With such a crowded field in the 2020 Democratic party presidential primaries, the 22 declared candidates are playing a delicate balancing act — trying to distinguish themselves as more qualified than their rivals for the nomination while not going so far with negative campaigning as to give President Trump any ammunition to use against the eventual winner of the contest.
While most of the Democratic candidates have been fairly successful at walking this difficult balance beam, it’s rare to see a candidate actively step up to defend one of his rivals from spurious attacks by partisan Republicans.
Yet that is exactly what former Texas representative and senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke did when the man who has been eclipsing him in recent polls, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, faced homophobic heckling at a campaign appearance at the Dallas County Democratic Party dinner in O’Rourke’s home state.
Buttigieg was giving a speech at the dinner when he was interrupted at least four times by protesters shouting anti-gay slogans, according to a report by CNN correspondent DJ Judd.
Pete Buttigieg has been interrupted four times here in Dallas by protesters. One yelled “Marriage is between a man and a woman!” Another yelled “Repent!” After the 4th, Buttigieg continued, “The moment I packed my bags for Afghanistan, to defend that man’s freedom of speech…” pic.twitter.com/zIpDSCIrti
— DJ Judd (@DJJudd) May 4, 2019
Beto O’Rourke saw Judd’s tweet and immediately leaped to the defense of his fellow candidate and reminded the world that this type of homophobia is not representative of the behavior and hospitality demonstrated by the vast majority of the Texans that he lives among.
Texans don’t stand for this kind of homophobia and hatred. Mayor Pete, we are grateful you came to Texas and hope to see you and Chasten back again soon. https://t.co/IhRDtIBREb
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) May 4, 2019
Beto O’Rourke’s quick rise to the defense of Buttigieg bodes well for the ability of Democrats to unite behind whichever candidate eventually rises to the top of the crowd and secures the Democratic nomination for the presidency.
With the defeat of President Trump and his removal from office being the top priority of both progressive Democrats and their more centrist counterparts, it is imperative that this unity is maintained throughout the primaries and into the 2020 general election.
Kudos to Beto O’Rourke for demonstrating early on in the race how to support fellow Democrats while still competing against both his political rivals and the man whose defeat is the ultimate end goal.
Ironically, Beto’s supportive tweet for his rival may wind up helping his own candidacy as his tweet was liked and retweeted by the thousands of his followers who called him “classy” for standing up for his competitor in the face of such regrettable homophobia.
Very very classy Beto! pic.twitter.com/97KUDPdPhs
— PiscesForPete (@Pisces4Pete) May 4, 2019
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Original reporting by Emily Tillett at CBS News.