Similarities in Julian Castro and Marco Rubio? Their Hispanicness, Not Much Else
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Julian Castro and Marco Rubio are both silver-tongued young Hispanics, both rising stars in their parties who feel touched by the hand of destiny.
But their philosophy on policy for this country? About as far apart as a polar ice cap and a banana plantation.
Castro, mayor of San Antonio, keynoted the whole shabang in Charlotte Tuesday night -- the first Hispanic to do so.
It was an impressive position on the speaking roster for a 37-year-old whom CBS News described as "plucked from relative obscurity." Castro served on the San Antonio City Council previously, but has only been mayor for three years. And that mayoral position is virtually toothless.
San Antonio may be the nation's seventh largest city, but it operates under a city manager form of government. It's the city manager, not the mayor, who runs the place.
Nevertheless, enamored Democrats who remember Obama's speech eight years ago skip right past the Rubio comparisons and are already calling Castro "the Hispanic Obama."
Publicly, Castro rejects that description, saying "I don't put myself in (the president's) shoes." But many close to him, including Estelle Ruiz, a San Antonian who worked on his early election campaign, say he's already talking in eager terms about what he's going to do when he's term-limited after eight years.
On Tuesday night Castro underscored his convention address by harking back to the sacrifice of his Mexican grandmother. It was as if he'd taken a page straight from Rubio's inspirational speech at the Republican National Convention last week when he regaled the sacrifice of his parents who had fled Cuba for freedom in America.
Castro was equally compelling. He called the American dream "not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay."
"Our families don't always cross the finish line in the span of one generation," he said. "But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor. My grandmother never owned a house. She cleaned other people's houses so she could afford to rent her own. But she saw her daughter become the first in her family to graduate from college. And my mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone."
Sturdy stuff, Castro's speech.
The Stanford Law School grad is not at Rubio’s level yet. Nor is anybody talking about him as a potential 2016 presidential nominee in the way they are about University of Miami Law School graduate Rubio. But in giving the San Antonio mayor the keynote speech, the Dems were going for a two-fer -- broadening their bench of nationally known figures and wooing the Hispanic vote.
The canyonesque difference between Castro and Rubio lies in a cultural and political split that has divided millions of U.S. Latinos for decades.
They often are lumped together as Hispanics, yet Rubio and Castro personify the acute political distinctions between Mexican-Americans, largest Latino group in the U.S., and Cuban-Americans, the most politically active. Their shared language matters not a hoot. These two groups have different histories in the United States and are subject to distinctions in immigration policy that go easier on Cuban immigrants.
The political philosophies of Julian Castro and Marco Rubio -- in their definition of the role of government and how the American dream works -- are polar opposites.
Castro believes government has a responsibility to pay for the people's needs. Right now in San Antonio, for instance, he wants an initiative on the ballot for a sales tax increase to pay for a new pre-K program. No big deal, he maintains. With some tax increases, the end justifies the means.
Them's fighting words to tea party favorite Rubio, who believes the people are best served when government backs off, when it works to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit, grow the private sector, reduce government regulation and encourage free enterprise by whatever means.
Rubio and Castro are more than a pair of well-matched political opponents. They're all about party muscle, party domination in a nation of changing demographics. Now numbering more than 50 million, America's Hispanic population is projected to approach 80 million by 2030. That's 22 percent of the population -- most affecting the red-blue balance in key states.
The differences between Rubio and Castro are over far more than tea party conservatism and immigration reform.
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