Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke interrupts a press conference held by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott following the shooting at Robb Elementary School which left 21 dead, including 19 children.

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Beto O’Rourke shamed Gov. Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz during an Uvalde press conference

One of the things Democrats have shown themselves pathetically bad at in recent years is being able and willing to call bullshit on, well, obvious bullshit. Instead we’ve been subjected to mealy-mouthed feints toward bipartisanship and civility with a version of the GOP that hasn’t existed for years, if ever. So, when former Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke interrupted a press conference of Texas officials to chastise them for the “totally predictable” mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, it felt like a moment of long overdue catharsis for a generation used to seeing Democrats govern from a crouch, rather than take aggressive, impassioned action.

“This is on you,” O’Rourke exclaimed as he approached a stage full of Republican lawmakers, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, and Sen. Ted Cruz, who were in the midst of giving an update on the mass shooting in Uvalde.

“You are doing nothing, you are offering us nothing,” O’Rourke continued, as he was bombarded by insults from the officials, including Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin (R), who called the onetime congressman and current Texas gubernatorial candidate an “asshole” and a “sick son of a bitch.”

“I can’t believe that you’re a sick son of a bitch that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue,” McLaughlin, a hard right anti-immigrant xenophobe who himself wasted little time after the mass shooting to insist that “everyone had a right to own a gun.

The irony of a stage full of politicians clutching their pearls over another politician making a political issue out of an obvious moment of political failure is almost too much to bear. Still, it’s undeniable that O’Rourke’s interruption was very much a calculated stunt — one that, based on the reaction of the press conference crowd, was met with decidedly mixed results. O’Rourke has staked a large portion of his political persona on gun reform, famously promising in a 2019 Democratic presidential debate that “hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15.” As a gubernatorial candidate challenging Abbott this coming November, O’Rourke knows exactly what he’s doing when he crashes a widely watched press conference to accurately accuse the state’s Republican leadership of being complicit in the Uvalde massacre. He may sincerely feel strongly about the issue, but that doesn’t mean he’s not keenly aware of how this confrontation would play out on camera.

Yet for years Democrats have largely been afraid to stand up and state plain facts obviously, preferring instead to pursue an agenda of rhetorical flourishes in the place of raw emotion and anger. So stunt or not, O’Rourke’s willingness to stand up and point a finger at the gun-loving enablers who helped usher in yet another school shooting is not only notable — it’s a long overdue relief.