Beto O’Rourke took a swipe at Joe Biden on Thursday, saying the former vice president’s nomination would mark a return to the past that the country cannot afford to make.
O’Rourke, who after entering the 2020 race to great fanfare has been slipping in recent polls, knocked Biden’s repeated insistence on the campaign trail that his election would be a return to normalcy after a chaotic Trump presidency.
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“You cannot go back to the end of the Obama administration and think that that’s good enough,” the former Texas congressman said at the end of a lengthy interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “As much of a horror show as Trump has been — his racism, the disaster of his foreign policy, his punishment of farmers and workers here in this country — we had real problems before Donald Trump became president.”
Among these issues, Beto argued, was a continued lack of financial security for many Americans, wealth inequality, and the Obama administration’s inability to push through immigration or gun safety reform — though Biden in his candidacy has also pushed for solving these problems.
Asked whether he thought Biden would be a return to the past, O’Rourke answered bluntly: “He is. And that cannot be who we are going forward.”
Biden, who has stuck to a more moderate lane in the sprawling Democratic primary field, has caught heat from the party’s energized left but has stood firm in the belief that the Democratic base has not lurched nearly as far to the left as has been portrayed. But while O’Rourke — and a vocal swath of the party — have asserted that Biden’s proposals don’t go far enough, Biden has also pitched himself as someone who will be able to build on the Obama administration’s successes and move forward.
“I am running to offer our country — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — a different path. Not back to past that never was, but to a future that fulfills our true potential as a country,” Biden said in a speech officially kicking off his run last month, also promising that as president, he would do “whatever it takes to make progress on what matters most.”
Asked about a pair of Biden’s recent backtracks — on public funding for abortion, and on the threat China poses — O’Rourke again accused Biden of not being bold enough.
“I’m not exactly sure what he believes or what he should apologize for, I only know that this country should be able to do far better. We should be bold and unapologetic in what we want to pursue,” O’Rourke said, adding later that “We’ve got to be bigger, we’ve got to be bolder, we have to set a much higher mark and we’ve got to be relentless in pursuing that.”
But, he said, “we cannot return to the past, we cannot be simply about defeating Donald Trump. We have to bring everybody in to this democracy to make sure in the most ambitious, aspirational way possible, we confront the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced.”