Hot off his impromptu town hall at a Conway gun show, presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke concluded his trip to the Natural State by serving as keynote speaker at the Democratic Party of Arkansas’ annual Clinton Dinner. He outlined his approach to winning the 2020 election while providing hopeful solutions to the challenges our nation currently faces.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. opened the evening, extolling the virtues of his city and appreciating the enthusiasm of the room. Scott iterated the importance of diversity, not only in the room, but also in the Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) in general. “Only through embracing intersectionality can we have a truly diverse range of voices in our city,” Scott said.
Before beginning his speech, O’Rourke played to the home crowd by “calling the Hogs,” the traditional call practiced by the University of Arkansas. After this, the speech took on a more somber tone, with O’Rourke remembering the fatal shooting that rocked his hometown of El Paso two weeks before the dinner.
“This act of terror will not be what defines our country,” says O’Rourke. “It won’t be remembered just as a tragedy, but as something we overcame.” O’Rourke spoke of mass shootings as an epidemic, expressing his desire to curtail the 40,000 American lives lost to gun violence every year.
In pursuit of that goal, the former congressman expressed his support for universal background checks and a ban on “weapons of war, which are meant not for self-defense but for the slaughter of human lives,” which alludes to O’Rourke’s recent calls for an assault weapons ban and a mandatory buyback program for said weapons.
O’Rourke also repeatedly took aim at President Trump. “This country was founded on racism, has persisted through racism and is racist today.” O’Rourke proceeded to note several statistics outlining disparities in prison populations and income between white and black America. “It was only until this administration and this president that this racism was invited out into the open… Counties that hosted a Trump rally in 2016 experienced on average a 200% increase in hate crimes.”
O’Rourke stressed the importance of binational cooperation between the United States of America and Mexico, and the acceptance and appreciation of immigrants, calling for an end to ICE raids on factories and job sites, as well as condemning the separation of undocumented immigrants from their citizen children. “No more kids coming home to find their parents are missing. No more kids and parents being separated at the border.” O’Rourke demanded.
Despite this, O’Rourke ended the night on a hopeful note. Drawing parallels to his own aggressive campaigning during his effort to unseat Texas senator Ted Cruz, O’Rourke emphasized the importance of campaigning across the nation, not just in battle-ground states, visiting and winning over people in counties “so red, you can see them glow from outer space.”
He spoke to the necessity of inclusivity. “So many people write our states off as red, as unwinnable and unchangeable. They’re wrong, and that’s part of what drives so many voters away. Now more than ever it’s critical that we go everywhere, talk to everyone and let them know they’re welcome.”