Beto v. Cruz: The 1st Debate

Ted Cruz Beto O'Rourke

Once upon a time, I blocked a girl on social media. This isn’t something I do often.

Shortly after, the girl called me inquiring as to why I blocked her. I told her why.

She responded, “So, you just blocked me for no reason?”

To recap, I had literally just given her a reason, and then she said I did it “for no reason.”

Baffled by her complete inability to comprehend basic statements and concepts, and unimpressed by her weak attempt to manipulate the direction of the conversation, I wasn’t interested in continuing it. So, I ended it…and I went on to block her phone number. Easy.

Fun fact about me: I’ve never been known for my patience. It’s something I’m constantly working on, but I have made significant strides with it since I was a kid. I think a lot of that comes with age and experience, but I do make a conscious effort to give people the benefit of the doubt and see things from their perspective.

That said, there’s still no reason to suffer the ineptitude of fools, at least not for an extended period of time, and especially not when their own intentions are not only unproductive, but they’re destructive. Unwilling to waste my own time and energy on anyone undeserving of it, I just…don’t. And my life is better for it.

Unfortunately, when it comes to a political debate, you can’t simply leave your podium and block your opponent on Instagram whenever they say something irrational and/or slanderous. You can’t put your own sanity and peace of mind ahead of engaging in a conversation you’d rather not have, and when your opponent resorts to high school debate tactics and personal attacks, you can’t say, “This is dumb. I’m not dealing with you. Bye.”

That’s the sacrifice that political candidates make that people don’t often consider. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

As we head into the 2018 midterm elections, the stakes are high for both parties. In Texas, a state that consistently votes red despite significant blue representation in the major metropolitan areas (gerrymandering is still a thing, by the way), Republican Senator Ted Cruz is up for re-election. A career senator (since we still have no term limits on these seats), Cruz is actually facing a formidable Democratic challenger, Representative Beto O’Rourke from El Paso, Texas.

Tonight, Beto and Cruz face off in their second debate in San Antonio, so to pre-game, I’ve decided to look back at their first debate.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first.

Ted Cruz’s legal name is Rafael Edward Cruz. Beto O’ Rourke’s legal name is Robert Francis O’ Rourke. They’re both using nicknames. Maybe Ted’s pandering to white people. Maybe Beto’s pandering to Hispanics. Either way, they’d both be guilty of the same offense. Either way, it doesn’t actually have anything to do with their politics.

Can we move on, now?

Beto has made waves across Texas in a way that seems to surprise many Republicans, in and out of Texas. Similarly, Beto has gained national attention as the charismatic upstart who’s brave enough to take on Ted Cruz with a grassroots campaign.

I should mention that Ted Cruz isn’t exactly Texas’ sweetheart or anything like that. He has supporters, yes (and supporters with a ton of money), but from what I’ve personally seen, many of them support the party more than the person. Bill Maher even commented on this when he had Beto on his show, running through a list of anti-Cruz quotes from his colleagues in Congress. I joke that nobody likes Ted Cruz – Ted Cruz doesn’t even like Ted Cruz – but at the end of the day, that doesn’t really matter.

Oh yeah, and there are no winners in things like this, despite everyone’s inclination to declare one. This isn’t a competition in a gymnasium. There are no trophies. People who side with Cruz will say he won, and Beto’s people will say he won. No surprise there.

“LEGAL, GOOD. ILLEGAL, BAD.”

When asked about immigration, Ted Cruz summed up his stance on the issue in four words, “Legal, good. Illegal, bad.”

Oh, but if only it was so simple, Ted.

As the senator of the largest border state with Mexico, Ted Cruz has sided with President Trump’s costly, insufficient, and almost comical solution to build a wall to keep illegal immigrants from Mexico out of our country.

However, instead of addressing the Dreamers who are already living in the United States, which was the original topic of the question, Cruz stated that “Americans are dreamers, also.”

Of course we have our own dreams, and of course we want certain things for ourselves. Here, Cruz is using a weak semantics argument by choosing to ignore the context of the question and the context of the word “dreamers.” The dreamers being referred to in the question are a specific group of people – not anyone who has a dream.

What Cruz’s rhetoric here does is pander to a sense of nationalism, or to an us-versus-them type of mentality. He’s perpetuating the idea that the United States’ citizens cannot function in a world with too many of these dreamers. It’s the old, “They took our jobs!” argument, just refashioned a bit.

To be clear, I’m not saying illegal immigration should just be allowed to happen. First of all, it’s illegal by definition, but unchecked immigration would ultimately and understandably cause a strain on American resources. However, Cruz’s solution to allow people to come into the country legally, as his father did many years ago, isn’t completely viable, either. The system’s broken, and it’s going to take more than a wall to fix it.

