Top Latino Columnist: Unearned ‘Beto’ Moniker like ‘Stolen Valor’

Beto AP
Associated Press

One of the country’s top Latino columnists ripped Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke over the weekend for his cultural appropriation, arguing that “Beto” has not “earned” his nickname.

In fact, in a USA Today column, Ruben Navarrette said that the “Beto backlash” among Latinos reminds him
“of the idea of stolen valor, the righteous outrage felt by combat veterans when others who didn’t see action claim medals they don’t deserve.”

Navarrette said that numerous Latinos “— unlike the media, which is run by white liberals who are fascinated by other white liberals — refuse to go loco for Beto” because O’Rourke has not been with the community when it mattered on issues like immigration.

“For instance, at a time when Latinos feel under siege by ethnocentrism and anti-immigrant demagoguery, where was O’Rourke on the explosive immigration issue during his three terms in the House of Representatives?” Navarrette asked.

As Breitbart News noted, when O’Rourke voted with Repubicans to “waive requirements for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and job applicants to take polygraph tests” to “help speed up the hiring process and provide the CBP Commissioner additional authorities to recruit and hire quality CBP officers and Border Patrol agents,” former Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who was the leading voice on the left regarding immigration issues when he was in Congress, ripped lawmakers who voted to waive the polygraph requirements: “I will not mince words. Anyone who votes for this bill is voting to support and implement Donald Trump’s views on immigration, his desire to militarize our southern border, and his fantasy of a mass deportation force. You cannot spin it any other way.”

“If you are on board with this, you are also on board with building a wall; on board with billions to be spent on deporting moms and dads who have lived here for decades; going after DREAMers as the Trump administration is doing today, deporting DREAMers from the United States of America,” Gutierrez added then. “Where do you want to draw the line on the Trump deportation agenda? I say draw the line right here, right now, and don’t give another inch.”

Navarrette also said Latino voters in Texas have criticized O’Rourke for not doing enough outreach in his failed 2018 Senate campaign, “perhaps thinking he had them in the bag and so he could take them for granted.”

Navarrette also pointed out that O’Rourke late ambitious father actually gave him the nickname when he was little to increase O’Rourke’s “odds of being elected” one day in a “mostly Mexican-American city.”

As the Dallas Morning News reported in 2018:

In the backdrop of the city’s multicultural community, his father, Pat O’Rourke, a consummate politician, once explained why he nicknamed his son Beto: Nicknames are common in Mexico and along the border, and if he ever ran for office in El Paso, the odds of being elected in this mostly Mexican-American city were far greater with a name like Beto than Robert Francis O’Rourke. It was also a way to distinguish him from his maternal grandfather, Robert Williams.

O’Rourke’s father died in 200, and O’Rourke reportedly later said he believed his father was “farsighted” in giving him his “Beto” nickname.

“I believe it, I believe it,” Beto O’Rourke reportedly told the Morning News when told of his father’s words. “He was farsighted in that way. … He loved this community and imparted his love of this community to me. It’s helped shape who I am today.”

Navarrette, though, argued that O’Rourke’s father was “cynical,” dishonest,” and “manipulative.”

“You see, being a member of America’s largest minority — especially in the Donald Trump era — isn’t all fiestas and churros. And if you haven’t had your ticket punched, you don’t get to take the ride,” Navarrette wrote. “It’s certainly not respectful to assume that people can be so easily fooled. And, as any real Latino can tell you, respect goes a long way in our community.”

In a previous column last month addressing “cultural appropriation,” Navarrette noted that though O’Rourke, whom he dubbed “the Hamlet of West Texas,” has likely “never gone out and told a group of Mexican-Americans that he was a member of the tribe,” it seems like “he doesn’t mind if some Latinos jump to that conclusion and vote for him because of some misplaced sense of ethnic loyalty.”

He even noted that some Latinos actually think O’Rourke is one of them, quipping that “perhaps they can’t imagine that anyone would—in Donald Trump’s America—volunteer to be Latino if they weren’t born that way.”

Regarding O’Rourke’s nickname, Navarrette noted that O’Rourke switches it “on and off like a light switch”—he was ‘Robert’ at birth, ‘Beto’ in childhood, ‘Robert’ again in boarding school and at Columbia, and ‘Beto’ again when he returned to El Paso to run for office.”

“Either this guy has an identity crisis the size of Texas, or he is just crafty enough to try to have his flan and eat it too—becoming Latin, or a white male, whichever is more convenient,” Navarrette wrote. “I don’t see Beto as Latino. I see him as a chimichanga, a U.S.-born invention of something that then gets passed off as authentically Mexican. He’s that Mexican restaurant that white people like because the salsa doesn’t burn.”

Navarrette also compared O’Rourke to “that dude” he knew in college “who got in on his daddy’s name” and “embodied white privilege before we even had a name for the concept”:

All of which brings us finally to what it is about Beto that bugs me. It’s that he’s that dude, that dude I knew in college. He’s the dude who got in on his daddy’s name, partied all the time, and breezed through the four years without going to class or getting good grades or breaking a sweat. He embodied white privilege before we even had a name for the concept.

So what if he got arrested twice—once for breaking into the University of Texas at El Paso, and once for drunk driving? He grew his hair long and joined a rock band, and all was forgiven. He majored in English and then channeled Jack Kerouac to hit the road in search of America. And folks called it charming.

The dude flips his hair, and grins. And it’s all good. The next time a poll comes out, he’ll be high on the leaderboard.

In short, Beto is no Mexican. Those people—my people—have to work twice as hard, and we can’t make mistakes. We spend our lives trying not to agitate white people by getting all radical on them. There is no privilege for us, and no guarantees. There’s only the vague promise of something better around the corner if you’re willing to pay the price.

I bet that Beto has no idea what I’m talking about.

After Vanity Fair published its gushing profile of O’Rourke last week in which O’Rourke said he was “born” to run for the president, even left-wing activists and journalists mocked O’Rourke for his white privilege.

To many, O’Rourke did indeed seem like “that dude” from a privileged background who shows up to a place like Stanford, takes one trip to East Palo Alto, and then thinks he’s the expert on poverty. Or “that dude” who shows up to Yale and thinks the same after going to a few areas around New Haven. Or “that dude” who shows up to Columbia and thinks he is the expert on all urban issues after a few trips around New York.

Though O’Rourke said he believed that being a white male does not disadvantage him in the presidential race, he acknowledged on Sunday on Meet the Press that he would make “white privilege” a “big part” of his presidential campaign.

“As a white man who has had privileges that others could not depend on or take for granted, I’ve clearly had advantages over the course of my life,” O’Rourke said. “I think recognizing that and understanding that others have not, doing everything I can to ensure that there is opportunity and the possibility for advancement and advantage for everyone is a big part of this campaign and a big part of the people who comprise this campaign.”

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