Reaching Across the Aisle: Beto O’Rourke and Pantsuit Politics

Episode 01

It’s been bananas in the political sphere the past few years, but you knew that. You may not think you have a voice in any of the chaos, but frankly you do—because We The People get to decide who represents us and our values. Your thoughts, your ideas—they have power. And one of the most effective ways to exercise your power is to vote. 2018 midterm elections are approaching around the country on every level: local, state, and national. Our show doesn’t focus on politics, but if you’re living and breathing, it can’t be avoided. And we are a show that isn’t afraid to open ourselves up to important conversations. There’s an up-and-coming senate candidate in Jen’s home state of Texas, and he’s been making some waves. Representative Beto O’Rourke is on the campaign trail and called Jen from his car to talk about what’s important to him as pursues this race, and the values he shares with many of our listeners—values like government and healthcare that represent everyone, and helping families stay together and thrive. We follow up this conversation with the ladies from Pantsuit Politics, Sarah and Beth, who have a “relationships before policy” attitude, and they break down Jen’s conversation with Beto from both sides of the aisle.

Episode Transcript

Part 1:  My Interview with Texas
Democratic Senate Candidate, Beto O’Rourke

Narrator:  Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people, every week, on this podcast. Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey everybody, it’s Jen Hatmaker, your very happy hostess of the For the Love Podcast.

Welcome to this very special surprise episode. We might start doing this from time to time, me popping into your podcast feed with something different, something one-off from the series that we’re doing, maybe related to current events, maybe of the moment that I think you might be interested in. It is my podcast, and I can have two shows a week if I want to. It is my right as an American citizen.

So listen, I want you to know this first: I really brag on you a lot and often. I tell people all the time I’m not afraid to put any guest or any idea in front of you. And I’ll tell you why. Because you’re smart. You are intelligent. You listen. You hold tension and complex ideas. And you talk about your disagreements and understand that people can disagree, and that’s not the worst thing that has ever happened. In fact, it can even be useful, very beneficial for public dialogue. I think different ideas keep us fresh and accountable so that we remain critical thinkers who are not bunkered off in our silos, but who process what’s going on and how it affects the people around us.

Having said that, today I am so pleased to share this special bonus episode of For the Love with you.

As you know, unless you live underground, very shortly this fall, the United States is holding midterm elections. And so all around the country, we’re voting in old and new faces, old and new ideas into Congress, into state and local government.

Over the past couple of years, I know you’ve been watching your family and friends, your neighbors and co-workers grappling with what feels like a new world order. So many of us honestly cannot take another minute of watching it all play out, and we’re finding ourselves more often than not just turning off the news because it’s so much to handle. It’s so much to digest.

Maybe you’ve been directly touched by injustice. And I know that injustice can take a myriad of forms. You may not think you have a voice in any of this, but frankly we do. Because the wonderful thing about living in this republic, a great benefit of the democratic process is that we get to decide who represents us and our values. Right? “We the people.” Your thoughts, your ideas have power, and one of the most effective ways to exercise your power is to vote.

We’re going to talk so much about this over the course of this episode. But vote, period, on every level. Local, state, national. You get a say. This fall, you have the opportunity to make your voice heard in the midterms, most of which fall on November 6th.

Here in my home state of Texas, one of the midterm elections I’m following, and apparently the nation is following, is for one of the seats in the U.S. Senate. So you have probably heard about this, since it involves a relatively known entity, Senator Ted Cruz, and what feels a little like a newcomer—a relative newcomer, anyway—U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke.

As you know, we’re not a largely political show, but we are a show that isn’t afraid to open ourselves up to important conversations. Obviously, go back and look in our archives. We have put every sort of important topic here. We are not shying away from any of that.

In this case today, we’re all pretty familiar with one of the candidates in this race. Senator Cruz has been around for a long time. We’ve watched him on the national stage for years and years and years. He ran for the presidency. He’s been in front of us for a long time. So suffice it to say, I think he has largely shown us who he is and what he cares about, and we have heard from him many, many times.

But I want to hear a little bit more from those up-and-comers jumping into the fray. I want to have Representative O’Rourke on the show today, because he’s a new face in politics and I, for one, absolutely think we need some new voices right now. New ideas to counteract some of the exasperation and exhaustion we might feel around the political process.

With that said, we’re going to take a few minutes to talk with a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senator of Texas, Beto O’Rourke.

And I want you to know this before we start: first of all, you’re going to enjoy this conversation, no matter where you are. Because every part of my conversation was held with you in mind, my listeners. We really didn’t dive in to those Beto’s talking points. You can find those all over the Internet, pretty clearly spelled out.

