It’s rare to get a second chance to make a first impression, to go home again, to get your groove back. Beto O’Rourke has done all three as he climbed down from running for president to remain in his hometown of El Paso in the aftermath of the greatest trauma in Texas since JFK was assassinated.
From the moment the Walmart became a morgue, O’Rourke was back where he belonged, amid 680,000 residents of a community that is among the safest in the country. He stopped campaigning immediately, not to make a video of himself at a staged hospital visit, but to live among the mourners, some his neighbors, many his constituents when he served them in Congress. Vigils? He was there. A soccer fundraiser? He and his family were at the one to make up for the one outside Walmart that ended last Saturday with two coaches wounded. He donated blood, hugged everyone, spent time with those wounded while trying to save a child or spouse. He skipped the Iowa State Fair, the nation’s premier political event (and dining event too, if you like deep-fried Twinkies), where 16 other candidates bucking to win the first-in-the-nation caucuses appeared.
It was the right choice. Being in El Paso tapped into his natural gifts: empathy, wearing his heart on his sleeve, weaving policy into emotion, one hand chop at a time.