Election Wake-Up Call: Time To Get Sh*t Done (with Rep. Joaquin Castro)

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Julián and Sawyer walk through the disappointing Election Night results likely worrying the (slim) Democratic majority and offer answers as to what could’ve happened. They also welcome Julián’s twin brother, US Rep. Joaquin Castro, who provides an inside look as to how Congress was finally able to pass President Biden’s massive infrastructure deal late last week.

Follow Congressman Castro online at @JoaquinCastroTX.

Keep up with Julián on Twitter at @JulianCastro and Instagram at @JulianCastroTX. Sawyer can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @SawyerHackett. And stay up to date with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @LemonadaMedia.

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Julian Castro, Joaquin Castro, Sawyer Hackett

Julian Castro  00:13

Hey there. I’m Julian Castro.

Sawyer Hackett

And I’m Sawyer Hackett

Julian Castro 

And welcome to OUR AMERICA. Where we tackle some of the week’s leading political headlines impacting your community. Later in the show, we’re gonna check in with none other than my brother, Congressman Joaquin Castro, about the Herculean effort by Democrats late last week to pass the President’s infrastructure package in the house, and also to tackle the entire Build Back Better agenda. But before we get into that, of course, we’re going to spend a little time breaking down the results from election day last week in Virginia, in New Jersey, and what it means for the party’s agenda and midterm prospects. Sawyer, give us a quick overview of that.

Sawyer Hackett

Yeah, disappointing night to say the least. In Virginia, private equity CEO Glenn Youngkin defeated former Governor Terry McAuliffe by two percentage points or about 65,000 votes. Just a reminder, Virginia is a state that that President Biden won by more than 10 percentage points, just last year, more than half a million votes. It’s also a state that Republicans have not won statewide in since about 2009. We also lost the race for lieutenant governor Attorney General and lost about six seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, giving the GOP the majority in the state across the board, Glen Youngkin overperformed where Terry McAuliffe underperformed, Youngkin did especially well among suburban voters winning about 53% of suburban voters in the state, which is roughly what happened with Democrats in 2020, with Joe Biden winning about the same amount, according to exit polls young and approved on Trump’s numbers with men, women in every age group, every education level and every single demographic race. Also a New Jersey incumbent Governor Phil Murphy narrowly defeated Jack Ciattarelli by about two and a half percentage points in a race that we expected to win by at least 10 percentage points. Unsurprisingly, the political world sort of freaked out at the results and you know, different camps, took to Twitter and took the cable news to sort of point blame in different directions. We’re going to get into all of that. But overall, I think Democrats are pretty United that the results that we got on Tuesday night, were pretty shitty to say the least. I know that you spent Election Day in election night in New York, for MSNBC’s election night coverage. How did your night shake out?

Julian Castro  02:46

Shitty was a good way to describe it. Like so I’m there. This is the first time that I was part of election night coverage. I just started as an NBC News, MSNBC political analyst over the summer. So they called up and said, oh, you know, we’d love to have you for election night. And of course, I’ve been in the studio before there at Rockefeller Center. But not like this on election night where you’re watching the results come in Steve Kornacki is doing his thing in his khakis that everybody’s familiar with. Yeah. And basically getting all the election results and trying to interpret them on the fly and so forth. So, you know, they came to us the first time they came to me to say something about these election results was just about the time that the first exit polls were coming out. We’re in this little studio, and I have to tell everybody that’s watching. It’s not nearly as glamorous as it might look on TV. Right? These studios are small. I was not in the same room most of the time with the main host with Rachel and Joy, and I think Nicole, I was there with David Pluff. And Senator McCaskill, we’re in a different room.

