Election Recap With Joaquin Castro
With the presidential election at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we’re unpacking the 2020 election results and Latino voter turnout with Joaquin Castro, who recently won his own reelection to Congress. We talk about what the Democratic win actually means for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and what still needs to happen to restore and sustain democracy in our country and around the world.
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Jon Favreau, Rebecca Solnit, Speaker 1, Chris Hayes, Nicole Hannah Jones, Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Rep. Joaquin Castro, Julian Castro, Maria Hinojosa
Julian Castro 00:00
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Hey y’all, this week I thought I’d do things a little differently. Maybe you’re like me, the election is still at the forefront of your mind more than a week later. It’s such a strange feeling, watching that electoral map looking at Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, waiting, hoping they’ll turn blue and then seeing it happen and hearing the news. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won and will hopefully usher in a new era for our country. But not everything went as we hoped. And in any election, win or lose. There are lessons to be learned. So on Saturday, actually, just an hour or so before the network’s called the election for Joe Biden. I called up my brother Joaquin, who recently won his own re-election to Congress. You heard from him in the very first episode of our show. We talked about the wins the losses, and what it all means.
This is OUR AMERICA. I’m your host, Julian Castro.
Congratulations, by the way. I think you got over 64% of the vote in your district. There was never a nail biter.
Rep. Joaquin Castro 02:02
I mean, I think I personally could have at least pulled off 65. But hey, whatever. I just want to have a conversation about the election now that it’s done and where we’re at. You know, if we think about sort of a 30,000-foot view, Biden is going to become the next president of the United States, which is fantastic. That’s what all of us were working for. And at the same time, the expectations that Democrats had for retaking or picking up seats in the House for sure. Because the projection was like, you know, anywhere from 12 to 20. seats.
Rep. Joaquin Castro 02:44
Yeah, like 10 to 15 seats.
I mean, you’re right there in the middle of it. Is this a victory? Is it disappointment? Is it? You know.
Rep. Joaquin Castro
It’s both really yeah. It’s weird. Somebody told me that day. And I agree that I’ve never seen democrats so disappointed at winning, you know, I mean, look, we were working for four years. And the job number one was to replace Donald Trump as president. That’s what everybody’s been working for. That’s why there were millions of people on the streets on January 21st of 2017, with the Women’s March, and all of the activism and the energy. So the main goal was achieved. But you’re right, there were all these expectations. Because we basically thought it was going to be like 2006 and 2008. Where 2006 we had a huge way, Democrats, we took the house. And then in 2008, Barack Obama came into office, and we want even more seats. But I think it ended up being more like 2010 to 2012 for Republicans, where, you know, they just wiped us out in 2010.
2010 Republicans won 63 seats in the House. But then in 2012, they lose the presidential race.
Rep. Joaquin Castro 04:00
They regress, right, they lose the presidential, although obviously here, we won the presidential, but then they lose seats in the House, right? And so it turned out to be a different analogy, than the 06′-08′ analogy that we had thought about. But what’s so striking also is how all of the polls, I mean, I say all the overwhelming majority of the polls were wrong. I mean, you think about it, just take our home state of Texas, based on the polling, and not just one or two polls, consistent polls for months and months. We were expecting to pick up somewhere between three and six Democratic congressional seats and forth we broke even right we didn’t lose anybody. But we didn’t pick up any seats. Same thing with a State legislative races. All of those polls suggested that we would pick up at least a handful of new state legislative seats in Texas for Democrats, and we broke even and so you know, there is going to have to be a real reckoning with the polling industry and figuring out what’s going on with these models, that they’re obviously wrong. Their predictive effect has become not so great.
Yeah, I mean, that’s a great question. And of course, people have been indicting that industry for a long time, but generally the accuracy of them when you, even in 2016, people like to say, Well, how were the poll so wrong, but many of them had a final result that was within the margin of error, or, you know, plausible, but here, you do have many that is just head scratching, and so consistently wrong too.
Rep. Joaquin Castro
Yeah, I mean, and also consistent across different kinds of races. In other words, it would be one thing if the presidential polls were wrong, right? But it wasn’t just the presidential polls. I mean, it was the Congressional polls, the State legislative polls. So that suggests really a deeper problem. With the modeling I would imagine.
Julian Castro 06:03
Yeah to stick with Texas for a second, 2012 in his re-election, Barack Obama loses Texas by 16 points. Four years later, Hillary Clinton loses it by 9 points. And now in 2020, Joe Biden will lose the state by 6 and a half or seven points was the last thing I saw. You know, there’s progress, there has clearly been progress. And in 2018, the congressional wins that we got the state legislative wins that we got we held those in 2020. So there’s no question that Texas is moving in the right direction. It’s obviously not where Arizona is yet. It’s not where Georgia is yet and digging deeper into what happened, but also opening up a larger conversation about the Latino community. Right after the results came out. There was a tremendous amount of focus on what happened in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Now, these are border communities.
