Tavis: At the age of 26 Julian Castro became the youngest member of the San Antonio city council. Now just 10 years later he is the mayor of San Antonio and the youngest mayor of any of the top 50 cities in the country. He joins us tonight from – where else – San Antonio. Mayor Castro, an honor to have you on the program, sir.
Mayor Julian Castro: Great to be with you, Tavis, thanks for having me.
Tavis: My honor. As you know, the president himself, in fact, has been talking about this enthusiasm gap amongst Democratic voters. Let me ask you, then, what there is that Hispanic voters, Latino voters, have to be enthused about come midterm elections, particularly given that the immigration issue has so energized Latinos on the one hand, but depressed them on the other hand given that nothing in Washington has happened on this issue.
Castro: Well, you’re right that there’s been a lot of concern that’s been expressed about the Latino vote in this election cycle and what percents of Latinos is going to come out, particularly because during the last couple of election cycles, as you know, the Latino vote has been rising significantly.
But I do believe that Latinos will come out, ultimately, because of a couple of things. First, the immigration issue has stirred the pot. There’s no question about that, particularly in states like Arizona, in Nevada that look to be taking up an Arizona-like law, and secondly because the Obama administration has, I think, made progress on several of the issues that matter to the Latino community.
Healthcare is a good example of that. A second example is access to educational opportunities, higher education, making student loans more affordable. Now, there’s a lot of distance between here and there in terms of informing folks, but I do think that as the closing days of this campaign happen, with all the television advertising, the social media, the door-to-door outreach, I don’t believe that the Latino enthusiasm gap is going to be quite as bad as a lot of folks think.
Tavis: Who knows what to believe, Mayor, these days? You can find something written somewhere to support whatever your particular belief might be as you head toward Election Day next Tuesday.
Castro: That’s true.
Tavis: Yet I keep reading in a variety of places, Mayor, that the Hispanic community may sit this out as a protest of both Republicans and Democrats who again did not get anything done this year on the issue of immigration.
Castro: That’s right. The Congress didn’t do that and the president did not forward an immigration bill to Congress for consideration. But there’s no question that that hasn’t happened, but at the same time I do think that the only way in this American democracy that you can have anyone up in Washington listen to you is if you participate, if you vote. If you don’t vote, history has shown that that doesn’t work very well.
Folks don’t listen to you if you’re not going to go and make your voice known, your opinion known. So the best course for Latinos truly is to get out there and participate.
The fact that comprehensive immigration reform has not happened yet is even more reason for folks to get out there and vote. In fact, I’ve been scratching my head a lot over this last year because if Latinos don’t get out and vote after Arizona does what it did, after 23 states say that they want to do the same thing that Arizona did, then when are you going to get out and vote?
After we see candidates like Sharron Angel that are essentially scapegoating the Latino community, when are you going to get out and vote if you don’t get out now? It only makes sense to go and make your opinion heard now.
Tavis: You mentioned Sharron Angle in Nevada. I was just reading this earlier today. In places like Florida and Nevada and indeed New Mexico, there are Republican Latinos on the ballot who are running competitive races, serious races, at the governor’s level, at the U.S. Senate level.
What do you make of the fact that with all the Republican Party has done on this immigration issue to upset many in your community, the persons from your community who happen to be running the most high-profile races are not Democrats but in fact Republicans?
Castro: Well, politics is an interesting endeavor and sometimes that’s the way that things work out. I will say that in this election cycle it does seem to be the Republican Party that has the higher profile Hispanic candidates, although generally many more of the elected officials who are Hispanic are Democratic, and in the last presidential cycle it was over two-thirds of the Hispanic vote that went for President Obama.
But it’s also a reminder, frankly, to the Democratic Party. It’s a reminder that look, you can’t take Hispanics for granted. You can’t think that you have folks just in your corner, in your back pocket, and that their interest, just like any other interest of folks throughout the United States, that their interest shouldn’t be met with a substantive response.
I think that the Latino community, like any other folks in the United States, they’re going to vote with the party that meets their needs. It’s just the -
Tavis: Does that mean – Mayor, I’m sorry I cut you off – does that mean you think that the Democratic Party has, in fact, taken Hispanic voters for granted?
Castro: I think from time to time there have been times when the Democratic Party has probably not paid as much attention to the community, not been as responsive as it could.
Now, I will say, though, having said that, that’s basically calling a spade a spade. They have been much more responsive and much better on the issues generally than the Republican Party has, and I saw that ad that ran in Nevada, or almost ran, by a Republican operative encouraging Hispanic voters not to vote.
That’s the kind of dirty tricks that don’t belong in any election cycle, and it should give a lot of folks pause about the real motives behind a certain campaign, and at least in Nevada, the Republican Party.
Tavis: Your profile is extremely high across the country in large part because you happen to be so young now and for that matter when you got involved in the political arena. With just a minute to go here, President Obama, as we all know, has been stumping awfully hard, trying to motivate young people to get involved.
I’m not talking now just about Hispanics, but just young people across the board. What say you about the excitement, the enthusiasm of young folk two years ago when Obama was on the ballot, and what appears to be a lack of enthusiasm on the part of young people now.
Castro: Well, again, there’s no question that this 2010 election cycle with respect to young people is not the 2008 election cycle in terms of the enthusiasm, the motivation, the kind of “I can’t wait to vote” attitude that young people had during that election cycle.
But I will say I’m very encouraged by some of the early voting numbers that we see coming out of several states. I don’t think that we’ll have as many young people who vote as a percentage of the vote in 2010, but again, I don’t think it’s going to be as dire as a lot of folks have predicted.
What the administration has accomplished on access to higher education, on more affordable student loans, on healthcare will be a boon to young people in the coming years, and hopefully young people will consider that.
Tavis: The young, but awfully accomplished mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Julian Castro. Mayor Castro, thank you for your time and for sharing your insights. I appreciate it.
Castro: Thank you.
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