It’s one of the reasons why he worked “Bad Bad News,” and “River,” into his brief set at O’Rourke’s rally. “The way I crafted it, I wanted to make the most impactful jams in the short time that I have,” he says.
Bridges was a fitting opener for O’Rourke, and sang through tracks off Coming Home and Good Thing as “BETO FOR TEXAS” and “VIVA BETO” signs were passed from the stage to the back of the crowd. The “don’t wear the T-shirt to the gig” rule was apparently suspended at Auditorium Shores, as there were too many Willie Nelson and Beto tees to count. (Nelson himself wore a Beto shirt.)
O’Rourke has been serving the people of Texas as the state representative for the 16th congressional district since 2013 -- the year Cruz was sworn in as junior senator -- and was a member of El Paso’s city council before that. Bridges met him at a benefit event last summer. Since then, he’s noticed not only an uptick in interest in Texan politics on his news feed -- Dallas friends were vocally thrilled when Bridges signed on for the Austin rally, he notes -- but on a national level.
“I just don’t think people would be as involved if it weren’t for Trump being in office,” he says. “I think it’s important to exercise our right to vote. I look at my grandmother, who had to sneak out of her mother’s house to vote during Civil Rights because my grandmother wouldn’t let her vote out of fear, out of something bad happening. I think the government can be flawed, but problems can’t fix themselves -- and I think it’s important we support people like Beto.”
Throughout his campaign, and especially before the crowd in Austin, O’Rourke’s approach has been radically inclusive. Few Democrats would declare “Republicans: you’re in the right place!” in the middle of an impassioned speech with genuine sincerity, when sarcasm and spite are obvious and justifiable instincts, and that’s exactly what he did when he reached his crescendo at the rally. The prison industrial complex and disproportionate rate of incarceration for people of color, the economic hardships and environmental plight facing Texan farmers due to global warming, the status of Dreamers, immigration, the wall (which Trump wants built on Texan soil), family separation at the border (that Trump’s administration continues to carry out on Texan soil), universal healthcare, affordable education peaceful protest, the Second Amendment and gun control are all topics O’Rourke is eager to roll up his sleeves and unpack -- with the press, with constituents, with his opponent.
On Sept. 20, O’Rourke made a point to bring up the majority of these in his first debate against Cruz; in Austin at the rally before introducing Willie Nelson, he did it again, and the optimism and intent of his questions left Bridges awestruck: “He’s a very passionate person.”