At 46, Beto O’Rourke who just announced his candidacy for President this morning, is only a couple of years younger than former rival Ted Cruz. But part of the excitement and the content of his potential candidacy is generational. Whereas Obama is from the tail end of the baby boom, Beto O’Rourke is quintessentially Generation X, weaned on Star Wars and punk rock and priding himself on authenticity over showmanship and a healthy skepticism of the mainstream. He came of age in a world of crumbling taboos over personal revelation, which has clearly peaked with Donald Trump, whose relentless Twitter habit has basically set the table for O’Rourke’s open-book style. Whether onstage or on Facebook Live or in person, O’Rourke has preternatural ease. That openness is part of what he loves about campaigning. “I think that’s the beauty of elections: You can’t hide from who you are,” he says. “The more honestly and directly you communicate to people why you’re doing this, the way in which you want to serve them, I just think that the better, more informed decision that they can make.”
If the message is honesty, the medium is, patently, social media. O’Rourke speaks admiringly of Bronx-21born congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with whom he shares some overlapping political convictions but also a talent for the sort of viral disclosures and vignettes, delivered on Twitter or Instagram, that are disrupting national politics. “She does not seem to me to be afraid of making a mistake, or not saying it perfectly,” he says, “and in the process says the most important—I think some of the most important—things anyone can be talking about right now, and she’s freed herself from fear.”
Ending the vanity fair interview, Beto said “You can probably tell that I want to run,” he finally confides, smiling. “I do. I think I’d be good at it.”
“This is the fight of our lives,” he continues, “not the fight-of-my-political-life kind of crap.
But, like, this is the fight of our lives as Americans, and as humans, I’d argue.”
The more he talks, the more he likes the sound of what he’s saying. “I want to be in it,” he says, now leaning forward. “Man, I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment.”