THE PARTY OF LINCOLN

Ok, can we please stop calling the GOP “The Party of Lincoln”? It’s outdated and frankly, inaccurate for more reasons than I could possibly get into now. Here’s a quick explainer on it from Vox, though.

Here, the question was about kneeling during the national anthem, an issue that Beto had taken a firm stance on.

After Beto addressed the civil rights issues that surrounded the Kaepernick controversy, Cruz’s response was that during the Civil Rights Movement from 50 or 60 years ago, the Republican party was the one fighting for equal rights in the south, not the Democrats.

The party has changed quite a bit since then, Ted.

That aside, I’m not sure what the point of that argument was. Neither Cruz nor Beto were elected officials in the 1950s, and neither party today should or can be held accountable for the parties’ past battles.

But then…Cruz mentioned flag burning, for some reason, to which Beto responded with a resounding,

“He again tried to mislead you by taking a peaceful protest during the national anthem to burning the flag…He also grounded his answer in partisanship, talking about the GOP being better than the Democrats.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

AMBER GUYGER

Amber Guyger was a white police officer who entered a black man, Botham Jean’s, own apartment and shot him dead. Beto wanted her removed from her position. Cruz said that was a hasty judgment call to make without any kind of due process.

This incident played right into the Black Lives Matter movement and the assertion that black people are being shot and killed by police officers at alarming rates with little to no repercussive action being taken against the offenders.

Cruz stated, “If she violated the law, if she did that intentionally – she’ll face the consequences,” but we know from experience that these cases hardly ever play out that way.

Next, Cruz used this opportunity to accuse Beto of  repeatedly “[going] against the police]” and calling the police today “modern-day Jim Crow.” To this, Beto responded, “What Senator Cruz said is simply untrue.” Here’s what Cruz was referring to.

Looking to the bigger picture and imploring a debate on the actual issues that affect millions of Americans, Beto added,

“This is why people don’t like Washington, D.C. You just said something that I did not say…This is your trick of the trade – to confuse and to incite based on fear. This is a very serious issue and it warrants the truth and the facts.”

KAVANAUGH HEARING

Well, this is old news now, but at the time of the first debate, Brett Kavanaugh had yet to be confirmed to the Supreme Court and Dr. Ford had yet to testify. When asked about his stance on the issue and how he would vote during the Senate hearing, Cruz reminded us that he pushed for the hearing, “…to let the American people listen and come to an assessment of what happened.”

Good for you, Ted. I guess that’s enough of an effort for him to keep his conscious clear about putting a guy like Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, but it’s also a moot point. Who cares if the American people are allowed to assess what happened? It doesn’t matter what we think, apparently. The hearing made no difference in the end, despite Kavanaugh’s strong disapproval rates across the country. The job of a senator is to vote based on his constituents wants and best interests. Our senators aren’t really doing that anymore.

Following this point, Cruz said,

“Congressman O’Rourke agrees with Hillary Clinton. He wants liberal judicial activists on the Supreme Court who will impose their particular policy.”

Cruz is being slightly hypocritical here, though. Everyone would prefer a judge who would vote in favor of their views.

Cruz went on to bring up defending the Constitution, specifically the 2nd Amendment, asserting that Beto wants a judge who will “undermine and effectively write the 2nd Amendment out of the Constitution.”

That’s a bit of a stretch, considering Beto’s stance on the 2nd Amendment is far from eliminating it. For the record, Clinton didn’t want to, either.

When Beto defended this, Cruz interrupted him with, “Did you endorse Hillary Clinton?” Beto responded with, “That has nothing to do with my support of the 2nd Amendment. I fully support the 2nd Amendment.”

And he’s right. Supporting a presidential candidate is one thing. Forming an opinion and taking a stance on an issue as a congressman is another.

THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS

There was a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas recently. Santa Fe’s a suburb of Houston. In fact, it’s maybe 15 minutes away from where I grew up. Cruz said he went down to Santa Fe to speak with the teachers, students, and parents affected. That was nice of him.

Beto said to Cruz, “Thoughts and prayers, Senator Cruz, are just not going to cut it anymore. The people of Texas, the children of Texas, deserve action.”

Cruz responded with, “I’m sorry that you don’t like thoughts and prayers. I will pray for anyone in harm’s way.” From there, he explained that he had once proposed legislation in Congress to dedicate funds to better protection and security in schools, legislation that he said the Democrats filibustered.

I guess Cruz’s people still care about prayers, which honestly, is a little surprising but beside the point. Either way, following the Santa Fe shooting, Cruz did little to nothing about gun control or protection in our schools, so without that, the prayers aren’t worth much. Senators’ prayers don’t count for more than my own.

