For a while Sunday evening, I felt a little like it was the 1980s all over again.
The meet and greet with Julián Castro was just the right size by me. I became a bit spoiled on account of being accustomed to small and intimate gatherings with candidates, dating back to the caucus seasons of long ago.
Whatever criticisms one might make about the Iowa Caucuses, the advantages of real face time with the candidates cannot be denied. That is something that just doesn’t happen much in larger states and is not as common as it used to be even here in Iowa. The evening with Julián Castro in the Hotel Pattee ballroom hearkened back to the good old days.
I believe I was the first to arrive at the.event other than at least five of Castro’s operatives. I had an extended conversation with two of them, most notably a young lady named Marika. Before things started, I counted four professional-grade video cameras and two high-end still cameras. I’m thinking there were about eight media people there.
There were about 25 people in attendance, many of whom are part of who’s who of Democratic Party stalwarts in Dallas County and Perry. A few had come from Green and Guthrie counties as well.
It seemed the event organizers planned very well because the hotel had set out in advance almost the exact number of chairs needed by all. I had the impression they anticipated no more in attendance than exactly those who were there.
The warm-up speakers were Bryce Smith, the county chairperson, and a young man who was chiefly responsible for Castro’s campaign here in Perry. The latter stressed the fact that his parents are immigrants to the U.S., one from Mexico and the other from Central America.
Of course, there was applause when Julián Castro entered the Spring Valley Ballroom. He introduced himself by stressing that both his mother and her mother were single parents. His grandmother came into the U.S. as an orphan when she was 7, this taking place in the 1920s.
Fortunately, his grandmother had relatives already here. Castro and his brother were both raised by their mother and grandmother in San Antonio, Texas. They received their education through the public school system of San Antonio, and those particular schools are still struggling with underfunding due to the former segregationist policies of Texas lawmakers.
Julián and his twin brother Joaquin excelled at school despite less than ideal conditions, and they went on to attend Ivy League colleges. They were both the first in their family to belong to the professional class, both becoming lawyers.
Castro was making a six-figure salary at a prestigious law firm when he decided to run for and was elected to the city council of San Antonio. The salary for the council seat was less than $1,500 a year and was certainly meager compared with his earnings as a corporate lawyer, but he willingly gave up his position at the law firm when a possible conflict of interest arose on the council. This put him in dire financial straits for a while, but he soon started working with his brother, who was also a lawyer.
Castro was asked by U.S. President Barack Obama to be the Secretary of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and he served in that position the last two and a half years of the Obama administration. One can also add to his resume that he was the mayor of San Antonio.
Castro told his Perry audience what his goals would be as POTUS, stressing education and healthcare reform. He wants to see to preschool become free and universal. He also desires to return to the policies of tuition-free state universities and trade schools — free or very nearly free for anyone who has the desire to go.
Indirectly referencing the person who holds the position, Castro’s stated goal is to install a U.S. Secretary of Education who really believes in the public school system. In a similar vein, he wants people on his cabinet who are not advocates and lobbyists for the very same interests they should be regulating.
He also wants to roll back the policies giving religious organizations the ability to practice bigotry towards the gay and transgender community, and he was specifically critical of Ben Carson in that regard.
Julián Castro is an advocate of Medicare for all, but he also has no intention of prohibiting those who opt for their own private coverage. He is very unhappy with the pharmaceutical companies that charge Americans rates for insulin 10 times greater than that charged Canadians and most other nations’ people.
In all fairness, his immigration policy would be more reasonable than some conservatives would give him credit for. While he definitely wants a more humane treatment of refugees than practiced by the current administration, he is 100 percent behind reinforcing security at ports of entry. Even he wants better security at our borders but sees no reason to be inhuman about it.
Two things he gave minimal attention to in his remarks Sunday evening were foreign policy and direct criticism of Trump. While he definitely wants Trump out of office, it doesn’t seem he is running an anti-Trump campaign.
Foreign policy did not come up until the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions. Castro is quite unhappy about the tariff war with China. He agrees that China should be stood up to but that the current tariffs are disastrous to American farmers and rural communities.
He is also not exactly eager to go to war for the Saudis and wants to tone down the inflamed rhetoric concerning Iran. Like most of the rest of the people on the planet, Castro thinks it was foolish for Trump to throw out our agreement with Iran. He also seeks to mend relations concerning the Paris environmental accords.
In many ways, Castro’s agenda is not significantly different from those of the other progressives running. His campaign stresses his particular qualifications and stable temperament. My estimation of him was greatly increased after hearing him myself.