I wanted to talk to Beto about our community. I told him I have listeners and readers that are conservative, and I have listeners and readers that are progressive—as does he. His constituency here in Texas runs the gamut. And I asked him questions for both of us, for all of us. I asked questions from sort of each side of the aisle, if you will. And I asked him to speak into my very broad faith community, and what did he have to say to us. Is there a place for us, no matter where we fell on the spectrum? What about the policies and ideas that touch our lives too?

And so I can’t wait for you to hear his answers. I think you’re going to be refreshed. And I hope you are able to listen with open ears.

We’re almost here. Thank you for your patience.

If you’re new to Beto, let me give you a very quick rundown. He’s currently serving Texas’s 16 congressional district, his hometown of El Paso, in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves on the House Committees for Armed Services and Veteran Affairs. You’ll hear him talking very often about his work for veterans and our military. That’s one of his key things. He’s been working to improve their ability to get healthcare and other services that they need and deserve. That’s one of the torches that he carries, for sure. He said he’s actually made it a priority to secure bipartisan support for that legislation because he knows how important it is, obviously, to work across the aisle to get anything done these days. We know that. We know that, and he’s doing that.

Beto started getting involved in civil service in 2005 when he was elected to El Paso City Council, and he served two terms there. Then in 2012, that’s when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, which is where he’s serving still now.

So from my vantage point—I’ve been paying attention, this is my state—Beto has run a clean race. He’s kind of refused to get down in the muck and mire of it all, and I find that refreshing after the last couple of years. If you’ve heard him say this, which you probably have, it’s an absolutely grassroots campaign, meaning he has not taken one penny from a PAC or from a corporation or a special interest group—it’s all just of the people and by the people. This is a pretty big deal, especially in the post-Citizens United era. And if you don’t know what that is, go Google it because it really helps explain our political climate.

Beto and his wife Amy live in El Paso where they’re raising their three kids: Ulysses, Molly, and Henry. I mean, they have a kid named Ulysses, you guys. A kid named Ulysses has got to be going somewhere. If he’s not, I don’t know who is.

So listeners, I think you’re going to enjoy this conversation with candidate for Texas Senator, Beto O’Rourke.

Also, stick around for the rest of this show because we will be debriefing with my girls, Beth and Sarah, the ladies of Pantsuit Politics. They have a podcast, in which they take a very bipartisan look at politics from both the left and the right, which each one of them sort of represents. Their hallmark is “relationships before policy, and understanding before argument,” which I think most of us can get on board with. We’re going to discuss voting and our role as citizens. We’re going to talk through some of the language in this, and they’re going to help us make sense of it. And they set such a marvelous example of holding public dialogue, where there is room for disagreement and also decency, and it co-exists all at once. If you don’t already follow Beth and Sarah at Pantsuit Politics, you’re going to want to after this. They are so fabulous. And so stick around for the whole episode, because the three of us will unpack my interview with Beto and more aftward.

But up first: my very, very wonderful conversation with Beto O’Rourke.

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Representative O’Rourke, welcome to the For the Love Podcast. I am absolutely delighted to host you. I know your schedule. I know it is jam packed. And I’m just grateful that you’ve made time. You’re in your car, right?

Beto O’Rourke: I am. We are driving from Dallas to Austin. It’s just been a packed day already and a lot more to do later today. But that’s really been our story for the last year and a half.

Jen: Yes, it has.

Beto: This is life right now.

Jen: Yes, it is. And you’re going to share a stage with Willie [Nelson] tonight. I mean, it’s so quintessentially Texas, I feel like I’m bleeding out Texan right now.

Let me just ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind. And again, grateful for your time.

First of all, let me say that it has been just a real refreshing time to watch you, and watch you campaign, watch you literally canvas our state, county by county. I want you to hear me say that so many of us appreciate your decency and this very clean, pure way that you are running your campaign. It’s giving us some hope and reminding us what we’re capable of and our highest ideals.

I just want to say thank you for it. Thank you for operating your campaign out of these sorts of values and the way you’re doing it.

Beto: Well, thank you for saying that. I’ll tell you, anything good that you see like that out of the campaign is really just a reflection of the people of Texas with whom we’re running this. And you probably know we’re not taking any help from PACs or corporations or special interests. It’s the people of Texas and every one of the 254 counties that’s driving this, and that’s what the people of Texas want.

We can’t condemn indignity and indecency on the one hand, and then use those same tactics to win, and then just promise once we get in power we won’t employ that any longer. I think we’re done with the means being justified by the end, and we’ve just got to walk the talk.

So whether it’s not taking PAC money or going to every county—and we could care less how red or how blue—listening to everyone, inviting everyone in, that’s the way that the people of Texas have asked us to run this. We’re just trying to be honest to their request, and also the way that it feels right to do this. I’m just very lucky to be a part of it.
Jen: Let’s just jump right in this. Let’s say that you get elected, and it is the next day. How do you plan to approach your leadership? Who’s going to be around you? What are your first priorities?

Beto: I’ve served in the Congress and the House of Representatives for the last six years, and I am a much better representative for my constituents, those whom I serve and represent, [when they hold] me accountable.

Every month, we hold an open-to-all, no-holds-barred town hall meeting, where anyone and everyone is welcome to come out. You can ask a question, you can offer an idea, but you can also challenge me and you can level a criticism my way.

That healthy fear that exists between me and those who put me in this position of public trust is something that is with me as I vote, as I work on legislation. It’s a spur to force me to find a way to work with folks who I may not otherwise agree with—a Republican colleague, for example, or someone from another part of the state or another part of the country.
But I know my constituents won’t stand for excuses based on partisanship or any of that other small stuff. We’re there to get the job done and to find the common ground that allows us to do that.
So first and foremost, I want to make sure that whether we’re in Austin, or Houston, or Comanche—which, I understand, is a part of the state that you’re familiar with—or El Paso, where I’m from, we go back now not as a candidate, but as the office holder to listen to those whom we serve and to be kept honest and to be held accountable, so that on any given issue that flows from that, if it’s healthcare—we’re the least insured state in the country, and we’re unfortunately seeing people die of diabetes or the flu, parents anxious about their children who have pre-existing conditions, who are medically complex and medically expensive to care for, wonder if they’re still going to have that protection, if their kids are going to be okay—we can use that experience to drive the conversation to get to universal, guaranteed, high-quality healthcare. And it can’t be Democrats making that happen. It won’t be Republicans, either. It’s got to be all of us coming together.

And when we listen to people and listen to the stories of not being able to do that, or listen to communities that have figured out a solution to at least partially achieve that, then I think there we’re going to find the answer. If we just don’t allow the small stuff, including party, to define us, I don’t think there’s any stopping us from achieving the big things.

But healthcare, of all the things I’ve heard in every one of the 254 counties, is the most consistent and the most urgent. Literally, people’s lives are on the line. And the kind of lives that we’re forcing some people to lead, who may have schizophrenia, for example, in a state where more than four million are uninsured and who may not be able to afford care or treatment and get arrested on purpose to go to the county jail where they can get it, that’s just not right. Know that we’re better than that.

So these stories will help us to achieve what we want to for one another. And that’s certainly a leading issue right now.

Jen: So as a prospective    Texas senator, obviously you’re going to be representing, as you’ve mentioned, all kinds of folks from all across the spectrum. You already do as a representative. And so I understand this. I largely lead a community loosely connected through a faith space. And traditionally, certainly recently, we are often treated as a monolith, as if we have a very pre-set list of values and ideas and we are one cohesive voting block. And it’s tricky for those of us who feel outside of those boundaries.

And so, under my umbrella as a leader, I represent a lot of people of faith. Some of them are conservative, like an enormous part of your Texas constituency. Some of them are a little bit more like me, more progressive, we lean that direction. And so I wonder if you just had their ear for just a minute, if you could say a word to my community that . . . let’s just say they’re a little bit more conservative, that they maybe follow more of the party lines that we’ve seen in Texas for the last couple of decades, why are you their candidate too, and not just candidate [for those who] are going to vote Democratic this year?

Beto: It’s because I want to serve and represent everyone, and will go to everyone to make sure that I understand what our expectations are in common and how we’re going to work together to achieve them.

An example is going to a place like King County. [The] county seat there is Guthrie. We showed up to listen to the people of a community that voted for Donald Trump 95 or 96% in the last election. But regardless of who they voted for last, or who they’re likely to vote for next, they’re every bit as deserving of our attention, or being heard, of being fought for and represented and served. And the only way I can hope to do that is to show up first and to listen to them.
And anything of any consequence that I’ve been involved in in United States Congress, it’s been made possible by finding common ground with people who are on the other side of the aisle.