TRUMP VS CRUZ

Ted “Tough as Texas” Cruz took a beating by Trump during the 2016 presidential race, with Trump making all kinds of claims against Cruz and members of his family. Now, Cruz is a Trump supporter, which has caused many Americans to see him as spineless.

To that claim, Cruz stated that he’s willing to work with Trump for the sake of getting things done in the country and that his own personal relationship with Trump is not as important as a senator’s relationship with the president.

I agree with that.

Beto responded,

“If the president attacks you personally, your wife, your father – how you respond is your business. But when the president attacks our institutions, this country, [and] allows a foreign power to invade our democracy, that is our business. We need a US senator who will stand up to this president where we must, work with him where we can.”

I agree with that, too.

Cruz’s response took a detour to discussing farmers and ranchers for a bit, but then he claimed that Beto’s response ended with an attack on Donald Trump and that the Democratic party is “consumed with hatred for Donald Trump.”

I would hardly call Beto’s response an attack on Trump, but again, it is a senator’s job to take stances against a president if the president’s stances are not in alignment with the will of the people. Cruz seems to have lost sight of this.

WHITE PRIVILEGE AND NARCOTICS

As a brown female in America, it’s always so satisfying when a white man acknowledges the privilege of his existence, which is what Beto did when he said, “As a white man in this country, there’s a privilege that I enjoy that many African-American men and women do not.”

This was in response to a question about a DWI Beto got in his younger years. He admitted driving drunk and he asserted that he’s moved on from it and learned from the experience, which frankly, is the best he can do.

This then became a question of drug laws in America.

Cruz stated, “[Beto] introduced and he advocated for a resolution in the El Paso City Council calling for a national debate on legalizing all narcotics. That includes heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine.”

Before this, Cruz was making a point about the legalization of marijuana in America, an issue that Cruz said he was open to exploring (yay!). But when Cruz spun the conversation to “other narcotics,” that’s where he goes astray.

Marijuana is not actually a narcotic and it should not be treated as such, despite what the outdated drug classification system says.

Beto responded with, “Yes, I want to end the War on Drugs, and specifically want to end the prohibition on marijuana.” He didn’t explicitly state that he did not want to legalize all narcotics, a point which Cruz harped on. However, in debate settings, you only have 30-60 seconds for responses and rebuttals. Also, it would be very hard for Beto to respond to every inane accusation when it’s easy for people to Google what Cruz was referring to and see for themselves. Cruz is banking on the presumption that most people won’t do that, though. Here’s the link again, in case you missed it.

But then, in a very Kavanaugh-esque moment of attempting to curry sympathy with viewers, Cruz bowed his head and lowered his voice to say, “This is an issue that’s personal to me. My older sister, Mariam, died of a drug overdose.”

We’re all sorry to hear that, Ted, but I’m sure your sister did not die from marijuana. I’m sure of this because no one has died from marijuana.

OBAMACARE

I know you’re tired, but we’re almost done.

To be brief, Cruz wants to repeal Obamacare and Beto doesn’t. Surprise.

Cruz made the point that most congressmen and senators agree on the issue of pre-existing conditions, but they don’t agree on the costs associated with healthcare. Cruz claimed that Beto wanted to “socialize medicine,” which is one of those hot-button, divisive buzzwords he likes to throw out in association with his opponent, but Beto simply stated that it didn’t make any sense to repeal the Affordable Care Act without having a viable replacement ready to go first.

IMPEACHMENT

Cruz consistently throughout the debate states that Beto wants to vote to impeach the president.

This is a big topic and something that’s on the mind of a lot of Americans. However, is that necessarily a bad thing? I guess to Ted Cruz’s Republican base it would be, but as I’ve mentioned before, it’s the job of a senator to vote on behalf of the American people. If that means to vote to investigate a president on certain charges and then possibly remove him from office, then so be it.

THE HARD LEFT

Ok, the feed cuts out in the middle of Cruz’s response to a question about “Texas values,” so I didn’t get the whole thing, but he does refer to “the hard left.” Is that a thing now?

“They’re energized. They’re angry,” he says.

Is he insinuating that “the hard left” has no reason to be angry? Maybe he could try listening to the things they’re angry about, especially since a lot of Texas is made up of lefties these days.

He went on, saying that “[Beto] voted in favor of a, quote ‘rain tax,’ which I don’t even know what that is. I guess a tax on rain, but I’m not sure.”

Oh, you know what that is, Ted. It’s a flood prevention measure, and somehow I don’t believe that you didn’t look that up before bringing it up during the debate.

MOVING ON

That was a lot of information, I know. A lot of quotes. A lot of commentary. I’m exhausted, as I’m sure you are if you made it this far.

Anyway…onward to the next debate, and then onward to the midterms.

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