Julián Castro throws his sombrero in the ring
Early in the new year, the first of what are expected to be several dozen Democratic presidential wannabes are making preliminary announcements to supporters and the media of their intentions to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020. The first Latino politician out of the gate is Julián Castro, who announced his candidacy on Saturday, January 12. Castro is the 44-year-old former mayor of San Antonio who served as the secretary of housing and urban development during the last three years of the Obama administration. He is the grandson of a Mexican woman who "crossed" to the U.S. in 1922. Almost every article I read about Castro recently describes him as "a rising star in the Democratic Party."
Judging by his campaign launch and his "rise" in the party hierarchy before that, Castro is positioning himself as a master of the art of extreme identity politics. After his Jan. 12 speech in his former barrio neighborhood in San Antonio, Castro retweeted Natalie Montelongo, Immigrants Rights @ACLU, who is also the founder of The Future is Latina dot com. In her tweet, Montelongo gushed about Castro's announcement:
Here's what happened today:
- Spanish translation
- Majority POC [people of color] speakers
- Majority POC crowd
- A [sic] unapologetic BOLD & progressive platform (Immigration Reform, Paris Agreement, New Green Deal, No PAC money, BLM, Education for all) - SELENA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [Translation: "Selena" = "brightness"]
Castro's campaign launch speech provided additional details of where the candidate stands. Like every other Democrat officeholder or aspirant to office with a pulse in 2019, Castro has almost totally adopted the far left Marxist platform of the democratic socialists of America, especially as it relates to the hot-button issues of illegal immigration, the border wall, etc. According to Fox News:
[A]s president [Castro] would 'make sure that we invest in sensible, smart and effective border security that includes personnel, that includes the smart use of technology and that does not scapegoat these immigrants but tries to look for a way that we can get to comprehensive immigration reform to fix our broken immigration system.'
In other words, no wall or effective border barrier – leaving no doubt, Castro added, according to the AP:
There is no way in hell that caging babies is a smart or a right or good way to do it. We say no to building a wall and say yes to building community. We say no to scapegoating immigrants.
Castro wears his hyphenated American status on his sleeve. AP:
Castro had said leading up to his announcement that a Latino candidate was a must in the 2020 field.
When Castro filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, he had to hand write in an accent over "a" in Julián, a fact that Castro and his team have held up as proof that he is already changing the system.
All of Castro's campaign materials feature his first name with a prominent, bold accent over the "a."
Source: Julián for the Future official website.
CNN's report about Castro's announcement continued:
Evidence of this strategy [the Castro campaign's pre-eminent focus on Latinos] peppered the plaza on San Antonio's West Side where Castro announced on Saturday: A mariachi band welcomed guests, as taco trucks fed people outside. The venue was blocks from Castro's childhood home and across the street from where he was baptized. Even Castro's logo – which emphasizes the accent over the "a" in Julián – highlights the former mayor's heritage.
If there was any doubt about his appeal to tens of millions of Latinos – the largest "minority" group in the U.S. – Castro delivered the crescendo of his speech in Spanish.
Castro's rise to prominence in the Democratic Party was based on expert targeting of his primary constituency in his native San Antonio, Latinos, who make up a majority of the city's population. San Antonio, it may surprise some, is the nation's seventh most populous city. According to an informative article titled "How Julian Castro Could Win The 2020 Democratic Primary" at the website FiveThirtyEight:
Castro's political career has been built on support from Latino voters. San Antonio's population is more than 60 percent Latino, and in his successful 2009 mayoral race, Castro won the nonpartisan election by 27 points over his closest challenger, principally by running up the margins in San Antonio's heavily Latino neighborhoods.
Like most of the several dozen other potential Democratic 2020 presidential candidates, Castro's platform is heavily Democratic Socialists of America-inspired, including socialized government-run health care ("Medicare for All"), strong support for Black Lives Matter, free college, universal free pre-kindergarten, increased taxes for the "wealthy" and corporations, etc.
According to NPR:
A longtime gun control advocate, Castro has pushed for renewing the assault weapons ban, limiting high-capacity magazines and requiring background checks at gun shows.
Castro has called for "universal health care," also referring to it as "Medicare for all." He indicated he would consider paying for such a system by raising taxes on corporations and on the wealthiest "0.05, 0.5 or 1 percent" of Americans.
Castro supports comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for most of the estimated 11 million [sic] undocumented people in the United States. Castro opposes Trump's border wall plan, and instead has proposed securing the border by using technology and a more efficient legal immigration process. When asked if he thinks ICE should be abolished, as some Democrats argued in the run-up to the 2018 midterms, Castro told Bustle he thinks the agency needs to change its culture and be "reconstituted."
Social issues: Abortion should remain legal after 20 weeks. Gay marriage [sic] is a protected right. Transgender Americans should be able to serve in the military.
Castro is a Roman Catholic who supports legal abortion access and gay rights. He vigorously opposed a Texas law to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and limit facilities and access to abortions in general. Castro has long supported same-sex marriage [sic], serving as Grand Marshal of the 2009 San Antonio Gay Pride parade. In 2017, he tweeted that the military should allow Americans of all gender identities to serve in the military.
In a further attempt to cement his early appeal to the down low (and the anti-Trump Resistance) with an emphasis on Hispanics, Castro's first campaign appearance after his Jan. 12 announcement before his hometown crowd in San Antonio was a quick trip to Puerto Rico on Monday, January 14. According to The Hill:
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro on Monday panned the Trump administration's response to Hurricane Maria, saying it had failed Puerto Rico's citizens.
"Unfortunately, as all of us witnessed, the Trump administration failed the people of Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit," Castro. . . said at the annual Latino Victory Fund (LVF) summit.
Castro picked Puerto Rico as his first destination as a presidential candidate, after making his initial campaign announcement in his hometown of San Antonio on Saturday. "I chose as my first visit after [my] announcement to come to Puerto Rico, because I want all the people of Puerto Rico to know that you count, that we respect you," said Castro.
Castro's audience included about a dozen members of Congress, part of a 36-member delegation to the territory for the annual convention of Bold PAC – the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) campaign arm – and a convention organized by LVF, a progressive political organization dedicated to increasing Hispanic political participation.
Castro's relatively early entry into the crowded 2020 Democratic field may have been intended to get a jump on some better known candidates who are ready to declare imminently, too, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Calif. sen. Kamala Harris, N.Y. sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and a host of others. Castro manages to check off a number of boxes that are essential to a successful campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination: socialist, person of color, Latino, and hardcore Trump-resister.
Recently, it has been said by many observers, among them CNN's Chris Cillizza in an article on the cable news channel's website last March, that "this isn't your father's Democratic Party."
Peter Barry Chowka writes about politics, media, popular culture, and health care for American Thinker and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @pchowka.