As a legendary country singer, multiple-Grammy winner Willie Nelson inevitably has a strong conservative following.
That didn't stop the ever-authentic Nelson from announcing his support for Democrat Beto O'Rourke over Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in the hotly contested Texas Senate race:
My wife Annie and I have met and spoken with Beto and we share his concern for the direction things are headed. Beto embodies what is special about Texas, an energy and an integrity that is completely genuine.”
After Nelson announced that he'd be headlining a rally for O'Rourke, many of his Republican fans flew into a rage.
@WillieNelson Willie you just lost a life long fan for supporting someone like Beto He’s not what Texas needs.… https://t.co/UdevPWWnAU— Bellagio Guy (@Bellagio Guy)1536858164.0
@michaelbeatty3 Disappointed in Willie! I wish he would take Dolly Parton’s stand & refuse to go political. Seems l… https://t.co/Qmyx3pKhh9— DeeAnn♥️✞🇺🇸 (@DeeAnn♥️✞🇺🇸)1536857057.0
I've always been a fan of Willie/Waylon and me mentality. When Willie decided "Pot" was the ground he wanted to sta… https://t.co/SkIQIXEyTa— Kevin Stone (@Kevin Stone)1536836172.0
@DemWrite @WillieNelson @BetoORourke What a shame!! Willie you just lost over half of your fans!!#Cruz2018… https://t.co/mioHS8o14s— Julie 🇺🇸 (@Julie 🇺🇸)1536804895.0
@BollDakota Forgive Willie Nelson, he’s lost a few brain cells smoking way too much weed.— steve (@steve)1536860965.0
No one, not even pot head Willie can convince me to vote for a damn Demorat. He is no more Texan than the next guy.… https://t.co/mYUpMhSYhG— The Gepstur (@The Gepstur)1536859727.0
Despite the outcry from embittered Republicans, some speculate that Nelson's endorsement could be a huge factor in a highly competitive campaign.
Willie might close the small gap Beto has behind Cruz, and help turn Texas purple. Cruz is the most disliked man in… https://t.co/8zFvbr3ysg— John Dean (@John Dean)1536818292.0
Others are pointing out that this endorsement should hardly come as a surprise.
For starters, Beto and Nelson's camaraderie isn't new. The two even performed together at an Independence Day concert, emphasizing a "cool factor" of O'Rourke's that the Cruz campaign has tried and failed to vilify.
Retweeted Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke): On stage with Willie Nelson last night! https://t.co/5hdymYIMlb https://t.co/WPa4tziTMM— Wylie H Dallas (@Wylie H Dallas)1530924403.0
Others are pointing out that Nelson wouldn't be a Cruz supporter by any stretch of the imagination.
Imagine even for one instant being surprised to learn Willie Nelson doesn't like Ted Cruz https://t.co/IJMjWX9GiP— Jason (@Jason)1536848641.0
Seriously LMAO at people throwing a fit over Willie Nelson doing a concert in support of Beto o'Rourke. Willie is… https://t.co/xTPr60wCg3— Ari Marmell (@Ari Marmell)1536812098.0
Wait. Willie Nelson fans thought he was a Ted Cruz guy? 😂😂 https://t.co/nbPly5fBcx— AJ Hoffman (@AJ Hoffman)1536808701.0
LMFAO DO THEY NOT KNOW WHO WILLIE FUCKING NELSON IS??? LOL https://t.co/mHkHnHUNgV— Athena Hollow (@Athena Hollow)1536861286.0
Nelson has been an activist for decades, dedicating his life to causes like marijuana law reform and LGBTQ rights. While he has never aligned completely with any party on every issue, it's clear that his political leanings don't align with that of Ted Cruz. When Nelson spoke of marriage equality, he said:
"We'll look back and say it was crazy that we ever even argued about this"
Cruz, on the same issue:
I believe that engaging in homosexual conduct is a choice, and I do not believe that unelected judges should force States to adopt gay marriage."
So while some of Nelson's former fans may be huffing and puffing, Cruz clearly isn't his style. Despite the tantrums, it's likely that Nelson's endorsement does far more good than harm for O'Rourke as well.