As the smoke clears from Super Tuesday and begins to nestle deep down into our lungs, it’s time to cough up some explanations for what the hell happened. How could Joe Biden have walked away with Texas, a state in which Bernie Sanders had pulled ahead in the polls, only a few days after Biden’s campaign seemed to have spun out entirely? We can extrapolate a few things from the exit polls: Biden’s win in South Carolina probably foreshadowed his strong showing among black voters here. Socialism—and the dislike thereof—was a factor (44 percent of Biden voters had an “unfavorable” view), as was the desire for someone who can unite the country. But perhaps most remarkable is the fact that nearly half of Biden’s voters didn’t decide to back him until the very last minute—and while we can attribute some of that final-hour faith to the way Biden’s former opponents all flanked around their last, best hope for the establishment, we also have to ask: Did he win by courting the Whataburger vote?
— Todd J. Gillman (@toddgillman) March 3, 2020
Except for that trip with Nelson Mandela back in 1972, the former vice president had never set foot in a Whataburger before this week, when he and his newly converted disciple Beto O’Rourke consummated their union at an East Dallas location not far from Sunday’s rally. O’Rourke, who made liking Whataburger a central platform of his Texas senate campaign, told the crowd there that he planned to take the Bidens to “a world-class meal” afterward, while Biden closed the night by exclaiming, “I’m going to Whataburger right now!” Their summit was then streamed live—another classic Beto maneuver—by an O’Rourke aide, which helped it make national headlines. Of course, that included Reuters mistaking O’Rourke for Pete Buttigieg and Whataburger for “a Texas chicken joint.” But even these apparent blunders only stirred up a fierce—and importantly, bipartisan—territorial pride.
Did Biden’s Whata-pander ultimately push him over the top? It’s difficult to say, mostly because those pollsters didn’t think to ask. But also because there are simply so many factors to explain Biden’s sudden surge, from “He’s not Donald Trump” to “He’s not Bernie Sanders.” Still, Biden’s people seemed to recognize the value of the optics, at least, even borrowing the restaurant’s logo to celebrate his Texas win. Suffice it to say, it definitely couldn’t have hurt the candidate favored by Texans who yearn, above all else, for something familiar.
Beto’s Biden Endorsement Earns Ire of Ex-Bandmate
Beto O’Rourke coming out for Biden was not without its controversies. Many probably found it consistent with the former congressman’s pragmatism, his focus on down-ballot races, and his abiding love of the spotlight. Others took issue with O’Rourke backing a guy he’d once derided as a “return to the past” and criticized on everything from Iraq to abortion before declaring, “This country should be able to do far better.” That O’Rourke seems to have decided, actually, we can’t—or at least, not right now—doesn’t seem to be sitting well with a lot of his progressive Texan base, many of whose members are finally getting around to peeling that “BETO” sticker off their car. And that includes some of his former bandmates.
As Stereogum noted, At the Drive-In and the Mars Volta founder Cedric Bixler-Zavala—who used to share El Paso stages with O’Rourke, back in their “punk” days—recently posted an endorsement of Bernie Sanders to his Instagram page with the caption “No thank you Biden.” Naturally, this prompted a fan to ask whether this meant he denounced O’Rourke for his Biden support. “Denounced in the comatorium,” Bixler-Zavala replied, a reference to the Mars Volta’s 2003 album De-Loused in the Comatorium, and an especially sick burn among devotees of frenetic prog-rock.
Pressed farther down the thread as to whether he couldn’t have a word with his old friend, Bixler-Zavala replied, “What, you think I can offer him something the DNC hasn’t?” All in all, it’s quite the reversal from 2018, when Bixler-Zavala tweeted his tearful admiration to O’Rourke, writing, “You made them tremble with the simple prospect of real change. You are one of us.” Sure, it’s never easy seeing old DIY punkers hook up with some dad-rocking stadium act, like watching Pat Smear go from the Germs to Foo Fighters. But as O’Rourke can tell you, sometimes you gotta sell out a little to buy in. Does Bixler-Zavala want that Mars Volta reunion or not?
Adios, El Bloombito
One Super Tuesday outcome that was not a surprise, however, was the utter trouncing of Michael Bloomberg, who spent nearly $550 million on winning one caucus in a U.S. territory and a paltry 44 delegates, before dropping out and endorsing Biden. It was an astonishing waste of money and time, and Bloomberg probably could have saved some by just buying American Samoa outright. But then, who can put a price on the memories—like the one the former New York mayor gave us as a parting gift on Tuesday, when he corrected a Miami reporter’s pronunciation of Texas.
