Former Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke met with students and faculty Friday night in a crowded room in the Education Building.
The event, hosted by the Political Science Student Association and College Democrats, sold out quickly, requiring an overflow room for students who watched via livestream.
UW was O’Rourke’s second stop in Wisconsin Friday. He met with students from the Milwaukee Area Technical College earlier today.
Monday night O’Rourke held a rally in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, the same day as President Donald Trump. O’Rourke criticized the president over his rhetoric of immigrants and characterization of border towns like El Paso.
O’Rourke went on to speak about issues including climate change, border protection, veterans affairs, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, anti-Semitism, campaign finance, socialism, political polarization and punk rock.
“You are living in the best time to be in this country … everything that could possibly matter to the future of human existence is being decided at this moment,” O’Rourke said during his intro.
O’Rourke warned against the irreversible damage he believes climate change will have on the country and the importance of enacting policy to curb negative effects.
When asked if he considers himself a socialist, O’Rourke responded through the help of the climate change issue.
“I would characterize myself as a capitalist,” O’Rourke said. “Climate change will not be solved by government intervention alone. The engine of capitalism and the engine of genius is fundamental to meeting these challenges.”
One student brought up the topic of campaign finance, which O’Rourke ran with.
“Of anything we discuss, from climate change to healthcare, education and taking care of veterans, but we won’t be able to achieve them if our whole system does not work … there is a very screwed up system of elections in this country,” O’Rourke said.
Finally, O’Rourke took on the question of political polarization by referencing a positive exchange he had in a heavily conservative city in Kansas.
“If that bar in Ulysses, Kansas can be represented in how we talk and listen to each other on this national stage in the U.S. Congress or the Statehouse here in Wisconsin, we are going to be alright,” he said.
O’Rourke has been touted as a possible presidential candidate for 2020. He did not address this topic in speaking to students and faculty tonight.