Julian Castro  04:04

But the first time they came to me, usually the producer says, well, we’re gonna come to you, you know, to, for your opinion on something they didn’t do that they just all of a sudden, I’m like on the screen, oh, my God. What do I say here? And Steve had just spoken. And one of the things that he said, and I think Sawyer, you had sent me a note was that turnout was up in Northern Virginia, right, in Northern Virginia really has been what has powered Democratic victories and like the state turning blue. And so I said, well, you know, from what we see in some of the exit polls, and what I understand, I’m optimistic that we might have a better night than some of these polls predict because the polls were showing that it was either tight or some of them even had young going ahead. Well, that turned out to be a terrible prediction. Because there’s no reason to be optimistic whatsoever. But here’s the thing. Here’s a larger point. Turnout did go up turnout surge compared to 2017. But that wasn’t good for Democrats in this case. You know, we saw another example like we did in some places, including in some places in South Texas in 2020. Where, turnout went up, but had been ended up benefiting Republicans.

Sawyer Hackett 

Yeah, it was the highest voter turnout for an off year gubernatorial election in Virginia history. roughly 3.3 million Virginians voted. Terry McAuliffe actually increased his vote share from Northam in 2017 by about 200,000 votes. But Glenn Youngkin got, I think, more than a half million more votes than Gillespie got in 2017, in the last gubernatorial election. So yeah, of course, yeah, turnout, turnout was through the roof, but it doesn’t necessarily pretend that it’s Democratic turnout. It’s turnout among, you know, people who don’t necessarily vote in these gubernatorial elections, or maybe they weren’t motivated in previous elections. But yeah, I mean, the turnout story is definitely interesting. I think.

Julian Castro  06:12

It helped for sure. And you know, as these results come in through the night, they’re, of course, you’re waiting to see what happens. And one of the interesting things was I got like three different offers of talking points, people wanting to send like groups wanting to send their talking points. I appreciate very much except I hate going by the talking points, that when I would go in, like I remember doing the 2016 race, right, doing surrogate stuff for Clinton. And even before that for Obama in 2012. And then to limit extend for Biden in 2020, you get those talking points from the campaign. And even if you agree with every single word that’s in the talking point, I just hate that, I hate the feeling like a puppet.

Sawyer Hackett 

You don’t even use the talking points that I write for you.

Julian Castro 

Like at least that what I’ve had some input, and we know what we’re gonna say, but I like other people’s talking points. So I appreciate him very much. But needless to say, I don’t think I used them. And maybe that’s why people kept sending me like no, no, no, get on the talking points. But when we boil down what happened. There’s a lot of reason for concern. There’s a lot of reasons for concern, because we know that the overall pattern that has only been bucked like two or three times in the last 100 years is that in midterm elections, the party that has the White House, they lose congressional seats. And the problem with that is that we don’t have much to lose before we lose the majority. I mean, we’re 50/50 in the United States Senate, we only lead by four or five in the House of Representatives on top of that, as we speak right now, Republican controlled state legislatures across the country are gerrymandering, such that they’re creating more opportunity to pick up seats in a whole bunch of states.

Julian Castro  08:05

So we’re already facing what’s going to be an even more stacked deck and the results of New Jersey and Virginia, these two places that have been going Democratic, I mean, I don’t think in Virginia, the Republicans had won a statewide race since 2009. and New Jersey, Biden won it by 16 points. He won Virginia by 10 points. Both of those states have been diversifying. I mean, they have been becoming exactly the kind of places that as Democrats we always talk about, like bats fertile ground for victories for us. That’s why when you see McAuliffe lose in Virginia, and then you see Murphy barely hang on in a Biden plus 16-point state barely hang on and win when he’s the incumbent. I mean, you can’t walk away from that and not feel like you’ve just gotten, you know, shocked with a cattle prod. And you need to make sure that you do something differently going into 2022. And, you know, just quickly, what is it that we have to do differently? I mentioned one of the things on the air, and, you know, I’m sure that some people probably rubs them the wrong way to hear this.

