The first quarter of 2018 will likely set the tone for the rest of the political year. Several primaries are in the works that will define the future of the Trump Administration. In El Paso, the Congressional race is sure to dominate the news. Beto O’Rourke’s challenge for Ted Cruz’ seat will also set the tone for national and El Paso’s political agenda. Internationally, there are two major issues facing the U.S.-México relationship, NAFTA and the 2018 Mexican presidential elections. Obviously, immigration will also be a topic of controversy.
Beto O’Rourke is challenging Ted Cruz for Cruz’s senate seat. As a Democrat, O’Rourke is supposed to represent the ideals of the party. As a representative of El Paso, O’Rourke is supposed to actively engage for El Paso. Cruz challenged Donald Trump through the primaries leading up to the presidential election in 2016. Although there was much acrimony between Trump and Cruz, Cruz has supported the Trump agenda in support of the GOP agenda. O’Rourke, on the other hand, has been ineffective for El Paso and has leaned towards the right on political issues.
But, it is not just O’Rourke that is perceived to be pro-immigrant and supporters of pro-border access. The Democrats have created the illusion that they represent the progressive ideology in support of immigrants and border politics. But the reality is much different.
On the international front, the Democrats are starting to show their true colors when it comes to DACA and, especially NAFTA. When it came time to hold the Trump administration to the fire on Dreamer legislation to protect the DACA recipients, the Democrats caved and allowed the stop-gap funding legislation to pass allowing the government to avert a shutdown through January 19. Sixty-Nine Democrats voted for HR 4667. This, even after promising to force a vote on DACA protections in 2017.
Guess who voted with the Republicans?
That would be Beto O’Rourke. So much for the Democratic ideals. Guess who also voted for the legislation? That would-be Ted Cruz, the Senator O’Rourke is challenging for the Senate seat.
The Democrats are starting to cave on NAFTA. Historically, the Democrats are pro-labor unions and thus they pretend to support international trade ideals but oppose NAFTA under the argument that it hurts U.S. jobs. The Republicans publicly oppose NAFTA, especially Trump, but generally will vote to protect NAFTA to support the U.S. economy.
Since taking office in 2013, Beto O’Rourke has sponsored 68 bills. Except for one of his bills, all are languishing in the legislative process or have failed. None are expected to be adopted. Many of his bills focus on veteran affairs with about two related to protecting the identity of the Dreamers. O’Rourke has also offered some bills targeting dark political money.
The only O’Rourke bill enacted is HR 5873 designating El Paso’s federal building as the R.E. Thomason Federal Building and United States Courthouse. This bill was signed by Obama on December 8, 2016. The two Dreamer bills are expected to fail.
But the stopgap funding extension demonstrates that O’Rourke is unlikely to force legislation for border access or the protection of the Dreamers, not withstanding his public support for them.
As such, the question El Paso voters should ask themselves is whether O’Rourke will represent the interest of El Paso at the Senate any better than what he has done at the House.
Ted Cruz, on the other hand, has warned that pulling out of NAFTA would be disastrous to the United States economy. Ending NAFTA would also be disastrous for the El Paso economy as El Paso’ private economy is heavily dependent on NAFTA. However, the government economy is what keeps the El Paso economy afloat, hence the O’Rourke vote to avert a government shutdown at the expense of the Dreamers.
O’Rourke supports NAFTA publicly because of El Paso’s economic need to keep NAFTA at play. Although both Cruz and O’Rourke support the same legislation, especially on NAFTA, both, nonetheless, use the Dreamers and immigration as fodder for political points. O’Rourke focuses his attacks on Cruz on the issue of the Trump wall because, frankly, that is all he has to use against Cruz. Although many pundits have called the Cruz-O’Rourke the “marquee” race, the fact is that for El Paso, O’Rourke will not provide El Paso any better representation then Cruz has, or will. Both see El Paso as a stepchild on the national agenda.
Nationally, the Democratic Party is hoping to wrestle control of Congress back from the GOP. To the Democratic Party, O’Rourke is just a Democrat label to bolster their ranks with as they know full well that O’Rourke is unlikely to shepherd any actionable legislation through Congress. This has been proven by his tenure at the House. For the Democrats, O’Rourke is nothing more than a label they hope bolsters their numbers during the midterm elections.
For El Paso, O’Rourke will offer nothing new but the idea that an El Pasoan can hold Cruz’ senate seat come November is what keeps many in El Paso happy, while they keep their heads buried in the sand.