Will and Beto's Excellent Adventure: When PR Bridges Political Gaps

A Democrat and a Republican drive across the country in a Chevy Impala.

It sounds like the premise of a goofy buddy comedy, but it actually happened this week when Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Republican Congressman Will Hurd embarked on a 36-hour, 1,600-mile road trip from San Antonio to Washington, D.C. after inclement weather canceled Hurd’s flight and threatened to do the same to O’Rourke’s. Both men needed to be at the Capitol by 6:30 p.m. on March 15 to vote, and they weren’t about to call in to work.

So Hurd and O’Rourke, who are both from Texas, took this as an opportunity to get to know each other and, to take it a step further, use social media to connect with their constituents. The official hashtag of the trip became #bipartisanroadtrip, and the story took off on social media and traditional news media outlets, including the The Texas Tribune.

The congressmen used Facebook Live to livestream the majority of their trip, including their stops to meet constituents, fill up for gas, and at one point, grab a midnight snack at Gibson’s Donuts in Tennessee. They also used social media to get song requests from viewers, and blared the music of icons like Willie Nelson in their own version of “Carpool Karaoke.”

They discussed multiple big issues, from the border wall and veterans affairs to healthcare and everything in between,  They also called other members of congress and notable figures such Newt Gingrich and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, as well as their own family members.  

Upon arriving in Washington, D.C., the former acquaintances live streamed their ascent on the steps of the Capitol and shook hands before entering the House Chamber as friends.

Spectators in person and on the Internet reacted positively to the whole event as it represented a kind of bipartisan, friendly relationship that has become so rare in an increasingly divisive world.

While the whole thing is a genuine boost in Hurd and O’Rourke’s relationships with their constituents, actions like this could prove to be especially beneficial for O’Rourke’s potential 2018 challenge to Ted Cruz’s Senate seat.

According to an editorial from USA Today, O’Rourke has publicly made it  clear that if he does run, he will not take any money from political action committees. This is a huge  deal, especially considering that no Democrat has won a statewide election in Texas since 1988, meaning O’Rourke will need to raise money with no real established donor base. If he wants to make an impact on Texas voters, he could find that low-cost, high-impact public relations like what we saw this week will be invaluable in forging authentic relationships with voters across an incredibly diverse and challenging state.

I sincerely hope other lawmakers take a page out of the Texas duo’s book and reach across the aisle when traveling and when they’re in Washington, communicating with constituents in the process. Hurd and O’Rourke’s excellent adventure did more to humanize them than fifty town hall meetings and a hundred press releases ever could. Until their colleagues follow suit, all I can say to members of Congress is “be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.”

-insert sick guitar solo-



Image from KFOX14