The Road to Washington

Published: March 16, 2017

By Jim Lichtman
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That’s right. Those two zany congressmen from Texas are off on the wildest, funniest road they’ve ever traveled! … And you’re along for the ride!


Starring Will Hurd, a Republican and “Beto” O’Rourke, a Democrat

(Cue the music)

O’Rourke: “We’re off on the road to Wash…ing…ton.”

Hurd: “We certainly do get around.”

O’Rourke: “Where we’re goin’, why we’re goin’, how can we be sure…”

Hurd: “…I’ll lay you eight to five we don’t meet Dorothy Lamour.”

“The two congressmen were visiting military veterans in San Antonio on Monday,” The Houston Chronicle reports (Mar.14), “when Hurd… learned his flight back to Washington was canceled due to an East Coast snowstorm.

“O’Rourke… made a half-joking proposal he assumed Hurd would turn down: What if we rent a car, make the 24-hour drive together – and live-stream it?

“Prompted by online commenters and a few people they encountered in person, the pair debated everything from Obamacare and education to where to eat lunch and whether to stop for the night. They kept up the banter as their rented Chevy Impala got stuck in Waco traffic about noon.

“ ‘We’re trying to break through partisan gridlock and get stuck in actual gridlock,’ Hurd quipped.

“While cynics may see the trip as a publicity stunt,” The Chronicle writes, “political scientists described it as an innovative step further into the brave new world of outreach on social media. The hours of live discussion drew tens of thousands of viewers and hundreds of comments. …

“Hurd, 39, and O’Rourke, 44, might seem an odd couple, occupying different sides of the political aisle in a time of hyper-polarization. But they share common traits: Neither Hurd, a former CIA officer, nor O’Rourke, a boyish former punk-rock band member, fits the stereotype of the white-haired, lawyerly congressman. …

“[They’re both] considered moderates willing to reach across the aisle… They represent a new generation in Congress, both brimming with ambition, even if neither yet occupies the top ranks of their respective party hierarchies. …

“Though Hurd complained the Democrat was a ‘task master’ who resented pit stops, the two stayed civil and generally did not interrupt each other, even when they disagreed on hot-button issues.

“ ‘If we can have a conversation like this where we disagree – sitting in traffic, both hungry – then we should be able to have a larger conversation,’ Hurd said. …

“The ‘organic’ live stream boosts name recognition in their districts and beyond, academic observers said. Cornyn and other congressional elders may struggle for such success on social media.

“ ‘It’s absolutely exploded,’ said University of Akron political scientist David B. Cohen. ‘You have to have a social-media presence, unless you’re representing a very safe district with older constituents.’ …

“Cohen said the bipartisan road trip hearkened back to a less-polarized era, when representatives would dine and drink together without much regard for party.

“One of the most divisive issues the Texans faced on Tuesday was where to eat lunch. O’Rourke, with an eye on the clock, lobbied for a Whataburger drive-thru. Hurd tried to heed viewers’ suggestions of a local kolache bakery but conceded the point.

“When the pair pulled up to a Waco-area Whataburger, Hurd detailed the condiments he wanted, prompting O’Rourke to whisper theatrically to viewers about the ‘high-maintenance customer.’

“O’Rourke turned the cellphone toward the drive-thru worker, who laughed and waved to the camera after Hurd explained their mission.

“ ‘I’m a Republican and he’s a Democrat… We’re showing people we can work together.’

Will it work?

It already has! They’re adventures have been covered by several media outlets and the public is paying attention.

From an ethical perspective, Hurd and O’Rourke are a road model… I mean role model for respect and responsibility to others in Congress. Their road trip is an example of two public servants who seek to develop their knowledge, skills and judgment in order to improve the performance of their duties.

Not exactly Hope and Crosby, but it’s a great start!

(I can’t wait to see them do the “patty-cake” routine on Paul Ryan.)


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