O’Rourke began to build on the eve of his campaign rollout, when Vanity Fair published its April edition online featuring photos taken by the renowned Annie Leibovitz. On the cover stood O’Rourke in blue jeans on a dusty Texas road with a headline declaring: “Beto’s Choice: I want to be in it. Man, I’m just born to be in it.”
His comments, which to some Democrats carried the scent of white male privilege, set fire to a whole different set of frustrations.
“A woman could never say ‘I was born to do this.’ But you know what? I think that some women were and it pains me that a woman couldn’t get away with saying that,” Sefl said.
Other female Democratic operatives questioned whether the women candidates could have gotten away with some of the comments O’Rourke made Thursday about his parenting style, or taken the kind of well-publicized, sans-family road trip he took earlier this year.
“I actually really like Beto, but all you have to do is put his quotes into the mouth of a hypothetical woman candidate: she ‘sometimes’ takes care of her kids, she was ‘born for this’, her speech was just ‘amazing, every word pulled out of me’ to know that women would not be the object of adoration,” said Jess McIntosh, a Democratic strategist and former senior communications staffer on the Hillary Clinton campaign.