The Texas Mexico border, heavily Hispanic.
Rep. Joaquin Castro
Mexican-American. Yeah, it is. It’s not like South Florida that is pan-Latino with Cuban Americans. And you know Venezuela, Puerto Ricans obviously, some Mexican-American, it basically it’s Mexican-American, staunchly Democratic in most cycles, with the exception of when George W. Bush ran in 2000 and 2004, since he had been Texas Governor had cultivated a relationship with Hispanic community, they gave more support than usual. But the numbers coming out of there. You had this county. there’s about our star County Down there, there was like 96% Latino, one of the most Latino counties in the country, that Hillary Clinton had carried by more than 30 points, I think more than that 40 something points that was within five points. And, you know, we should try and understand what happened there and then open that up a little bit more broadly. But what’s your best take on what happened down there?
Rep. Joaquin Castro
I think that there’s a few structural concerns and issues. And yeah, let’s start with the Rio Grande Valley. In Texas, they got rid of the straight ticket ballot. For this election, it was the first time where Texans couldn’t vote a straight ticket. And those areas have traditionally voted straight Democrat for a long time. So now they’re going race by race. And as Democrats and Republicans, we knew that there would be a cost, you know, to both parties in different parts of the state, because of that change. That’s one part. A second part is that a lot of what we do as Democrats, in terms of how we engage people has to do with face to face contact. And that means block walking or canvassing neighborhoods. Now, some of those areas are rural. So you’re not you haven’t been canvassing a lot in those areas, right? But some of them it’s door to door. And that was gone, because democrats generally we’re not doing that. The third part is that while those areas have been very Democratic, that part of the state and you know, Anna my wife is from the Rio Grande Valley, that part of the state has been ignored by the state’s politicians for a long time.
Rep. Joaquin Castro 09:28
And to be honest with you, even when Democrats were empowered, you have no public hospital down there and Hidalgo County, for example, you just got to medical school there a few years ago. You have no public or private law school. There’s no interstate highway that is continuous. In other words, that doesn’t stop, right? You got to stop in all these small towns, so it’s almost like a regular street. It was a part of the state the Rio Grande Valley that has been ignored by Texas politicians, Republican and Democrat for generations. Now, fortunately, for the Democratic party for a long time, folks, we’re still voting Democratic, right, because the Republicans I think are even, you know, more maligned, right? But in terms of the campaigns, campaigns tend to target areas where you have competitive races. So in other words, if there’s a part of the state where we can win a congressional seat, or where we’re targeting a state senate seat or cell or legislative race, then we tend to put a lot of money and volunteers and energy and organizing into those areas.
Rep. Joaquin Castro 10:32
Because the Rio Grande Valley has been overwhelmingly democratic for a long time, and there aren’t competitive races in November, the tendency is to do nothing in those areas for November in terms of real organizing and statewide effort, right? Because you’re not trying to pick up a Legislative seat, you’re not trying to pick up a Congressional seat, because you’ve already got them. But what happens over the years is that you’re not connecting with the people in the region. You’re not talking to them about why you believe what you believe, and making sure that that connection is still strong. So I think what you have there is this kind of atrophying of their support in some ways. You know, I talked to one of the state representatives down there about what you know, what was his take? And he said that before the election, as he was he had ID’ing and his folks, right? The voters and all that, that he was telling people that he thought Donald Trump was going to win his legislative district, and that he was going to win as well. So he’s a Democrat, he thought he would win. And he thought Donald Trump would win. And that people thought he was crazy.
That was based on his ID’ing of people when they were doing phone banking, and perhaps doing some door to door for his campaign.
Rep. Joaquin Castro
Yeah, he ID these people independently. And that’s what happened. That’s what ended up happening in those areas. You know, and now, I think this will hopefully be a wake-up call for everybody in Texas. And beyond that, you got to even though the voters may historically have given you their vote over the years, you got to go and continue to connect with them and organize, you know, and talk to them. Because if you don’t, then I think they become more susceptible to buying into a lot of the lies a lot of the misinformation that’s put out by somebody like Donald Trump, and others in the Republican Party of today. And so I think it’s on us to do a better job of really organizing, and the other groups in their of organizing, you know, I told somebody, the environmental groups, because you have a lot of people that work in the oil fields there, right?
Rep. Joaquin Castro
And for them, that’s their living, right? So some of them, I think, when they hear the idea of getting rid of fracking or changing energy policy, it obviously makes people very nervous, because they wonder if they’re gonna have a job. So you need folks to go in there and talk about what it means to transition in economy, but what jobs are going to be available, but also, in terms of the Environmental record, TCQ, which is the State Environmental Regulatory Agency, has been absent for years under Republican rule in Texas, and you have people that are breathing, very dirty air. You know, in some communities, the water is compromised, but there are no organizers on the ground that are actually talking to them about how bad the Environmental record is in some of these places, and the harm that has been done to them and their families.
