I waited months for Election Day to come.
I turned 18 this past February, so this Election Day was going to be the first general election I would be voting in. I was unsure who to vote for or who was even running. However, one man stood out to me and others around Texas and the United States: Congressman Beto O’Rourke.
As many of you probably know, O’Rourke was the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate, running against Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. O’Rourke inspired a new generation of young voters in Texas and around the country to get involved politically. I was one of those young voters that finally overcame their apathy toward midterm elections.
O’Rourke was an interesting figure. He seemed genuine, listened and responded respectfully to anyone wanting to tell him something and seemed to have a limitless supply of energy. He visited all of Texas’s 254 counties during his campaign which is not an easy feat to accomplish. His road trips were livestreamed on Facebook to give updates on his campaign, where he was heading to, and answer questions from commenters.
All of his campaign money came from people’s donations, not super PACs. He put his heart and soul into setting a shining example of what a true Texan is: friendly, down-to-earth and approachable.
All of these traits are what made me interested in this past Senate race. Coming from a predominantly Republican state, it was unheard of for a Democrat to come so close in the polls against a strong incumbent like Cruz.
This gave me hope for a different Texas that could initiate change nationwide. A Texas that can show the United States what happens when someone with enough passion and authenticity runs for office. A Texas that showcases the beauty of our country.
With each passing day, I grew more confident that O’Rourke had a genuine chance to become a senator. All of my friends and family supported him with as much enthusiasm as possible. “Beto for Senate” stickers and pins were bought, donations were made and the word was spread. He gained media attention all over the country as people from other states vocalized their support. Celebrities like LeBron James, Khalid and Lin-Manuel Miranda joined in this effort. O’Rourke was quickly becoming a political star in the Democratic Party.
Election Day came, and it was packed with stress. There were times during election night when Texas was blue. The exit polls showed a tight race around the state. Big cities like Dallas, Austin and Houston voted in favor of O’Rourke.
In the end, Cruz won the election.
At first, I didn’t know what to feel when the news broke of O’Rourke’s defeat. It seemed impossible to me that he lost. How can someone with so much support and political momentum lose to a nationally unpopular senator?
I lost the will to do anything and had to ignore the news. But after the news had a couple weeks to settle in my mind, I realize that not all is lost.
O’Rourke created many new opportunities for young voters to be politically active. He inspired a new generation of Texas voters to have their voices be heard. His defeat was only by a narrow margin, which in the context of previous results, shows that there is still some hope. When a strong underdog candidate comes this close to winning, who knows what the future holds for them.
O’Rourke’s future in politics is bright, and he has enough influence to incite change. If he becomes the vice presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket in 2020 to capitalize on the nationwide support he garnered for a state race, I wouldn’t be surprised. Even then, the door might be open for a potential presidential bid.
However, I still want to congratulate Cruz on his reelection. I may not always agree with his politics, but he should still be respected as a U.S. Senator and as a human being.
I wish him luck in his new term as Senator from the great state of Texas, and I hope he heeds the concerns and voices of the new generation of Texans that turned out in 2018.
Christian Reyna is a first-year biomedical engineering major who is also planning on obtaining a Spanish minor. He’s a proud Texan, absolutely loves dogs and probably procrastinated in writing this article.