The Internet had a (very) up close and personal encounter with Democratic darling Beto O’Rourke on Thursday, when he took his Instagram followers along to the dentist.
It wasn’t just about showing off his almost offensively charming hot-dad smile, though. Instead, O’Rourke (who you may know as the guy who ran against Ted Cruz in the midterms and ~might~ be vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination) was continuing a larger conversation about immigration and living on the U.S./Mexico border. Part of a series where he uses his personal social platform to talk to real life Americans — which he calls “people of the border” — O’Rourke’s been having tons conversations with neighbors and community members that work to dispel some of the more pervasive myths about border life floated by the Trump administration.
From the dental chair, O’Rourke introduced Diana, a border resident (who just so happened to be wrist-deep in his mouth as his dental hygienist) to tell viewers “a little bit about growing up in El Paso.”
Diana talked about her background and how her mother, who was from Mexico originally, had studied to become a U.S. citizen with the help of her neighbors and the support of her community.
“It’s a beautiful community. We all support each other. We love each other,” she said, when O’Rourke asked her about growing up in El Paso, Texas. “And it’s not what everybody else thinks, sadly, about us. It’s actually a wonderful place to live and grow up.”
In a time where politicians are becoming more and more accessible — like Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s super charming and educational Instagram cooking/policy show — it’s not a surprise that O’Rourke worked to leverage that online intimacy with his followers to try and deliver a salient political message. As CNN notes, O’Rourke spent a lot of his Senate bid talking policy during livestreams just like this one (usually while attending campaign events or otherwise uneventful dinners) and gaining a good deal of traction with his base.
After all, the mix of relatable, accessible and knowledgeable is something young people really do connect with when it’s done right.
Still, some folks on the Internet found it to be A Bit Much, in this case. Many Twitter users were wondering if the attempt to appear so available and open to viewers (and potential voters) might come off a little bit thirsty. It was also possibly made just a bit more uncomfy when the Internet started RT-ing open mouthed Dentist shots of O’Rourke everywhere with no real context about the conversations he was trying to have.
breaking news: beto is at the dentist pic.twitter.com/ceFP9aOYL0
— David Wright (@DavidWright_CNN) January 10, 2019
Can everyone please stop retweeting the Beto dentist photo?
— Mary Ellen McIntire (@MelMcIntire) January 10, 2019
While the Internet (especially Twitter) can obviously be a pretty fickle place, especially when it comes to what meme moments come across as charming and what come across as thirsty, Beto’s penchant for candid, #real livestreams could still be a way in to a really thoughtful conversation about border life — as long as people can make it past the initial TMI factor.