Beto O’Rourke holds town hall at College

by Joey Chong | 5/14/19 2:10am

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Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke became the latest Democratic presidential candidate visited campus last Friday for a Town Hall held at the Top of the Hop.

by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

On Friday afternoon, over 300 students and community members filled the Top of the Hop for a campaign event for former Texas congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. During the event, O’Rourke focused on a variety of topics including women’s issues, climate change and the “continuing legacy of slavery” in the United States. 

O’Rourke is the ninth Democratic presidential candidate to visit Dartmouth and the sixth candidate to host an event with over 300 attendees, according to New Hampshire College Democrats president Michael Parsons ’20. 

Before O’Rourke’s entrance, a campaign staffer attempted to excite the crowd by beginning a “Beto” chant. The chant died after a few seconds, and the staffer repeated his attempt five more times.

O’Rourke began the event talking about his hometown of El Paso, TX, and its diverse community. O’Rourke criticized President Donald Trump for his views on immigrants and his description of “Klansman, white supremacists and Nazis as ‘very fine people.’”

After discussing immigration, O’Rourke transitioned to explaining his healthcare platform, promising “guaranteed high-quality universal healthcare for every American.” O’Rourke also underscored women’s healthcare to ensure that “every woman makes her own decisions about her own body.”

Following healthcare, O’Rourke spoke about income inequality. He said he would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and lauded New Hampshire legislators who recently passed a paid family leave policy. Talking to the press following the event, O’Rourke said that his campaign staffers are paid at least $15 per hour, including interns.

O’Rourke then promised to close the gender and racial wage gap, garnering applause after calling for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. 

He continued to talk about racial equality by discussing the prison system. He said that the U.S. has the largest prison system in the world, which is “disproportionately comprised of people of color.” He also advocated indirectly for the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana by commending states which have passed laws to legalize marijuana. O’Rourke returned to his discussion on race and described the “continuing legacy of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow” through maternal and infant mortality, income inequality and the school-to-prison pipeline.

“We have our work cut out for us,” O’Rourke said. “Let’s make sure that when we’re telling the American story, we’re telling the complete American story.”

O’Rourke emphasized his family when describing gun rights and gun violence. He said his son Henry is growing up in a country where school shootings are part of the educational experience. O’Rourke also called for universal background checks to reduce gun violence.

O’Rourke concluded his policy discussion by explaining his position on climate change. Having faced criticism for lacking a signature issue in the first months of his campaign, O’Rourke spent the most time discussing climate change. He emphasized that it is “not caused by God, not by mother nature, but by you and by me.” 

O’Rourke finished his speech with the story of his 2018 Texas Senate campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). He offered two familiar statistics that he has mentioned frequently at his campaign events. 

“We visited every single one of the 254 counties in our state,” O’Rourke said. “We were down 2.6 percent on election night.” 

While O’Rourke surged in national popularity during his run for the Senate in 2018, his campaign for president has not gained steam. According to a recent Monmouth University poll, two percent of New Hampshire Democratic voters would vote for O’Rourke in the 2020 Democratic primary election. O’Rourke particularly struggles with women voters. In the poll, one percent of Democratic women voters in New Hampshire would vote for O’Rourke. This marks a decrease from five percent in a University of New Hampshire poll released in February. 

“Going in, I thought he was a hollow candidate,” said Aryeh Lande ’22. “But I see a lot of genuineness to him and a good side that wants to change this country, so definitely [my] opinion changed.”

Dartmouth College Democrats president Gigi Gunderson ’21 said she is excited to see the development of candidates’ platforms and future visits from other candidates to the College. 

“I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot of candidates flesh out their policy platforms and answer some tough questions, especially about voting rights, women’s reproductive rights and climate change,” Gunderson said.