Here’s why Beto O’Rourke’s gestures could hand the election to Donald Trump
I like Beto O'Rourke, but see him as a candidate for VP rather the POTUS. Plenty of time for him to change my mind.
By Vinay Menon Entertainment Columnist Toronto Star
Fri., March 15, 2019
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke talks with voters during his second day of campaigning for the 2020 nomination in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. (CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES)
Beto O’Rourke’s hands are running for president.
If you’re familiar with the Texas politico, you already know he appears to be powered by Dexedrine, Red Bull, triple espressos and a deranged voice in his head that keeps shouting, “THEY WILL KILL YOU IF YOU STOP MOVING.”
Between the marching and the jumping on tables, between the full-body spasms and the shoulder dancing that produces enough kinetic energy to power Fiji, O’Rourke is more exhausting to watch than a Cirque du Soleil troupe in a war zone.
I bet if you snuck into his kitchen right now, you’d find pancakes stuck to the ceiling from years of overzealous flipping: CHILDREN, BREAKFAST IS READY! OH (BLEEP). You know why he doesn’t wear a fitness tracker? It would explode. If this dude were a puppeteer, marionettes would form a union to protest unsafe working conditions. You know how he changes a light bulb? He stands under the fixture, raises his arm and spins it around so frantically, it creates enough centrifugal force to unscrew the old one and levitate the new one into position.
Then he lectures the new bulb about climate change.
“Twelve years, Light Bulb! That’s all we got! Shine responsibly!”
This former punk rocker is a swirling human vortex. He is a can of human Febreze, spraying out rapid-fire bursts of aromatic centrist idealism in speeches, as his arms flail and nearby supporters flinch, certain they’re about to get punched in the face.
His hands never stop moving. He is his own ASL interpreter.
He makes the Duracell Bunny look like a three-toed sloth.
After O’Rourke threw his hat into the 2020 race on Thursday — the only surprise was that he didn’t pantomime throwing an actual hat into an actual ring — even Donald Trump was taken aback by the manic body language.
“I think he’s got a lot of hand movement,” Trump told reporters, looking genuinely scared. “I’ve never seen so much hand movement. I said, ‘Is he crazy or is that just the way he acts?’”
Remember the source. Trump shakes the hands of world leaders like he is tugging on a rescue rope after tumbling overboard from a Disney cruise ship. When Trump’s mouth revs into overdrive, his right hand basically flashes non-stop gang signals to the faithful. His thumb and index finger form a recurring “OK.” Like an umpire motioning safe, he’s mastered the horizontal slash. If you mute the TV when Trump is yapping, he looks like he is playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors” against an octopus.
But you know what? Trump is 100 per cent right about O’Rourke.
Beto’s hands are way crazier than Donald’s hands.
Beto’s hands may well induce a panic attack across the free world.
Did you watch O’Rourke’s announcement video? His second sentence was, “This is a defining moment of truth for this country and for every single one of us.”
By the time he finished that line, his hands had air-punched like 164 times. Watch it again and focus on his wife’s face. At first, Amy is beaming with an ear-to-ear smile. Then, as the couch they are sitting on begins to shudder like a Ford F-150 on a gravel road, her smile morphs into something closer to motion sickness.
There is no doubt Beto’s hands have now clawed their way into popular culture.
The Daily Show ran a bit about them on Thursday. Jimmy Fallon spoofed O’Rourke’s video with a segment in which he played the newly minted presidential candidate, gesticulating like a lunatic and saying things such as: “I’m sort of like if a compassionate head-nod turned into a person,” “When I eat salads, I thank every individual leaf for its sacrifice” and “I’m like if your friend’s hot dad had the energy of a Golden Retriever.”
But this new-found fixation on Beto’s hands should give the rest of him pause.
For the Democrats, who now have a pool of presidential candidates larger than the total number of people who’ve auditioned for American Idol, anything that can take oxygen away from Trump is not a bad thing.
So Beto’s hands could be a secret weapon — for his party.
But for O’Rourke himself, his hands are a harbinger of doom.
Trump is an evil genius. And by calling attention to Beto’s hands this week, what he did was create a powerful distraction. He made it impossible to hear what O’Rourke is saying because now we can’t look away from his crazy hands.
So if O’Rourke is serious about dethroning Trump, he needs to calm down.
Maybe he should invest in a straitjacket. Maybe he should hire a physical therapist to tamp down on the urge to look like an MMA fighter. Maybe he should keep his hands in his back pockets, as on the new cover of Vanity Fair.
Maybe he should ask a zookeeper to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart.
But right now, Beto’s hands are a messaging liability.
Those hands are becoming his story.
And in doing so, they will help get Donald Trump re-elected.
Vinay Menon is the Star’s pop culture columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: