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Beto O’Rourke turned some heads at a campaign rally Wednesday when he called a member of the audience motherf*****.” And while the former U.S. representative received cheers from the crowd, political experts say he’s too far went away.
The Democratic gubernatorial candidate was speaking to a crowd in North Texas about the mass shooting in Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers when a member in the audience laughed, NPR member station KUT reported,
O’Rourke swiftly turned around and pointed to the heckler and said, “It might be funny to you, mom *****, but it ain’t funny to me, okay.”
The crowd immediately began cheering in support of O’Rourke’s snappy intervention.
According to Cal Jilson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, O’Rourke’s knee-jerk reaction suggests that she is emotional, which is good, but dropping an F-bomb in a room with elderly attendees and children, Not so much.
“Light cursing can make you sound more authentic to your supporters, but there are shades of language that are dangerous,” Jillson said. ,[O’Rourke] Maybe he skated right up to that and left it behind.”
Rice University political science professor Mark Jones echoed similar sentiments: “It helps them, it hurts them.”
Jones said the shocking effect of loud obscenity is not as damaging as it does to his reputation.
“These are voters who are Democratic voters, Republican voters who have no issues with profanity in their personal lives, but hold public officials and public announcements to a high standard,” Jones said.
Texans have a long and strong history of endorsing individualism, Jillson explained, which is why O’Rourke’s snappy reaction was met with applause in the moment. But if such language wins the election, we will see more of it, he said.
Jilson said that jaw-dropping language in public can be counterproductive because it leaves audiences and members of the media baffled. Instead of talking about the candidate’s message, they are focusing on their audacious choice of words.
“It usually doesn’t matter as much as the moment passes, but the fewer moments you have, the better because you want to plan those moments into a campaign just as you would in life or business,” Jilson said. .
O’Rourke’s opponents will seize this moment to attack his credibility. Governor Greg Abbott, who intends to keep his job, will likely use Soundbite to target voters who prefer that kind of language.
Jillson said that talk of toilets and cursing opponents is more common in politics than ever, which is unfortunate because it makes it harder for these people to do their jobs.
“You hear people being called fascists, communists, groomsmen and pedophiles, which you didn’t hear decades ago, and now you hear people more excited to get the audience’s attention,” he said. “It is harmful to our politics because it becomes more difficult to do politics and find middle ground on issues.”