“Tejas, we’d say here,” Bloomberg said. “You’re in a Cuban neighborhood, so you’ve gotta know your audience.”
Here’s the clip: pic.twitter.com/4bDelyRgLw
— Bianca Padró Ocasio (@BiancaJoanie) March 3, 2020
Bloomberg’s impromptu, Peggy Hill-esque interjections en español in the past have earned him the nickname “El Bloombito,” even inspiring a parody Twitter account. And despite this blatant pandering to a Hispanic demographic—one that almost definitely says “Texas”—he still landed only 20 percent of their vote. But at least Bloomberg can say that he really did unite Democrats and Republicans in making fun of Mike Bloomberg, proving he was the candidate who could bring our country back together after all.
Dan Crenshaw Responds to Pete Davidson, Part Whatever
Among those taking shots at Bloomberg’s comment was Texas representative Dan Crenshaw, who retweeted a GIF from The Office with the precision you’d expect from a former Navy SEAL. It was an increasingly rare return to humor for Crenshaw, who has lately been too consumed with sounding the alarm over socialism to engage in much witty banter—even with his old vaudeville partner Pete Davidson. As we noted last week, on his new Netflix special the comedian and Saturday Night Live star rescinded the apology that first vaulted Crenshaw into national celebrity in 2018. Davidson jokes he was more or less “forced” into it, and says that he regrets only making Crenshaw famous. For several days after the story broke, Crenshaw remained admirably above the fray, until he was booked on the fray’s popular morning show Fox & Friends and asked to respond.
“I can’t get out of Pete Davidson’s head,” Crenshaw laughed. “He’s been thinking about me a lot as he builds his comedy routine, apparently. I’m not sure his jokes always land. But it is what it is. It’s like our comedic careers are joined at the hip, because he can’t stop thinking about me.”
Crenshaw went on to call the situation “a little sad,” noting that the moment they’d shared had briefly united both liberals and conservatives, and he didn’t want to “ruin” it by taking Davidson’s latest jokes too seriously. Admittedly, there is something a little droll about Crenshaw insisting that Davidson can’t get over him, while Crenshaw’s campaign sent out a mailer touting his SNL appearance just last month. Still, Crenshaw deserves credit for refusing to take the bait, offering a (mostly) diplomatic shrug in return. “To be fair, if we took everything that comedians said on a Netflix special seriously, man, our country would be in a world of hurt,” Crenshaw said. This should put an end to this story we never have to hear about again—except for anytime either Pete Davidson or Dan Crenshaw is mentioned.
Dan Patrick Takes on Shirt
Finally, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick was also reunited this week with one of his bitterest enemies: shirts, which have foiled the lieutenant governor time and again. Patrick’s fractious rivalry with our most treacherous article of clothing first brought him national attention in 2016, when he was widely mocked for a plaid button-up with a white collar he wore to a Ted Cruz campaign rally. Since that day, Patrick has resolved to nauseate people solely through his weird obsession with toilets, but he has clearly neither forgotten—nor forgiven—shirts. So when a shirt walked into the Texas Senate chamber this week on the back of a witness, its front emblazoned with the shocking-for-1988 phrase “F— The Police,” all those old feelings came rushing back. Dan Patrick would not put up with these impudent shirts any longer.
Patrick’s tweeted warning that “no one will ever be allowed to wear such a vulgar shirt in a Senate hearing again” was followed by a dare: “Want to take me to court? Ok. Make my day.” And while that might have sounded like so much bluster from the Texas Legislature’s own personal Principal Skinner, the debate over whether Patrick actually has the right to ban clothing he doesn’t like—even his reviled shirts—suggests that he could very well find himself facing a lawsuit if he enforces it.
As ACLU of Texas legal director Andre Segura told the Austin-American Statesman, the Supreme Court ruled in 1971 that the government cannot ban offensive language, including on clothing. And as so many pointed out in Patrick’s mentions, the very idea seems to run counter to the First Amendment guaranteed in the Constitution—the same one that is so frequently touted by champions of small government and personal liberty like Dan Patrick. Meanwhile, others defended Patrick’s right to set his own rules of decorum, which could certainly lead to some interesting showdowns in upcoming sessions. Waging war against offensive novelty T-shirts may seem like an especially pointless exercise for someone like Patrick, who surely has bigger issues of petty, socially conservative meddling to tend to. Still, as Biden’s upset shows us, sometimes it pays to pander to your base, no matter how narrowly defined.