Days after announcing the end of his own bid for the presidency, Julián Castro has endorsed another candidate with similar principles. On Monday morning, the now former Democratic candidate endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president. “The American people need a champion in Washington who will be a president for everyone,” Castro declared in a video accompanying his endorsement. “Someone who’s unafraid to fight like hell to make the big changes we need in the years ahead.”
Castro’s endorsement of Warren should be unsurprising to anyone who paid close attention to his well-run but drastically underappreciated campaign. Castro was unlikely to endorse Pete Buttigieg, a man with a much thinner resumé than his but who has white privilege and all the political benefits that entails. And considering his exchange last fall with Joe Biden, it was highly unlikely for Castro to declare, “Yeah, that’s the guy.” Oh, Cory Booker is still there, but while he’s made the most of a difficult situation, it’s hard to see Brother Love finding a plausible path to the nomination.
That leaves Elizabeth Warren, who Castro treated more like a friend than political rival for much of his own campaign — so much so that the two’s extremely friendly competition garnered news coverage. When Castro walked off the Miami debate stage last June, Warren reportedly even sent him a text congratulating him on his performance.
As for the question of whether Castro’s endorsement carries much weight, it depends by which metric one judges. Already, I’ve seen pundits and Warren skeptics dismiss Castro’s endorsement because of his consistently low polling numbers. However, the last few months of Castro’s bid for the nomination were spent directly challenging those arguably biased metrics.
I am a 35-year-old black man from the American south and I have never been polled by anyone. I can’t name a single friend or relative who can say the same. And we vote in districts that matter. We may not vote in Iowa or New Hampshire, but we vote in the parts of the country Democrats need to win in order to not only win the White House, but maintain control of the House, and, if they’re fortunate, regain control of the Senate.
Julián Castro may not have polled as high as other candidates, but there are many of us who have been paying attention to him because he often spoke directly to us. Castro’s endorsement clip amassed a million views in three hours — a sign that people do indeed care about him and what he has to say. And to Castro’s credit, he has shifted the conversation of the Democratic primary more than once.
He was the first to call for Trump’s impeachment and was the first to speak on numerous other issues often ignored by the Democratic Party leadership: reparations, housing inequality, border decriminalization, and police brutality. And when speaking on issues like abortion rights, Castro was more inclusive than his peers — noting trans men and their need for access while advocating for reproductive justice. Castro’s criticism of the primary calendar may push the party to eventually stop favoring the interests of white voters in states with paltry nonwhite populations such as Iowa and New Hampshire over states with more diverse populations that better represent the Democratic voter base.
It’s an issue Warren herself sidestepped last year, responding to a question about race in South Carolina that she was just “a player in the game on this one.” That response, was, for lack of better phrase, mighty white. Warren is indeed inclusive in rhetoric and policy, but her lack of a better answer pointed to a substantial blind spot.
However, with Castro formally out of the race, there is opportunity for both.
If Warren were to win the nomination, I believe Castro should be her choice for vice president. Even in his new capacity as an endorser who will hit the trail with Warren this week in Brooklyn, he is an essential surrogate for her campaign and its mission. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Castro would make the most of a greater role. He looks and speaks like someone from the present and future of the Democratic Party. He is not a tired status quo politician wheeled out to recapture mythical “old times” when everything was great.
Warren is running a staunchly progressive campaign, but she would be well advised to pick someone who is not white as her VP. An all-white ticket will not excite the Democratic base nor will it inspire the sort of voters who either don’t vote very often or don’t vote at all. People like Julián Castro when they hear from him; he just needs a larger platform.
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