During the Democratic presidential debates on Wednesday night, several 2020 candidates whipped out their bilingual skills on stage to demonstrate their connection to Spanish-speaking voters. Sparking this trend was none other than former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), who switched linguistic gears mid-way to answering a question about tax rates.
Speaking with Alisyn Camerota on CNN, the former senatorial candidate said he spoke Spanish to be inclusive of everyone in America who has been marginalized.
“You peppered some of your responses last night with Spanish, which you speak and were addressing, I guess, people who were listening who speak Spanish,” Camerota said on the program. “So let me play it for you, because the question you were asked was about, I think, the top tax rate and you answered part of it in Spanish.”
Camerota then played the clip of Beto essentially dodging the question the moderator gave him about tax rates by speaking Spanish.
“This economy has got to work for everyone, and right now, we know that it isn’t,” O’Rourke said in English. “And it’s gonna take all of us coming together to make sure that it does.”
At that moment in the clip, Beto switched to Spanish and repeated his empty platitude about an economy that works for everyone. “We need to include every person in the success of this economy,” he said in Spanish. “But if we want to do that, we have to include every person in our democracy. Every vote needs representation and every voice needs to be heard.”
When the clip finished, Camerota asked Beto why he elected to speak Spanish during the debate. Here was his full response:
I think it’s important that we listen to and speak to everyone in this country, including those who happen to speak, or prefer to speak Spanish. I’ve held more than 160 town halls and answered thousands of questions, most in English, but some in Spanish. If this Democracy is going to work, if our economy is going to work for everyone, then everyone has to be included, especially those who have been marginalized and those who have not been at the table. I want to make sure their voice is heard, I want to make sure that their vote counts as well. Coming from El Paso, Texas, in order for me to be effective when I was a member of Congress there, I needed to be able to listen to and speak to everyone in both English and Spanish. I want to do that as a candidate, I want to do that as president as well.
Beto may believe that, but the move did not go over well with people. Just take a look at what the “Daily Show” had to say about it:
And Beto was not the only one at the debate to get in on the act. Shortly thereafter, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) joined in on the linguistic pandering and was quickly one-upped by debate moderator José Diaz-Balart, who asked a question to the panel in Spanish.