`So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin.’ On the deeper purposes of the Cruz jingle.

 

Good morning Austin:

The Ted Cruz-Beto O’Rourke U.S. Senate race should be a good one.

The general election began just after the polls closed Tuesday, with Cruz firing the opening shot.

Here are the full lyrics of the song, sung to the tune of the Alabama’s “If you’re gonna play in Texas.”

If you’re gonna run in Texas, you can’t be a liberal man

‘Cause liberal thought is not the spirit of a Lone Star man

You gotta be tough as Texas and honest about your plans

If you’re gonna run in Texas, can’t be a liberal man

I remember reading stories, Liberal Robert wanted to fit in

So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin

Beto wants those open borders and wants to take our guns

Not a chance on Earth he’ll get a vote from millions of Texans

If you’re gonna run in Texas, you can’t be a liberal man

That’s it.

At first it seemed an odd line of attack — going after O’Rourke, given name Robert, for going by the nickname Beto. After all, Chris Cuomo noted on CNN, Ted Cruz’s given name is Rafael Edward Cruz.

 

Cuomo: You’re name is Rafael. You go by Ted. Your middle name is Edward. That’s an Anglicized version of it. He went the other way and has a more ethnic version of his name. Why go after it? You’re both doing the same thing.

Cruz: Well, you’re absolutely right, my name is Rafael Edward Cruz. I am the son of Rafael Cruz, an immigrant from Cuba who came to Texas with nothing, had a hundred dollars in his underwear, couldn’t speak English, washed dishes making 50 cents an hour, and my dad’s journey of coming to Texas seeking freedom, that’s the American story, that’s who we are.

You know in terms of the jingle, some of it is just to have a sense of humor.

We had some fun with it.

OK.

When O’Rourke came on CNN a little while later, CNN reported, “he declined to respond to Cruz’s name-calling.”

Appearing on “New Day” after Cruz, O’Rourke said, “I just don’t think that’s what folks in Texas want us to focus on.”
 
“We can get into name-calling and talk about why the other person is such an awful guy, or we can focus on the big things we want to do for the future of our country, for the generations that will succeed us,” he said, later adding, “We can focus on the small, mean, petty stuff, or we can be big, bold, courageous, and confident.”

When I talked to O’Rourke later in the day, he said much the same, taking it as a sign that Cruz must be worried to be lighting into him so quickly, and, he said, on such unsubstantial grounds.

I got to tell you I was also encouraged by that. I mean, I think if your opening salvo is to make fun of my first name then, you know, I’ll take that. It’s not even something that I even have to respond to. Folks across Texas are responding to that. They are sick of the small stuff and they want us to be big and I’m going to continue to follow the lead of people who ask us do that.

I don’t know that people want us trading jabs about our nicknames. 

Maybe, but I think that little ditty contains within it everything you will need to know about the Cruz campaign against O’Rourke. This is not based on anything anyone has told me. It is simply my intuition.

Ted Cruz means to do nothing less than crush Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy and do so by destroying his good name, or at least, his first name, by turning BETO into a four-letter word, an epithet to be spit out in anger or, better yet, derision, the telling diminutive of a liberal beguiler, imposter and poseur, who is either an opportunist trying to fool Hispanic voters into thinking he is, at least in part, one of them, or, some kind of deluded, self-hating Anglo (albeit Irish-American Anglo), whose sentimental, fuzzy-headed, liberal notions of bi-nationalism and multiculturalism have robbed him of the most basic understanding that what makes Texas Texas is a strong border and unfettered access to guns.

The jingle, and Cruz’s follow-up comments, send the message to his voters that Cruz — the Hispanic son of an immigrant — is, by taking the name “Ted,” assimilating the way it’s supposed to be done, while O’Rourke, by calling himself Beto, is going weirdly the other way, undermining what made America great.

Little Beto, in the photo at the top of First Reading, may look innocent, but, Cruz’s jingle tells us, don’t believe it.

I remember reading stories, Liberal Robert wanted to fit in

So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin

When I talked to O’Rourke on Wednesday, I went through the story once again, just to be sure.

First Reading: Just so I’ve got it straight, Beto’s been your name since you were small…

Beto O’Rourke: Born. There’s a ton of photographic evidence. On my Instagram, I’ve got a picture of me in a kindergarten or a pre-kindergarten class with my Beto sweater on.

I have a funny, quick story.

I was making my first confession, in second or third grade, and I was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and I was receiving it from the bishop, it may have been Bishop Ochoa at the time, of El Paso, who I had never met, and after I confessed my sins, he called me by my name. He said, “Well, Beto, I want you to say this many Hail Marys and this any Our Fathers,” and I left just blown away, Wow this stuff really works. He knew my name. I never met him. And I’m telling my mom this story on the ride home and she’s like, “Beto, your name is stitched on your shirt, that’s how he knew your name.”

Any second-grade, third-grade, fourth-grade, pre-K classmate of mine will tell you that no one ever knew me as Robert and the only time it ever came up was the first day of class, the teacher reads the role and goes, “Is there a Robert O’Rourke here, and everybody laughs because, everybody calls me Beto.”

My grandfather, Robert V. Williams, who passed away when I was 4 years old, but when I was little, my mom tells me, that since there were two Roberts around, so such a little guy, look, we weren’t going to also call you Robert, because that was confusing, and in El Paso, if you’re not Robert, you’re Beto, if you’re not Albert, you’re Beto, if you’re not Umberto, you’re Beto. Beto is as common in El Paso as Bob might be in Dallas. There’s Beto’s Tacos. Wood Floors by Beto. Beto, your mailman. Beto, your congressman.

