Say this for Beto: He saw his opportunity and he went for it.
There’s no way he beats Abbott this fall, in this kind of Republican national environment, without some sort of black-swan event that galvanizes voter outrage at the governor. He trailed by seven points in a poll published two weeks ago but was stuck at 39 percent, weak tea for a challenger with high name recognition. He could have a fighting chance if the power grid goes down this summer in the Texas heat after the fiasco of last year’s winter freeze, but the grid has held so far this year. And the grid is something which Abbott can control to some degree via regulation. He shouldn’t get caught napping on an energy crisis again after having received his wake-up call last winter.
Yesterday brought a different black-swan event, one which happens to fall in O’Rourke’s policy wheelhouse. He’s a bizarre fit for Texas in normal times, being loudly anti-gun, but the Uvalde massacre is a moment when even some pro-gun Texans might feel tired of the same old “thoughts and prayers” non-solution to school shootings. No one expects Abbott to consider gun-control measures instead of more baroque solutions like arming teachers so O’Rourke seized an opening to force the issue. He knew that cameras would be rolling, he knew the dramatic confrontation would go viral, and so he cut himself a free campaign commercial.
The reaction of partisans on both sides to what he did is predictable. But whether swing voters will view this as a cri de coeur or a cynical campaign stunt, I don’t know.
Chaos just erupted during Greg Abbott's press conference about yesterday's school shooting
Beto O'Rourke shouted him down and was escorted out of the auditorium pic.twitter.com/EbMp1PFRqG
— Washington Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) May 25, 2022
It’s hard to make out what he said amid Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin (who may have been the most conservative politician onstage) cursing at him. But the Texas Tribune quotes him thusly: “You are doing nothing, you are offering us nothing… Someone needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.”
Meghan McCain speaks for all conservatives, no doubt:
Sick theatrical political stunt during a time of mourning @BetoORourke – this isn’t about you, let this community grieve.
If the state of Texas wanted you to lead them in anything – they would have elected you to anything but they don’t and continue to reject you.
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) May 25, 2022
The reaction from liberals is what you’d expect:
Beto is now gaggling outside of the Abbott presser with what appears to be every television camera in America, raging in English and in Spanish, and msnbc cut away from Abbott to carry Beto live.
— Meredith Shiner (@meredithshiner) May 25, 2022
Indeed, the free campaign commercials continued even after he was escorted out:
“Now is the time to stop the next shooting … In each case we say this isn’t the time. Now is the time — like, literally right now. That’s why I’m here.”
— The Recount (@therecount) May 25, 2022
It’s been four years since the left felt a thrill down its collective leg from Betomania but his “truth to power” moment with Abbott this afternoon is giving them that ol’ funny feeling again.
I’ve been avoiding news about yesterday’s shooting, not just because it’s depressing but because it’s the latest reminder that this country is not only incapable of solving its problems but incapable of even seriously attempting to do so anymore. Partisan dreck on both sides fills the void; you can recite the liberal and conservative scripts after a bunch of people get shot as easily as I can. But if you’re game for a thoughtful proposal, read David French’s defense of red-flag laws. They may be as close as we can get to a sweet spot in which law-abiding gun owners get to keep their weapons while the crazies are shut out:
In 2018—after the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey proposed a comprehensive safe schools program that incorporated a series of measures that were based on careful analysis of each and every significant school shooting since Columbine. I’d urge you to read the entire document. Ducey proposed enhanced background checks, an increased security presence at schools, and increased mental health resources. He also proposed a red flag law, and to support that proposal he included this chart…
I know the objections. I know that red flag laws implicate a core constitutional right. I also know that poorly drafted laws are subject to abuse. But our constitutional structure permits emergency and temporary deprivations of even core liberty interests upon sufficient showing of need, with sufficient due process. Restraining orders and other forms of domestic violence prevention orders can often block parents and spouses even from their own families upon a showing of imminent threat.
I don’t yet know the identity, history, or motivations of the Uvalde shooter. A red flag law may not have helped, but this dreadful moment should remind us of all the dreadful moments that came before. It should remind us that there is a policy that can save lives. Dear legislatures, pass red flag laws. Now. Give families and police a chance to remove guns from the people who tell us they’re dangerous.
The chart to which French refers is on page 5 of this report. There’s very little hope of a red-flag law passing in Congress, particularly in an election year, but there’s even less hope of one passing in red states in any year. According to French, Florida is the only one that has such a law on the books. Will Texas consider one after Uvalde? I know how I’d bet.
Update: Yep, it was a campaign ad.
.@JanetShamlian reports on Beto O’Rourke confronting Gov. Abbott during presser: "There were two people across the aisle from me and a moment before the press conference started, they got up from their seats when Beto walked in … This seems something very clearly staged." pic.twitter.com/eaAxrZP6Gt
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 25, 2022