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I think there are so many different ways to look at this outcome and work to do like first we got to understand it. I think everything that you’ve laid out is insightful. Even if his margin fell to some extent, and it looks like it probably did, or at best was where Clintons was. And people expected a little bit more when you’re running against Donald Trump with Trump’s record. But still, I mean, if you’re winning at 65-35/67-33, that that group is powering you to victory and you saw in Arizona, right?
Rep. Joaquin Castro
Showed up in Arizona, I found it odd that you would somehow blame a group that’s giving a candidate 60 something percent of the vote for somehow tanking, you know, their chances at a particular state. Again, this group is voting with you 60 something percent, right?
Julian Castro 16:17
Yeah, yeah. But that was the, you know, there was a New York Times headline, basically, I don’t know whether it was just an internet headline, or that was in the paper, hardly ever see the physical paper of the New York Times, or any newspaper these days since I read everything online. Essentially, that Hispanics gave Trump the edge in Texas, you know? I mean, come on. I think two things are true. There is real work to do. Because what happened in Rio Grande Valley should not be happening. Democrats need to do better than that. And then secondly, overall, hey, this is a huge and important part of your coalition. And the last thing that you want to do is walk away from it, the lesson you want to learn is more investment needs to be made and reaching out, registering and turning out people. And it has to be a 365 day a year effort a full court press not just a few months before the election.
Rep. Joaquin Castro
Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right. But yeah, there’s gonna be a lot of work to do in 2022, and then 2024, to make sure that we hold on to and make gains with our coalition. But look, you know, at the end of the day, or actually the end of the counting, you know, Arizona and Georgia, both going Democratic. I mean, that’s exciting. It’s exciting for what it spells out for the coming years.
Yeah, I mean, look, overall, I think we got to be happy with what happened in this election. If somebody said, Look, you’re gonna win, you’re going to beat Donald Trump, you’re going to get these two new states looks like Arizona, Georgia be very competitive in places like North Carolina, and close the gap even further in Texas, and have a shot in a couple of months of taking back the senate because of these two run offs in Georgia. I mean, that’s a good night. And you got to give Joe Biden his credit. I mean, he surpassed 75 million votes. I mean, he’s gotten more votes than anybody who’s run for president in the history of this country. It is very difficult to beat an incumbent. I mean, look, Donald Trump has had history working in his favor in both elections in the first election, 2016. How many times does an incumbent at party hold for a third term? That rarely happens, right?
That happened with the last H.W. Bush. Yeah. And you know, oddly enough, George H.W. Bush had the inverse of this, he bucked history in 88′, to do a third term of Republicans. And then as an incumbent, he lost to Bill Clinton. Incumbency is powerful. It is difficult to beat a sitting president, but Joe Biden has defeated a sitting incumbent with 306 electoral votes. That’s, you know, that’s not a blowout, but it’s convincing. And we’re gonna have to go through that conversation of what the electoral map looks like now. Look, what about Ohio? What about Iowa? A couple of cycles ago, they were bellwethers. This cycle, and the last cycle didn’t look like you can build your coalition or your electoral path on those states.
Rep. Joaquin Castro
Yeah. Look, I’m glad that that Joe Biden held Michigan are that he won Michigan that he won Wisconsin, it looks like he’s winning Pennsylvania. But I always thought that the danger of Donald Trump’s appeal is that he is basically playing a numbers game. The numbers game that he’s playing, is that you know, politics on some level is a matter of a competition of lenses which lens can you get a person to see the world through the lens of somebody who cares about pro-choice or pro-life, the lens of race and ethnicity, the lens of a worker. And he put all of his focus, for the most part, not all of it, but a lot of it, his main focus, at least, was on getting white Americans to see the election through a racial lens. So that’s why they actually, you know, dove into a lot of these racial issues. The reason I believe he did that, is because the voters are still about two thirds white in this country, 60 something percent white. And in terms of the numbers, if you can get most of the electorate to see the election through a racial lens, primarily, then by the numbers, you should win the election year.
Julian Castro 20:53
Which is called racial priming.
Rep. Joaquin Castro
That’s right. And I believe that that was his strategy. And because of that, I thought my concern was well, that’s why I think some of the states you know, where you have more, where you have more diverse populations like North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Texas, that’s why I thought you may have a better chance this time than we have in traditionally less diverse places, like Iowa, for example. And it was actually kind of a mix on that because he carried Pennsylvania is a diverse state, but it’s not as diverse as Arizona, right? So he’s still carrying places that are more traditional places. But he also carried places like Arizona and Georgia, which are a lot more diverse. So he was actually able to play well, so to speak, in a wide range of states.
