NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

Julián Castro is no longer seeking the Democratic nomination for President

The field of Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­tenders for the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion – once the most diverse in his­to­ry – has lost its only Lati­no can­di­date.

The end of Julián Castro’s pres­i­den­tial bid is hard­ly a sur­prise. His polling num­bers have bare­ly bumped over 1% for the entire­ty of his cam­paign and he had float­ed the idea of with­draw­ing from the race as far back as Octo­ber, when it became clear that he would no longer be able to qual­i­fy for future debates.

Julián Castro dropped out of the presidential primary on January 2, 2020

Julián Cas­tro’s poll num­bers nev­er rose beyond sin­gle dig­its for his entire cam­paign (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

At the start of the cam­paign, Cas­tro seemed to be a promis­ing can­di­date. As a for­mer may­or of San Anto­nio, TX, and a mem­ber of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s cab­i­net, he has exten­sive exec­u­tive expe­ri­ence both inside and out­side of Wash­ing­ton D.C. Fur­ther­more, his cam­paign plat­form was pro­gres­sive and nuanced, which ought to him dis­tin­guished him from the rest of the field.

This shone through in the first round of debates, when Cas­tro was wide­ly praised for his thor­ough under­stand­ing of immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy, tak­ing Beto O’Rourke to task for not ful­ly sup­port­ing the decrim­i­nal­iza­tion of move­ment across the bor­der.

Through­out the debates, Cas­tro was able to make well-informed and intel­li­gent con­tri­bu­tions that con­trast­ed with some oth­er can­di­dates’ broad-brush or vague approach­es to pol­i­cy. To take just one exam­ple, he was able to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly argue for gun safe­ty and cau­tion that a law enforce­­ment-heavy approach to gun con­trol would prove prob­lem­at­ic for com­mu­ni­ties of col­or.

As Obama'sHUD Secretary, Castro has experience in the executive branch.

As Oba­ma’s HUD Sec­re­tary, Cas­tro has expe­ri­ence in the exec­u­tive branch (Pho­to: U.S. Dept. of Hous­ing and Urban Devel­op­ment)

Unfor­tu­nate­ly for Cas­tro, health­care has been the defin­ing issue of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial sweep­stakes. Castro’s posi­tion – that the gov­ern­ment should imple­ment Medicare for All but allow pri­vate insur­ance to con­tin­ue to exist – failed to stand out as oth­er can­di­dates took stands either for or against Medicare for All.

Cas­tro actu­al­ly has expe­ri­ence work­ing to improve pub­lic health: as Sec­re­tary of Hous­ing and Urban Devel­op­ment, he imposed a ban on smok­ing in pub­lic hous­ing, and as may­or of San Anto­nio he suc­cess­ful­ly reduced obe­si­ty rates in his city. How­ev­er, he was not able to lever­age this record to his advan­tage and fad­ed into the back­ground as oth­er can­di­dates debat­ed the issue.

Castro’s cam­paign became increas­ing­ly des­per­ate-seem­ing as it became clear that he was not gain­ing trac­tion. Dur­ing his last debate appear­ance, he drew the ire of pun­dits, Demo­c­ra­t­ic estab­lish­ment fig­ures, and many vot­ers when he engaged in a ver­bal spat with Joe Biden, imply­ing that the sev­en­ty-sev­en-year-old Biden was los­ing his mem­o­ry – a not-unrea­­son­able claim, but one that came across as mean-spir­it­ed and made Cas­tro look like he was clutch­ing for rel­e­van­cy.

Castro’s exit from the race is indica­tive of a wor­ry­ing trend in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­test. The field start­ed out as the most diverse in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, but all of the can­di­dates in the top tier are white. Although the three frontrun­ners (Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Eliz­a­beth War­ren) have run very dif­fer­ent cam­paigns and have dif­fer­ing pol­i­cy posi­tions, they all entered the race with sig­nif­i­cant name recog­ni­tion and a base of sup­port stretch­ing across the coun­try.

The only per­son who has been able to break into this top tier in a con­vinc­ing way has been Pete Buttigieg of South Bend.

Buttigieg, a white male can­di­date, seems to be able to ignore legit­i­mate crit­i­cism that he both lacks expe­ri­ence and the abil­i­ty to win elec­tions out­side of his home town, while women and can­di­dates of col­or con­stant­ly face ques­tions con­cern­ing “lik­a­bil­i­ty” and “elec­tabil­i­ty.” By con­trast, California’s Sen­a­tor Kamala Har­ris expe­ri­enced a sig­nif­i­cant rise in sup­port after a strong debate per­for­mance in June, but that sup­port quick­ly slipped away and she dropped out in Decem­ber.

Mean­while, oth­er white male can­di­dates such as Tom Stey­er (who has no elect­ed expe­ri­ence), John Delaney (who has lit­er­al­ly no sup­port at all) and Michael Bloomberg (a for­mer Repub­li­can may­or) con­tin­ue to seek the nom­i­na­tion.

The cam­paign has reached a point where women and can­di­dates of col­or should be ask­ing seri­ous ques­tions of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic party’s pri­ma­ry process.

It should be dis­turb­ing to any pro­gres­sive inter­est­ed in gen­der and racial equal­i­ty that the top tier of can­di­dates is all white and con­tains only one woman.

What changes could the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty make to bring about a more inclu­sive and equi­table nom­i­nat­ing process? Bet­ter debate qual­i­fi­ca­tion cri­te­ria, for one. Polling and fundrais­ing aren’t the only met­rics by which a cam­paign’s rel­e­vance and cred­i­bil­i­ty should be mea­sured. And, for anoth­er, Iowa and New Hamp­shire should lose their monop­oly as the first two states that get to hold nom­i­nat­ing events. Both states are small and home most­ly to white vot­ers.

The par­ty would be wise to begin work­ing on pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing reforms for 2024 and 2028 as soon as the 2020 cycle is over.

Adjacent posts

  • Sustain the Cascadia Advocate by joining us on April 17th!

    Join us online on April 17th for our 2020 Spring Gala!
  • Can’t attend the gala? Make a donation!


    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local pol­i­tics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you: we have nev­er accept­ed adver­tis­ing or place­ments of paid con­tent.

    And we’d like it to stay that way.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy jour­nal­ism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time dona­tion

One Comment

  1. I think this was a wise deci­sion on his part.

    # by Roger Swift :: January 16th, 2020 at 7:30 PM