Betomania is very much in this mold — with progressive rhetorical boilerplate wedded to a toothy grin and animated by the kind of agitated self-display that is very much a product of the internet age. The rank-and-file voters who helped O’Rourke smash fundraising totals in his Senate race delighted in his constant online presence. It was a digital campaign fueled by a reality-show intensity that had his fans following the livestream of his every move, day and night, as he barnstormed across the state of Texas. What he said in those appearances somehow mattered less than the vision of him on the move, preaching the gospel of liberalism, 21st-century style, to the state’s underserved Democrats.
This explains why a certain kind of Democratic voter finds the idea of an O’Rourke presidential candidacy appealing: He’s a great spokesperson and nice to look at.
But the party’s donors and out-of-work advisers and consultants from the Obama administration (including those who decamped to the Hillary Clinton campaign) have different motives. Along with the apparatchiks of the DNC, they sense an opportunity to tamp down on the populist rumblings that Bernie Sanders helped to provoke the last time around and that so many of the 2020 hopefuls hope to inspire again. What better way for the party’s establishment to maintain its grip on power than for it try and rally the party around an ideologically diffuse “consensus” candidate who can be portrayed as a little bit of everything to every restive faction in the party?