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Chris Hayes 22:22
Hey, everyone, it’s Chris Hayes. You know these days; I find it helpful to just take a step back from the day to day onslaught of news and take a broader look at the issues I haven’t had time to cover on my TV show ALL IN everything from the legacy of racism in America to how community and creativity can flourish amidst a pandemic to how democrats could win in deep red America. I do it each week on my podcast WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? And I’m joined by uniquely qualified guests like Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Nicole Hannah Jones.
Nicole Hannah Jones
Progress does not mean justice or equality or that we are right after 400 years of black people being in this country that time or marking incremental progress and patting ourselves on the back for that has been long over.
Author Rebecca Solnit.
How do we take care of each other in the context of not being able to physically be with each other in ordinary ways.
CROOKED MEDIA’s Jon Favreau.
It’s gonna be the highest turnout election in history, which means that it is a persuasion game.
And many others who helped me make sense of what’s happening in our society and our world. I really enjoy our conversations. I hope you will too. So join me for new episodes every Tuesday, just search for WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? wherever you’re listening right now and subscribe.
You and your colleagues are going to head back up to D.C briefly, like in a few days, but really not until after the holidays. And you’ll start a new term. What are you hopeful about in terms of getting things done?
Rep. Joaquin Castro
There’s a lot of work to do. I mean, you know, the Congress is at least the House of Representatives is going to have to be a partner with Joe Biden in repairing a lot of the damage that President Trump has done domestically and internationally in terms of our alliances around the world. And so he’s gonna have to rollback those executive actions and executive orders. Because in a lot of ways, President Trump, you know, except for the big tax bill, for example, a lot of the egregious things, at least what I feel are egregious things and that he did. He didn’t do them through legislation. He did them by executive order. You think about the travel ban that he tried to do all the things at the border that he tried to do. There weren’t any laws that were necessarily passed. He did it by executive action.
Julian Castro 24:22
Well like moved money.
Rep. Joaquin Castro
Yeah, moving money for the border wall. So it’s not liked the Congress appropriated, you know, 50 billion dollars for the border wall, that he moved money around to build this border wall. So President Biden’s gonna have to undo those executive actions. And then I’m you know, we’re gonna pursue the things that we’ve been talking about on climate change on immigration on health care, and put a lot of pressure on Mitch McConnell in the Senate. If Republicans do have a majority and they may not, but put a lot of pressure on the on the Senate, really to say no to the American people. Because these are the things that President Biden ran on, and won. So this is what the American people have supported what we talked about during this whole electoral process. So that’s what we’re going to go do.
Yeah, I think a lot of people are breathing a sigh of relief that these four years are going to be behind us. I mean, we shouldn’t kid ourselves either. I mean, Trump, in many ways, was a symptom of something. He wasn’t the cause. He took advantage of.
Rep. Joaquin Castro
But he was a symptom. But he also made it worse. Yeah, he was both, right?
Well, and he took advantage of it, he turned it into policy. But it’s easy to feel hopeful, because even with just what you can do at the executive level, it will take time, but there’s a lot that you can peel back. And so I’m hopeful about that, that we’re going to see these next four years of more common sense, decency, compassion, integrity, all of those things that you hope for in a public servant, and in government, and just more effectiveness too.
Rep. Joaquin Castro 26:08
And hopefully the country can leave this dark period behind. And hopefully the Republican party can turn the page on Donald Trump and leave Donald Trump in the past, and reform itself as a party that isn’t based on so much division, and so much hatred that is generated and inflamed by this one guy. That’s my hope, we’ll see.
Well, thank you for joining me. And it’s exciting to see what happens next.
Rep. Joaquin Castro
Alright, y’all, I’ll see you.
Millions of Americans are breathing sighs of relief. And believe me, I’m right there celebrating with you. I’m so proud of all my Democratic colleagues and friends, and especially my brother, for their work to make this country the best it can be. But they have their work cut out for them. The problems that we talked about on this show haven’t gone anywhere. And after the well-earned celebration dies down. We all have to remember that this isn’t the time to sit back and relax. In fact, this is the time for all of us to work harder to build the nation we want to see. Next week, we’ll hear from several organizers in Las Vegas doing just that.
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OUR AMERICA is a Lemonada Original. This episode was produced by Matthew Simonson. Jackie Danziger is our supervising producer. Our associate producer is Giulia Hjort. Kegan Zema is our technical director, music is by Hannis Brown. Executive producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, and Julian Castro. Help others find our show by leaving us a rating and writing a review. Follow us at @lemonadamedia across all social platforms, or find me on Twitter at @juliancastro or on Instagram at @juliancastrotx
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 28:48
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