A bipartisan road trip

Congressmen Beto O’Rourke and Will Hurd have officially mastered the art of a successful road trip.

On March 14, 2017, a blizzard consumed the northeast and cancelled incoming flights. But the weather could not stop two dedicated politicians from getting to the House for floor votes.

The two Texas congressmen, O’Rourke (D) and Hurd (R) decided that their best option was to drive 1,600 miles from San Antonio, TX to Washington D.C. together. They hopped in a rental Chevy Impala and began what O’Rourke called “a marathon 24-hour trip” as he shared a photo of the two on his Facebook page. He invited his Facebook friends to “follow along, send us your favorite road trip songs and places we should see along the way.”

The congressmen referred to their trip as a “town hall on wheels” as they took questions from viewers that tuned into their Facebook live stream.

The hashtag #CongressionalCannonballRun began spreading across Twitter, as viewers increased and the word spread about O’Rourke and Hurd’s journey. Even politicians began to tune in, asking questions to hear the congressmen’s thoughts. Within the first 30 hours, over ten political figures from across the United States were calling in or commenting on the road trip’s live stream.

Faith Vander Voort, a senior journalism major, tuned in to watch the whole live stream out of curiosity.

“I was intrigued,” Vander Voort said. “It’s very rare to see people from both sides of the aisle interacting in a cordial manner, let alone sharing a car ride together.”

Viewers suggested helpful traffic tips, like avoiding certain toll roads, and recommended popular dining stops, like Gibson’s Donuts, where they stopped for a mid-trip treat. But it was more than just snacks and songs for this car ride; with two politicians together for that long, it’s hard not to talk politics.

Many viewers brought up questions about the proposed Republican health-care bill, immigration reformation and foreign policy. Both O’Rourke and Hurd shared their opinions speaking on behalf of their party, but also how they personally viewed these issues. They even spoke on the 2016 presidential election and their reactions to Donald Trump winning.

As the trip went on, more calls poured in. Former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, was one of those callers, ringing in to comment on the road trip and the impact this could have on our nation.

“This is the most bipartisan news we’ve had in a couple years,” Speaker Gingrich said. “I think this is fabulous that you guys are doing this. I am really impressed with this level of dedication.”

The congressmen were on a time crunch, trying to get to D.C. before the House vote that was scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. EST. With 35 miles to go, one viewer jokingly commented on the live stream that maybe since they were members of Congress, they couldn’t be arrested for speeding because they were en route to vote.

As the drive was coming to a close, Hurd reflected on what he learned about their time together.

“We hit a lot of issues,” Hurd said. “We came to some agreement, we learned about things that we will be able to work on over the next couple years.”

O’Rourke nodded his head in agreement.

With just a few minutes left of their trip, the two blasted the song “The Final Countdown” as they arrived in D.C., just before 6:00 p.m.

Vander Voort recalled having lasting impressions from watching this interaction. “A lot of their conversation was actually quite humanizing. We saw them as people, not just congressmen. They argued over where to eat instead of how to vote and what songs to listen to instead of which party was right.”

O’Rourke appeared on the Dallas Morning News to discuss his impromptu trip and how it changed him. “At a time where so many people wonder whether our institutions still work, whether members of Congress still listen to the people they represent, whether a Republican and a Democrat can get along and work together… I thought, let’s try to prove the concept.”

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