Win or lose, O’Rourke has run perhaps the most consequential race of the 2018 election cycle. The evolution of Texas from red to, someday, purple is entirely beside the point. So is O’Rourke’s shunning of pollsters and the trappings of professionalized politics. (There is plenty of polish on O’Rourke’s run.)
Any Democratic candidate in 2018 is a vehicle for disgust with Donald Trump and with the GOP’s wholesale capitulation to cruelty, incompetence, racism, sexism, corruption. (The short list.) Nor is O’Rourke unique in offering honesty, although he’s openly running on gun regulation in the land of gun nuttery, and his unflinching support of football players protesting police violence was so radical in its truth, if not its live-and-let-live simplicity, that the video of his remarks has been watched tens of millions of times.
O’Rourke is not the only candidate modeling decency as an antidote to Trumpism. But he’s the one who has best harnessed the anxiety and rage generated by Trumpism’s assaults on democratic values and transformed them into willful, defiant optimism.