One of the distinguishing characteristics of Bernie Sanders, part of what allowed him to vault from relative obscurity to national prominence, is his sincerity. After listening to Bernie Sanders speak, most people come away with the feeling that he is not speaking out of political expediency, but from his heart.
In interviews, young supporters of the Vermont senator’s presidential bid almost all offer some version of the same response when asked why they like him: He seems sincere.
For the generation that researchers say has been the most bombarded with marketing slogans and advertising pitches, Mr. Sanders, a former mayor of Burlington, Vt., has a certain unpolished appeal.
The Sanders campaign said excitement among young people had been organic, although it has clearly worked to improve the candidate’s appeal on sites like Twitter, Reddit and Snapchat, and in text messages to supporters. “Young people are idealistic and they look at this country and say we can be much more,” Mr. Sanders told reporters Wednesday.
What was perhaps most striking about Bernie Sanders’ sincerity is just how important it was to young voters and previously apathetic voters. Agree or disagree with the importance of sincerity, it is a trait that many potential voters have felt was sorely lacking with this country’s political leaders of late.
In the race for U.S. Senate for Texas, sincerity can perhaps be seen as one of the most striking differences between the two candidates.
In Ted Cruz, voters see a politician who is the son of an immigrant and who was born in Canada, yet has taken a hard line stance against immigration. It is difficult to believe that someone who has benefited so much personally from immigration to America could be absolutely sincere in his hard line stance against immigration to America by others. Rather, it comes of as being a case of political expediency. Ted Cruz is a Republican, and Republican voters have become very anti-immigration. Indeed, the party’s top elected official, Donald Trump, has made opposition to immigration the main Republican theme of the last two elections. Speaking of Donald Trump, his personal relations with Ted Cruz have also cast a spotlight on the insincere nature of Ted Cruz. In the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Ted Cruz and Donald Trumps traded a litany of personal insults against each other. Each accused the other of being liars. Donald Trump insulted members of Ted Cruz’s family. At the Republican National Convention, after the primary was over, Ted Cruz still showed his overall dislike for Donald Trump, refusing to endorse him for President. Yet, two years later, Ted Cruz has invited Donald Trump to campaign for him, and has acted as if they are now best of friends. Has this turnaround in their personal relationship been sincere? Or is it merely a case of Ted Cruz doing as he has so often done, acting out of political expediency?
In Beto O’Rourke, voters are seeing a candidate who appears to be the polar opposite of Ted Cruz when it comes to sincerity. He is a candidate who has shown no qualms in wading into hot button issues, going against what is often conventional political wisdom that says to tread cautiously on issues that might create a backlash from those with opposing views. Beto O’Rourke has so often cast that conventional wisdom aside, choosing instead to speak from the heart.
O’Rourke’s positions are more liberal than statewide candidates in Texas usually dare to espouse. He has called for banning the sale of assault rifles that can blow a hole “the size of an orange” in a victim, legalizing marijuana, confronting climate change, increasing the federal minimum wage and giving everyone access to medical care.
“We’re all Americans. We’re all Texans. We’re all human beings,” O’Rourke says at many campaign stops. Some Texans have shown up wearing T-shirts that say: “Humans against Ted Cruz.”
In interviews with more than 120 Texans who attended 15 of O’Rourke’s town halls over two weeks this summer, it was not unusual for people to grow emotional as they explained why they were drawn to his campaign.
“Beto O’Rourke has a good heart,” said Alton Mueller, 71, a Vietnam War veteran and retired English teacher who attended a town hall in Goliad in rural Southeast Texas, a tear sliding down his cheek. “I’m so cynical now about politicians and what their motives are. At my age, it has just been heartbreaking to see all of the cruelty and anger that is feeling free to show itself.”
Perhaps what illustrated the difference in the two candidates most visibly was their differing reactions to an issue Donald Trump had been trying to use to divide America: NFL players who were kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against minorities.
Ted Cruz, who has so often used the United States Constitution as a means of explaining his opposition to Democratic policies such as Obamacare, chose to ignore the basic constitutional right of Freedom of Speech when it came to the NFL Players, instead saying ““People can protest without disrespecting the flag.” Considering the views of much of Texas about the issue, this was probably the politically expedient thing to say, even if it stood in stark contrast to Ted Cruz’s supposed reverence for the Constitution. Was it sincere, though? It’s surely difficult to see how it could be.
On the other hand, when Beto O’Rourke was asked about this same hot button issue, he did not shy away from delving into the issue, nor did he take the easy way out and answer as Ted Cruz had with a simple political soundbite. No, Beto O’Rourke gave a long and thoughtful answer, and it ended up going viral:
Now O’Rourke has gone viral again. This time, the internet-popular Democratic challenger to Cruz is making rounds online for his nuanced commentary on NFL players protesting police brutality and injustice during the national anthem.
The video quickly went viral, picking up thousands of shares on Twitter. Celebrities and popular liberal internet personalities began retweeting the video and praising O’Rourke for his remarks (which are similar to the far less viral explanations that have been offered by some of the protesting NFL players themselves).
You can listen to his answer here:
‘I can think of nothing more American.’ — Beto O'Rourke — the man taking on Ted Cruz — brilliantly explains why NFL players kneeling during the anthem is not disrespectful pic.twitter.com/xUGOuCFCSi
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 22, 2018
Why did Beto O’Rourke’s answer about NFL protests go viral? Because his answer was sincere, and this country is craving sincerity from its politicians. Sincerity may not have won in 2016. It may yet win in 2018, though.