I’ll give you an example. We were able to significantly expand access to mental healthcare for veterans who have served this country [and] who have an other than honorable discharge, but have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or traumatic brain injury, but by law were unable to get into a VA and seek care. I wrote a great bill, but that bill wasn’t going to get it done unless we could find a Republican colleague with whom we could work. And so Mike Coffman, other side of the aisle, we were able to bury our differences, introduce a consensus piece of legislation, and ultimately get that signed into law by President Trump.

So I think we’ve been able to demonstrate we’ll work with anyone, anytime, anywhere to make this country better. And part of the genius of this country is that that will almost always involve compromise.

Jen: That’s right.

Beto: If we allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good, we’ll never get anywhere. So I want them to know I’m not running to represent Democrats, and I’m not running to represent Republicans. I’m running to represent Texans. I’m running to represent Americans. I’m running to represent human beings. And no party has a monopoly on those good ideas. And all of us, if we come together, are going to be able to achieve great things for this country.

So I’m running to represent and serve and to work with everyone, including Republicans, including people who may not vote for me on the sixth of November. They’re just as important to the future of this state and this country, so I’m going to be there for them.
Jen: Thank you for that.

Let me swing it around a little bit. My audience is filled with very smart, thoughtful, thinking, intelligent people. And some of them are conservative, like you just so eloquently spoke to, some are a little bit more like me. And we are, what appears to be, a surprising group of Christian voters who are very concerned about racism and white supremacy. We do not want to see any more families separated at the border. We are incredibly concerned about healthcare for all of our neighbors, and we’re very compassionate towards our immigrant refugee neighbors, as well. And so, we’re always wondering if we have a place. Nobody really talks to us. We don’t have a lot of people who ask where we’re at and where we’re going, and feel somewhat under-represented.

I wonder if you could speak a little bit to us. We’re looking in Washington right now. We’re trying to make sense of this. Everything feels bananas. I mean, we really do feel the tremors. It feels like our community is fraying at the edges.

And so, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about where you see—and of course you don’t speak for all of them, we understand that—but just in your opinion, where do you see the Democratic party going in the next few years? Who do you think is going to make up that electorate? And what are the important issues that the party needs to tackle next?

Beto: Great question. And I’ll start with the beginning of your question.

You were talking about communities of faith. I just had a chance to reread the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” from Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. And as you know, that letter is addressed to other pastors and other faith leaders who had been critical of his role in the Montgomery bus boycotts. And he’s having this dialogue within that community of faith about what’s the best way to be alive and to be part of this democracy and to make sure that we make things better.
It’s not lost on me that so many of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who were able to force those who were in positions of power and public trust to bring forward the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act. These were communities of faith who were living that out and taking some tough political positions, who in some cases were being arrested for having the courage of their convictions. Very often beaten, and some lost their lives in the process.

I think about what’s going on in this country right now. Those who have literally borne witness at the border, seeing children taken from their parents. One of the most inhumane and cruel things we can ever visit upon another human being, and this country has done it. But it’s also those communities of faith that have helped to facilitate the reunification of these families.

Jen: That’s right.

Beto: I think of those at Loretto Chapel and Annunciation House in El Paso that we’ve been able to work with who’ve been doing this incredibly important work. You talk about those who are standing up to a resurgent white nationalism and members of the Klan, neo-Nazis marching in the streets of major American cities today. But also marching are those who stand up against that, and for who we know this country to be, and our promise and our hope and our values and what we tell our kids this country is about.

And so, I think in the last part of your question, I don’t know what any one party is going to do, or what the rule of party is anymore. I really think that this moment, which I think is a defining moment of truth for us, at least in our generation, this transcends party. And it transcends the differences of geography or race or sexual orientation, or how many generations you’ve been here. It’s about all of us as Americans in the same boat right now wanting to make sure that this country works and answers to its promise, and continues to inspire us and the people of the world who’ve been looking to us as the example for so long. That’s our opportunity. I think I’m called, and those in this campaign, to just make sure that we make the most of this moment and do what we know to be right for this and the generations that follow, because they’re counting on us right now.

Jen: That’s so good. And I will just add to that one thing that we are looking forward to with hopeful eyes is, we would love—and I would love and hope—to see surrounded around you, ultimately, would be more people for whom we are under-represented. We’d love to see more women around you. We’d love to see more leaders of color and love to see our elected officials look a little bit more like the demographics of the United States. And so we’re looking forward to voting in officials who care about that and who care about representation, and who can look sideways and realize, This is only a sliver of our culture, but we are over-represented in the government. And so, that is another one of our hopes and dreams for the future.

Let me ask you two very quick more questions, as you are on your way to Willie and I would never stand in the way of this important night.

