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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SMU chapter.

Disclaimer: This article was prepared using my own personal capacity. The opinions that I express in this article are entirely my own and do not reflect the views of The SMU chapter of Her Campus.


On September 21, Representative Beto O’Rourke and Senator Ted Cruz debated on the campus of SMU. The event allowed viewers to learn more about the opponents views on issues like racial equality, gun control and everything in between. Not only were their platforms on display, but their rhetoric and character were heavily showcased. The overarching theme of the debate was “Texas Values.” Each politician had different ideas of what these values were and how they should be implemented, but these opinions informed their answers for the majority of the questions asked. Here is a breakdown on where each Senator stood on various topics that were presented.

1. Immigration

Senator Cruz has summed up his views on immigration to four words, “Legal good, illegal bad”. This simplistic perspective differed from Representative O’Rourke’s belief that reform on immigration must reflect the value of immigrants and asylum-seekers by providing a path to work, family reunification and citizenship.

Further Reading: Why You NEED to Vote in the Midterm Elections

2. Racial Equality, Criminal Justice System

A large portion of O’Rourke’s answers throughout the night placed emphasis on the racial inequality that takes place in this country. One of two topics that were discussed was the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, Botham Jean, who was shot when a white police officer mistook his apartment for her own. While O’Rourke adamantly criticized the disproportionate amount of unarmed black men that are wrongfully shot, Cruz decided to focus on the number of police funerals he has attended. While this is an issue, it was a clever way to avoid the topic of racial inequality because the reform of the justice system is not one of Cruz’s priorities.

They were also asked about kneeling for the national anthem. O’Rourke commended the acts of peaceful protest while Cruz avoided the question and used it to jab at his opponent while invoking God. 

Both of these topics represent the colors and values of the candidates. O’Rourke recognizes that reform is vital in order for people of color to have access to the opportunities that they have earned and deserve. Cruz tended to avoid making a comment on the country’s inherent racism and he came off like a racist. It’s not that deaths of police officers shouldn’t be mourned or talked about, but using them as rhetoric to avoid answering questions about the oppression of minorities absolutely showed his character.

3. Donald Trump

Of course, it would not have been a political event without discussing the President of the United States, Donald Trump. This took form in multiple questions. Senator Cruz attempted to paint O’Rourke as someone who would be unwilling to cooperate with Trump because of raging liberalism. O’Rourke insisted that he was willing to work with anyone, regardless of political affiliation, in order to invoke positive change for the people of Texas. Senator Cruz’s dignity was called into question as he has had a history with the president, which includes Trump personally attacking Cruz’s family. However, Cruz has proceeded to boast about his relationship with Trump.

When it comes to relationships with the president, I would prefer someone who will cooperate with someone that they don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with in order to elicit change, but also stand against the harmful opinions of people in power. O’Rourke made this clear. Ted Cruz will spinelessly bend to the whims of powerful people in order to advance his own political career. Yet again, the differing opinions of the candidates are clear signs of character.

Further reading: Why the Texas Senate Race Matters

4. Character

Speaking of character, they also called into question O’Rourke’s past conviction of drunk driving. Though this isn’t an admirable part of his backstory, he recognized the second chance that he has been given and emphasized how minorities are not often given the second chance he was.

This stain on O’Rourke’s history is not desirable, but in my opinion, his honesty and attitude towards making good out of a very bad situation are admirable. The question of Cruz’s dignity was the major time his character was called into question.

5. Healthcare

The main difference between O’Rourke and Cruz’s opinions on healthcare is how they want to change the Affordable Care Act. O’Rourke is in favor of reform while Cruz is in favor of repeal. It is obvious that healthcare for Americans does need to be improved, but O’Rourke takes more of a perspective of improving what is already in place, while Cruz wants to strip what is in place, presumably because it is connected with former president Barack Obama. O’Rourke also places more emphasis on improving health care so people are healthier, while Cruz focuses on making health care cheaper. Each has the same goal, but Cruz focuses less on the people and more on the money- a commonality in his views.

Further Reading: What You Need to Know about the Political Views of Texas Senate Candidates Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke

6. Gun control

Gun control is one issue that the candidates agree with at its core. Neither candidate is in favor of repealing the Second Amendment. Each recognizes that there are fundamental issues that need to be addressed when it comes to the safety of Texans. However, where O’Rourke favors some gun control measures, Cruz is in favor of arming even more people, namely teachers and faculty of schools.

This is a fundamental difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. In my opinion, a teacher’s job is to teach students. They shouldn’t have to also be the security guard. I don’t think it is a right to bear arms, it is absolutely a privilege. When the constitution was written, the intention wasn’t for civilians to be able to procure military grade weapons. The intention was for the government not to limit the rights of citizens to for a militia.


Image via Tom Fox/ AP


Each candidate did a great job of expressing their views of Texas Values and how they should be implemented. Though I agree with very little of what comes out of Senator Cruz’s mouth, his rhetoric is extremely advanced. He is a skilled debater, and though he doesn’t come off as likeable, he comes off politically capable and confident. O’Rourke, on the other hand, is extremely earnest. His grass-roots campaign and stories of the countless Texans he has interacted with are extremely charming. Though he is not as skilled as a debater, he held his own. I think it is safe to say that in likeability, O’Rourke won. In style, Cruz won. Each candidate is capable, and they have experience necessary to hold the position they are running for.

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Luckily, either way, you can voice your opinion. Register to vote in Texas and help shape the future of this state. Your registration must be in the mail by October 9, and you must be a resident of the county in which you are registering. Your voice is important: whether or not you spent this whole article nodding or whether you spent it gritting your teeth, you can cast a vote in an election where it matters. The popular vote decides who wins this race, not the electoral college, so get out there and exercise that right to vote.

Watch the video of the entire debate here.
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