Here Comes the 'Hispanic Obama'
In 2007, Saturday Night Live aired a parody of Mexican President Vicente Fox debating me on immigration. I found the skit quite funny. Unlike much of what passes for political comedy these days, it did not really try to push any bias one way or the other. However, I always joke that it was unfair that they had the unassuming and then unknown actor Jason Sudekis play me, while Antonio Banderas played Fox.
Four years later, I debated San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro in real life. Castro heads up Latinos for Obama and was just chosen to chair the Democratic National Convention. National Democratic leaders clearly have big plans for him. In terms of charisma, Castro had as big an edge over me as Banderas did over Sudekis. When people urge me to run for president, I often say our cause needs someone who is smarter, taller, younger, and with more hair to lead the fight. Except for the fact that he is on the opposite side of the issue, Castro fits the bill. He is young (in fact, the youngest mayor of any major city), has degrees from Stanford and Harvard Law School, and boasts a full head of hair.
In contrast to most liberal immigration advocates I've debated, Castro was conciliatory and fair-minded. He acknowledged the legitimate frustrations that Americans have with illegal immigration. He focused his arguments on what he argued were the positive benefits of both illegal and legal immigration to America as a whole rather than accusing his opponents of racism and xenophobia.
However, when it came to the actual substance of his arguments, he really had nothing to say that had not been said and debunked dozens of times. He made the same clichés about immigrant entrepreneurs and cited outdated statistics claiming that illegals are not a fiscal drain. My co-debater, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and I easily dismissed these arguments.
The audience members in the debate were polled on their positions before and after we spoke. As this was taped for NPR in New York City, it is not surprising that the audience was overwhelmingly pro-immigration, with only 16% supporting our side going in, 54% for amnesty, and the rest undecided. After the debate, our support increased by 19%, while our opponents' dropped by 2%. Much of the credit goes to Kris Kobach, but I think a great deal was due to the fact that the arguments made by Castro and others like him cannot stand even the slightest bit of scrutiny.
Based on my limited interactions and after reading more about Castro, it is clear that he is superficially very different from the older Latino leaders but very similar in other ways. The most prominent Hispanic mayor in America is Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Before Castro was born, Villaraigosa was at UCLA leading the openly racist, secessionist, and anti-American group MEChA. After engaging in protests to try to get the Chicano Studies Department to give money to an openly communist group, he dropped out of UCLA and attended the unaccredited People's School of Law. He took the bar exam four times and never passed. While in the state legislature in California, he suggested that legislators who supported Proposition 187 to deny welfare to illegals (which the overwhelming percentage of Californians voted for) "don't belong here."
In terms of style, the difference between Villaraigosa and the young, Ivy League-educated, and conciliatory Castro could not be clearer. But in terms of the actual positions they take on immigration, there isn't much difference. They both preside over sanctuary cities, promote amnesty for illegal immigrants, and oppose Arizona's SB 1070.
In many ways, the difference between Castro and leaders like Villaraigosia is similar to that of a younger Barack Obama and the old-guard "civil rights leaders" like Al Sharpton. It's hard to remember after his divisive presidency, but Obama used to portray himself as a post-racial president who would unite America. Whenever he spoke about racial issues such as affirmative action, he would go out of his way to insist that his opponents had legitimate concerns. However, despite his colorblind rhetoric, Obama always supported race-conscious programs, and he has governed accordingly as president.
I'm not the only one making the comparison. Last year, the New York Times Magazine put Castro on its cover with the teaser "The Hispanic Obama." This was no doubt meant as praise by the Times, but for patriotic Americans, the fact that the Democrats are putting him on the fast track to national leadership is cause for concern.