I asked if the name was originally bestowed on him by a babysitter or nanny.

O’Rourke: No, it was my folks. 

So who knows, maybe my dad 45 years ago had some secret plan, but that’s where it came from.

So, OK, it seems that the O’Rourke’s weren’t contemplating the use of Beto as the perfect culturally appropriative nickname for a Texas candidate when they started calling him Beto.

Why would Cruz think that?

Well, let’s drop by the Cruz household in mid-adolescence to see what was happening there on the name front.

From Cruz’s book, A Time for Truth.

Midway through junior high school, I decided that I’d had enough of being the unpopular nerd. I remember sitting up one night asking a friend why I wasn’t one of the popular kids. I ended up staying up most of the night thinking about it. “Okay, well, what is it that the popular kids do? I will consciously emulate that.”

First off, I decided that my existing policy of refusing to play sports simply because I wasn’t good at them was not a wise plan if I wanted to be accepted by kids at school. I then decided to join the soccer team, the football team, and the basketball team. I was terrible at all three, but I kept at it. Around that time I got my braces off, I went to a dermatologist and my acne cleared some. I got contacts instead of glasses. I also shot up about six inches.

I started trying to behave differently. I tried to be less cocky. When I received a test exam back, even though I’d probably done well, I would simply put it away. I wouldn’t look at it. It wasn’t rocket science, but it was interesting to see what these sorts of small conscious changes could produce.

Another thing that changed was my name. In Spanish, the diminutive is formed by adding -ito; thus, the diminutive of my full name, Rafael, Was Rafelito, which in turn was shortened to Felito. Until I was thirteen, I was “Felito Cruz.” The problem with that name was that that it seemed to rhyme with every major corn chip on the market. Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos, and Tostitos — a fact that other young children were quite happy to point out.

Well, those were benighted times, before America became so politically correct.

Perhaps if Cruz had grown up in more Cuban-centric environment in Miami, for example, it might have all been different.

 

 

Anyway, back to Cruz’s coming-of-age story.

I was tired of being teased. One day I had a conversation with my mother about it and she said, “You know you could change your name.”

“There’s a number of other possibilities,” she said. “And she proceeded to list them:

Rafael,

Raph,

 

Ralph,

Edward, Ed. Eddie.

“Or you could go by Ted.” I found that a shocking concept. It had never occurred to me that I had any input on my name.”

“Ted” immediately felt like me. But my father was furious with the decision. He viewed it as a rejection of him and his heritage, which was not my intention.

Imagine, someone thinking about the political implications of their name at the tender age.

(Note the trademark Cruz opening joke. Aspirations? Is that like sweat on my butt?”)

“What do you mean Ted is a nickname for Edward? he snapped at my mother. “Who’s ever heard of that?”

My mother’s response was unfortunate. “Well, there’s Ted Kennedy.”

My father was apoplectic.

He had no love for liberals. In fact, he believed the American far left was trying to turn this country in a dangerously socialist direction, much like the reviled Castro regime. One of the biggest fights he had with my mother was in 1976, when she had voted for Jimmy Carter. (She quickly came to regret that decision when his haplessness became manifest.)

To equate me with Teddy Kennedy was too much. For about two years, he refused to utter my new name.

Wow.

Things seemed a little more laid back in the O’Rourke household.

“Melissa O’Rourke, a former Republican who now considers herself an independent ..

O’Rourke has always been Beto on the ballot.

O’RourkeYou can just designate yourself.  Everybody has always known me as Beto O’Rourke.

The first time I was ever on a ballot was in 2005 running for the El Paso City Council, District 8. Beto O’Rourke.

I checked with Sam Taylor at the Texas Secretary of State’s Office and he sent me the pertinent section of the state Election Code with a note.

Per 52.031(b)(2) of the Texas Election Code, both names are fine to appear as they are on the ballot, since ‘Beto’ is a contraction of “Robert” and ‘Ted’ is a familiar form of “Edward”:

Sec. 52.031.  FORM OF NAME ON BALLOT.  (a)  A candidate’s name shall be printed on the ballot with the given name or initials first, followed by a nickname, if any, followed by the surname, in accordance with this section.

(b)  In combination with the surname, a candidate may use one or more of the following:

(1)  a given name;

(2)  a contraction or familiar form of a given name by which the candidate is known;  or

(3)  an initial of a given name.

(c)  A nickname of one unhyphenated word of not more than 10 letters by which the candidate has been commonly known for at least three years preceding the election may be used in combination with a candidate’s name.  A nickname that constitutes a slogan or otherwise indicates a political, economic, social, or religious view or affiliation may not be used.  A nickname may not be used unless the candidate executes and files with the application for a place on the ballot an affidavit indicating that the nickname complies with this subsection.

(d)  A suffix such as “Sr.,” “Jr.,” or “2nd” may be used in combination with a candidate’s name.

(e)  A married woman or widow may use in combination with her surname, if the same as her husband’s surname, the given name or initials of her husband with the prefix “Mrs.”

As for the jingle, I asked Cruz campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier, “Who gets credit as the lyricist and the performers on `If you’re gonna run in Texas?’ Also, are Alabama/the songwriters of, `If you’re gonna play in Texas,’ supporters of Sen. Cruz and good with its redeployment?”

Frazier declined comment.

Nashville songwriter Dan Mitchell, the surviving half of the songwriting team of the original, did not respond to an email yesterday.

As for the new lyrics, Stephen Colbert didn’t at all like that they rhymed “man” with “man.”