Your schedule’s insane. The campaign trail, bonkers. I’m just curious—I’m thinking about you and Amy and your kids and the family—who out of your family has just gotten the biggest kick out of this campaign season? And more importantly, what is the best thing that you have eaten on the campaign trail, because food is one of our shared Texas values, if anything is?

Beto: Family—my mom, Melissa O’Rourke, has been a surprise star of the campaign. She has been out there on her own, a volunteer with her most of the time, going town to town and just introducing herself as my mother. But [she’s] also someone who is a lifelong Republican, incredibly devout herself, and talking about her values and how they’re reflected in this campaign. And my mom’s kind of a shy person and not the most gregarious outspoken person, and yet she’s putting whatever shyness or fear she has about doing that aside and just getting after it. She’s been wonderful. And then Amy and Ulysses and Molly and Henry have been on the trail with us a bunch.
Food—we had the best fried pies ever in Gainesville, which is in Cooke County. And I forget the name of the place, but you’ll know it. It’s the fried pie place. And I had a fried apple pie.

Jen: The one.

Beto: And it was just glorious. And then for barbecue, I know this is a controversial thing to bring up.

Jen: Sure, be careful.

Beto: In Tyler, Texas, Stanley’s BBQ is just phenomenal.

Jen: It is. I’ve had it.

Beto: It’s the best I’ve had in Texas, and we’ve had a lot of really good barbecue in a lot of different parts. So those are two food memories that stand out, for sure.

Jen: That’s fabulous. Well, if nothing else, Texas will keep you well-fed on the trail. I mean, you will never lack for calories. And so, good on us.

Last question, and I’m so grateful for your time. This is a question I actually ask all of my guests on the podcast, and I cannot claim credit for it. That goes to author Barbara Brown Taylor. But this is her question, and right now this can be as serious and sober or as silly and frivolous as you want it to be. But it’s this: what is saving your life right now?

Beto: Oh, wow.

Jen: I know.

Beto: I tell you, it’s really pertinent because this experience has pushed us (I say “us.” Everyone on the campaign—my family, me, everyone who’s putting their heart into this) to our very limits physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, you name it.

And so, for me, that’s my family. When Amy and I are connected, even if we’re a thousand miles apart but we’re able to connect on the phone, and that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes we aren’t able to make that connection. You know how that is. Your spouse is doing homework.

Jen: I do.

Beto: Or is fried at the end of a tough day, or you’re in a different place.

But when we connect, that’s the most powerfully positive thing in my life, and it’s all the energy that I need. I can go without sleep, and may not be eating the best food in the world all the time in terms of being healthy. But if we’ve got that connection, then I’m strong.

The thing Amy and I keep talking about is, we’ve been at this for the better part of two years now, and here we are 38 days to go. We’ve made it this far, and we’ve just got to stay focused on the goal and giving it all we got.

Jen: That’s right.

Beto: And knowing at the end of this, we’re going to be together. Whether we win, whether we lose, whether it’s a draw, as a family, we’re going to be together. And that’s the most important thing. Really, that was the impetus for our decision was, What’s best for our family? And how do we answer to our kids what we’ve done, what we’ve failed to do in this year? We have a responsibility to them.
And so that’s the answer to a really, really good question. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

Jen: I love it. I love it. We salute Amy and your kids, and all the spouses and families of the folks on the campaign trail right now. They just deserve honor and respect. And so we send her and your kids our love as well.

Can you just lastly tell everybody where they can find you, if they want more information, more specific stuff about your policies and all that?

Beto: Well, thank you for having us on. This is a huge honor to be able to do this, and love the questions that you asked and the things that you’re talking about right now.

Jen: Thank you.

Beto: They’re just the most important that we can be focused on.

If anyone’s interested in finding out more, betofortexas.com is our website. And we’re also famous for live streaming almost everything we do on Facebook. And so if you want to hear what we said in Comanche, if you want to hear what we’re going to say tonight in Austin, you can just follow us on Facebook and see that live, comment in, and be part of this extraordinary campaign of people all across Texas.

Jen: Perfect.

Representative Beto O’Rourke, we are grateful for you, for your family. We’re thankful for your time. We’re cheering you on as you’re almost at the finish line. And it’s just been a joy and refreshment to watch you, so thank you again for being on the show today.

Beto: Thank you so much. Big honor. Grateful.

Jen: Have fun at Willie tonight.

Beto: I will. Absolutely.

Jen: Bye.

Beto: Bye-bye

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