The 2016 presidential primary campaigns featured two Latinos, Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. Both are Cuban-Americans and display varying degrees of identity with their heritage.
Rubio comes from the Cuban American stronghold in Miami and displays a strong attachment to his home culture. Cruz on the other hand, is of Canadian birth and represents a state where the Latino heritage is Mexican American.
Both were beaten by President Trump after a bitter fight that involved a lot of name-calling. As Republicans, both have come around to support or remain silent when the President goes after the Latino community.
From the beginning of his campaign Trump made the primary case for his 2016 election by declaring that Mexicans were rapists and criminals. The 2020 election campaign promises more of the same.
The President has made it very clear that his primary issue on which he is running for reelection in 2020 is the “hoards of rapists and criminals” pouring across our southern border. This time however, there are signs that Latinos will be much more than the “punching bag” they were two years ago.
The 2016 election was a wake-up call to Latinos and a clear message that they are front and center in the political fight for the future of America. Republicans including Rubio and Cruz have become part of the President’s agenda to diminish in every way they can, the power and influence of the Latino community in its drive to the eventual leadership of the country.
Ted Cruz is finding out first hand in his marginal win over Beto O’Rourke that Texas is rapidly becoming a purple state with Latinos within a couple of percentages points of the majority. This is significant because Texas, along with other states with large Latino populations such as California, Florida and New York together can dictate the outcome of a national election.
It so happens that Texas also offers two native sons, the twins Julian and Joaquin Castro of San Antonio as major Latino political players in 2020. Julian Castro has already announced his candidacy for President of the United States.
Born in 1974, the brothers witnessed first-hand the Chicano legacy in the person of Maria del Rosario Castro (Rosie Castro), their mother, a civil rights activist that also served as a leader of La Raza Unida Party, one of the pillars of the Chicano Movement. I had an opportunity to listen to her offer her story about her profound commitment that in part illuminated the way for her two sons toward brilliant educational careers from San Antonio to Stanford and Harvard.
During the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign there were strong rumors at the 2016 Latin American Education Foundation (LAEF) Awards banquet of Julian Castro becoming Clinton’s running mate. That was not to be and perhaps because it was not his time.
It is his time now and that of other Latinos that have the right combination of talent, experience and political ideas to project leadership across the landscape of America. Winning formulas however, depend on the timing and mood of the electorate.
The 2018 mid-term elections point to a discredited President and his agenda of lawless disregard of institutional norms. Nevertheless, the temptation to make the 2020 election all about Trump is a very flawed strategy.
Americans want to see ideas, programs and agendas that promise to move the country forward toward order, unity and the rule of law. Latino political leaders need to form part of the face of that promise.