I think I may know what’s up with Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. I’m starting to think that he’s angry that the Democratic Party that embraced him just a year ago has now decided to completely and totally ignore him and his bid to be president, so he’s going to try to do everything he can to burn the party to the ground on his way out of politics.
Why else would he give voice to positions that Democrats had long declared they didn’t actually hold?
Now, the left is taking issue with Beto and the folks over at Slate are really taking issue with him.
Given his low and static polling, it’s hard to tell what, exactly, Beto O’Rourke hopes to accomplish by staying in the presidential race. But while his actual goal seems a bit elusive, he is increasingly playing a very specific role: the human straw man, the embodiment of every seemingly irrational conservative fear about what the left really wants.
Consider O’Rourke’s appearance at Thursday’s CNN town hall on LGBTQ issues, at which he told moderator Don Lemon that churches and other nonprofits should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage, a position tantamount to declaring war on Catholic parishes and evangelical congregations across the country, not to mention any number of Orthodox Jewish and Muslim groups. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, or leaving out some important nuance, here was his full exchange:
Don Lemon: Do you think religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities—should they lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?
Beto O’Rourke: Yes. There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone, any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights, that denies the full civil rights, of everyone in America. So as president, we’re going to make that a priority. And we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.
These are not the only far-left positions Beto has staked out recently. He’s strongly pro-reparations, for instance. But his comments about churches and guns are especially remarkable, in that he’s essentially adopting unpopular stances that Democratic politicians have spent years claiming are unfair caricatures of their actual beliefs. He is turning himself into a walking straw man, the non-fringe guy Republicans can reliably point to when they want to say, “See, the libs really do want to take your guns and shut down your churches.”
Of course, let’s not forget his strong anti-gun position where he’s claimed he will be coming for our AR-15s and other modern sporting rifles.
The problem, however, is that Slate keeps using the term “straw man” to describe what Beto is becoming is completely and totally wrong.
A “straw man” is a logical fallacy where you attack a position to ascribe to your opponent but that your opponent has never taken. For example, saying someone favors confiscation when they propose waiting periods. You can oppose both, but it’s also possible to oppose confiscation and support waiting periods. You’re attacking a position they’ve never espoused.
But Beto has espoused these positions. Further, his anti-gun position has garnered support from other candidates as well. The Democrats who oppose it aren’t doing so from a position of right and wrong but from an issue of not being a bad time to go that far.
In other words, it’s not a straw man when someone like Beto is actually saying it and remarkably few Democrats are calling him down on it as being an unconstitutional effort.
The most vocal opponent from the left on O’Rourke’s anti-gun stance has been Pete Buttigieg, yet even he takes it from a “now is a bad time for this” kind of position, not from the position of this being simply wrong.
If no one opposes it on principle, how can any of it be a straw man?
No, Beto isn’t a straw man. He’s not becoming one.
He’s merely removing the curtain to see the tyrants behind it.