Julian Castro is the Rodney Dangerfield of Democratic presidential candidates. He gets no respect.
Now a recent email from his campaign appeared to say he’ll get out of the race if he can’t meet the polling and fundraising thresholds for the fifth debate in November.
Que? White House bids like this don’t come along every day — or even decade. This historic campaign can’t end like this.
In the Rust Belt, many Democratic union members say that life shortchanged them even though they’ve worked hard and played by the rules.
Well, all his life, Castro has also worked hard and played by the rules. He has always done his homework and aced the quiz. He has earned his moment. Here you have an overachiever who grew up on San Antonio’s hardscrabble west side, riding city transit buses because his family couldn’t afford a car until he was in high school. He worked his way into Stanford University and Harvard Law School, then got elected to the San Antonio City Council at 26 and became mayor at 34. He was nominated as secretary of Housing and Urban Development by President Obama, then ran for the White House even though he wasn’t, as he likes to say, “born a front-runner.”
Critics say that — after doing well in the first two debates — the 45-year-old blew it in the third debate, in Houston, when he attacked Joe Biden by implying the 76-year-old is not lucid enough to lead. Biden’s fellow baby boomers — who worshiped youth when they were young — accused the whippersnapper of ageism. But the young man was doing Democrats a favor by pointing out an obvious weakness in their presumptive nominee.
Castro trails badly in fundraising and polling, but he seems to make converts in every crowd he addresses. By earning his way into four presidential debates, he’s already placed in the top half of the Democratic field and outlasted members of Congress, governors, a U.S. senator, and the mayor of the nation’s largest city.
Nevertheless, elements of Big Media, the Democratic establishment, the punditry, and the entertainment industry can’t wait to get Castro out of the race.
The kingmakers and the gatekeepers are put off by that which confuses them. Those with a black-and-white view of politics don’t have enough colors in their crayon box to understand the Texan.
Every time Castro is disrespected, it’s a slap in the face to nearly 30 million Mexican Americans who have contributed enormously to this country.
Likewise, Castro has contributed a lot to the Democratic primary by leading on policy proposals, chastising the media for its lack of diversity, and pushing other candidates to adopt aggressive reforms like decriminalizing unauthorized entry into the United States.
This man deserves better. Instead, he has been overlooked, ignored, criticized, underestimated and marginalized.
NBC — which some diversity advocates claim stands for “Nothing But Caucasians” — recently hit, in just 48 hours, the trifecta of Castro disrespect.
■ On Friday, MSNBC interviewed Castro’s twin brother, Joaquin, the San Antonio congressman, and mistakenly tweeted that they had spoken to Julian. Joaquin has a beard. But if that’s not enough for journalists to tell the two apart, the congressman will help. He tweeted back: “Should I get a face tattoo?”
■ On Saturday, while interviewing Julian Castro at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, MSNBC’s Katy Tur asked what may be the most offensive question yet of the 2020 campaign: “How would you feel about the Democratic Party if the next nominee was Caucasian?” Castro, a class act, said he would “enthusiastically” support the nominee. He should have snarked: “How would I feel about a white nominee? Well, let’s see. I’ve had a lot of practice.”
■ Later that night, a skit about the Democratic candidates on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” left Castro out completely. To think, anti-immigration activists fear that Latinos are everywhere. I guess they don’t own televisions.
On the trail, the candidate gets asked by white folks how he got into elite universities. As someone who also pulled off that trick, I’ll answer: by working twice as hard, with no connections and little credit, to be considered half as good.
Every presidential hopeful writes his or her script. While others market themselves as crusaders, statesmen, and prosecutors, Castro is the teacher. Whenever he educates voters, political observers, or the media on some aspect of the Latino experience that they’re ignorant about, he teaches.
Castro needs to stick around for a minute. Americans still have a lot to learn.