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Beto O’Rourke says Democrats lost the social media war in election analysis endorsed by AOC


U.S. Rep Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) of El Paso speaks during a town hall meeting at the Quail Point Lodge on August 16, 2018 in Horseshoe Bay, Texas. (Getty Images)
U.S. Rep Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) of El Paso speaks during a town hall meeting at the Quail Point Lodge on August 16, 2018 in Horseshoe Bay, Texas. (Getty Images)

In an email to supporters, Beto O’Rourke outlined his takeaways from the election campaign in Texas, and how Democrats could improve their online and ground games going forward.

In a message retweeted and endorsed by progressive New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the former Texas  congressman, and former candidate to be the Democratic Party nominee for president in 2020, laid out better ways for the party to get its message out.

Listing six points, Mr O’Rourke underlined the importance of meeting voters “eyeball to eyeball”, saying that there are safe ways to do this during a pandemic. He also emphasised the importance of showing up everywhere and being there for everyone — especially in districts where the vote has been taken for granted in the past — saying no one should be written off.

Conversations with voters should run year-round he said, noting the success of the Texas Organising Project in winning races in Harris County.

The former lawmaker also cites the Trump campaign and GOP’s “ferocious” social media and digital game of “lies and powerful memes” targeting new and young voters.

Mr O’Rourke believes that centralised messaging does not work: “If you’re running for office you should know why and you should be able to articulate that.” Listening to voters is key and activists must “understand why your victory would be their victory”.

On the that point, Mr O’Rourke believes that many candidates felt obligated to adopt party talking points, believing that Democratic organisations’ funding and support was contingent on that. He says that does not work.

“People are smart. They smell a focus-group-tested message … from a mile away,” Mr O’Rourke says.

Summarising the Republican approach, he feels that not only do they have a strong asymmetrical advantage in Texas, but their ability to campaign “free of the truth” with a “more compelling” economic message gave them a further edge.

He also cites their willingness to knock on doors and hold in-person events in spite of the pandemic, and use dominance in local government to “maximise voter suppression” and raise and deploy donations around the state.

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