Beto O’Rourke, the Irish playboy who tried passing himself off as a Mexican in his run against Ted Cruz in 2018, has declared for President. The boomers in the Progressive commentariat are rushing to their fainting couches, as they are sure he is the Hispanic-ish John F. Kennedy or Robert F. Kennedy, depending upon which end of the 60’s they remember best. Watching a geriatric old fool like Chris Mathews fawn over O’Rourke is a reminder why the Germans gave the world the word fremdschämen.
It’s a good reminder that the Left is more burdened with yesterday men than right-side of the political divide. Even the cuckiest conservative is not comparing a guy like Ben Sasse to Reagan, Goldwater or Eisenhower. Progressive boomers still have a bust of JFK in their house and talk about where they were when he was shot. They are a walking, talking museum displays of a bygone era. That’s why they are gushing over O’Rourke. He’s the last white man of any standing in the Democrat Party.
The funny thing is though, the comparison between O’Rourke and the Kennedy brothers is useful in understanding the current age. John F. Kennedy was, despite lots of revisionism, a man’s man who lived a full live. He served in the war, liked adventure, enjoyed a drink under extreme social pressure and liked women. He was like an Irish version of Theodore Roosevelt. RFK never saw action, but he served and like his brother, he was a man who lived to the fullest. Whatever you may think of their politics or ethics, they were men.
Beto O’Rourke, in contrast, is a bum. His family never had Kennedy money, but they were well-enough-off to send him to a boarding school in Virginia. According to his bio, he was a slacker with a taste for murder porn. He headed off to Columbia to major in English, as that required the least amount of effort. After college, he remained a bum, drinking and working as a live-in caretaker and art mover. Then he got a job working for an ISP, after which is family apparently set him up in his own business in Texas.
That’s hardly a heroic back story. His father was deep into Texas politics, so he got him into the business. His first office was a spot on the El Paso City Council then after a few years he upgraded to the US House of Representatives. Like most of this generation’s political class, Beto O’Rourke ran for office because he was unqualified to do anything useful in the private sector. Rather than go on welfare or resort to a life of crime, he rents himself out as a spokesmodel for whatever political interests will hire him.
The difference between art and ornamentation is that art seeks to imitate life, while ornamentation seeks to decorate life. The great artist works to capture the spirit of his age or if he is really ambitious, the spirit of God. It’s an effort to reach for that which is unattainable, representing the same yearning in the culture of the artist. The guy making pretty pictures, on the other hand, is not trying to capture anything. His sole purpose, his reason to exist, is to make something someone thinks will look cool in the den.
That same comparison works for Kennedy and his brother’s doppelganger, Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke. Again, whatever you may think of their politics, the Kennedy brothers had a reason to reach for the top. They were young men in a young culture, seeking the absolute limit of itself. They were the expression of a triumphant and confident America, breathing in life as it stood atop the world it had just conquered. The Kennedy brothers represented that culture. They were Faustian men.
O’Rourke, in contrast, represents a dying culture of old men, whose best days are long in the past, but still trying to maintain appearances. Unlike those young men from the young culture trying to live life to the fullest, Beto has always been an old man, just trying to avoid doing anything that requires risk or effort. If the Kennedy boys were the marble statue of the idealized man of their age, Beto is the decorative codpiece that a feminist uses in her installation art, which will be thrown away when the exhibit closes.
This decorative quality probably explains the soy face so common with the Gen-X politician on both sides of the political class. The old guys can still work up a good snarl or even a confident smile on occasion. Guys like Beto O’Rourke and Ben Sasse always look like they just got wind of a bad smell. They have the look, because for them, life is never going to be a great adventure full of risk taking. Instead, their lives are an inconvenience, something they just tolerate, because they lack the courage to swallow their gun.
That said, Beto is the last white man of the Left. The Democratic field is women and non-whites. If Biden runs he’ll be the second white man in the field, a nice bookend to O’Rourke. On the one end you have an old man inspired into politics by a culture that was full of life. At the other end, you have a man who got into politics because he needed work and his dad had some connections. One is a vague memory of the confident young man with swagger, while the other, the younger one, is the old man in the winter of his life.