Sawyer Hackett 

To me, what’s painfully obvious is that Democrats need to be more strategic about the kinds of candidates we’re putting up with the political landscape being what it is, what I mean, there is that this was like all midterm elections, this was a change election, this was a, you know, a candidate running against the status quo, Glenn Youngkin, running against the status quo in Washington, for example. You know, that’s especially true in these gubernatorial elections, where you’re only one year removed after a presidential election. So it’s almost entirely people reacting to what they’re seeing coming out of Washington, especially in a state like Virginia, which is obviously bordering Washington, DC. And at a time when President Biden’s approval rating in the state is sitting at about 43%, I think that’s what exit poll said, you know, and we’re not able to sort of pass these major pieces of legislation that have been looming, you know, over Washington for 10 months, that this is becoming a change election. And Terry McAuliffe, you know, represents the status quo, he represents, you know, I think you said it on the podcast before, he’s the ultimate pragmatic politician. He’s a, you know, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Democrat, and he’s got an incredible record in the state. And I think, you know, has should point that record out, but fundamentally, he’s a candidate that people already know, they already have an assessment of, and largely, they’re going to react to what they’re seeing at DC more so than what they’re hearing from him.

Julian Castro 

But I said, look, we need to rethink what we think of as electable. Right, especially in these midterms, you need people that excite the base of the party. For Republicans, what they did was they turned out, wean folks that are going to get people to turn out that didn’t happen, especially in Virginia. But it’s not only you know, and I think that it includes electing more progressive candidates and primaries. But it’s not only that, it’s also like people want new blood. I think one of the problems with McAuliffe and you know, as accomplished as he was as a governor Everything that he has to recommend. I think people saw it as a retread, and they weren’t in the mood to do that. You know, I believe that a lot of times voters especially now they want new blood, they want new energy, they want somebody that doesn’t have a whole bunch of baggage. And that’s a lesson as Democrats go and recruit for 2022 in these congressional races, statewide races, and then in 2024, as well.

Julian Castro  11:53

This is going to work both ways this can come back to bite and it has bitten in the past, not only Democrats, but also Republicans. You know, I actually believe as much headwinds as we’re going to face here in Texas, because of the national environment. You mentioned, Biden’s favorability numbers, approval numbers are low. But I actually think that this is gonna, this could bite people like Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick, in Texas, because people want change, because as they have lived their lives through this pandemic, and the difficulties of that health wise, and jobs wise, and everything else that’s come along with it, they want new leadership, they want a change. And so in places like Texas, there’s an opportunity, I think, to take advantage of that in a good way. And with fresh candidates that hopefully, you know, we can do better here than we have in the past.

Sawyer Hackett  12:49

Well, it’s interesting that you bring up Texas because Governor Abbott put something out about like, the curriculum in Texas and banning specific books that have Texas public schools that he claims have pornography, he’s clearly taking up the mantle of Glenn Youngkin strategy in Virginia, which was to play up these dog whistle issues, these critical race theory, transgender bathroom, just play these culture war issues, that drive up turnout among Republicans, you know, keep your distance from Trump, you don’t have to bring up Trump, you don’t have to tie yourself to Trump, but drive turnout among the base of Republicans with these culture war issues. And I think, you know, he was very successful at convincing independents or voters who may have voted for Biden in 2020. But we’re sort of on the fence and in 2021, independents in Virginia swung 29 points, they favored Joe Biden by 19 points in 2020. And Youngkin won those voters by nine points this year, that’s a dynamic that you cannot win with those circumstances. And that seems to be a clear reflection of what’s happening in DC, what’s happening with Biden. But you know, also, I think it had an incredible impact on the demographic breakdowns of this race.

Julian Castro  14:01

Yeah, I mean, also the White women. I mean, for folks that saw the exit polls on I think White women shifted their support, at least by one set of the exit polls by 19 points in favor of the Republican.

Sawyer Hackett 

This was the story for me is white voters made up 74% of the electorate in Virginia, which is up from 67% in 2020 and 2017. That’s despite Virginia population growing by 8% over the last 10 years, you know, almost 300,000 Latinos moving to Virginia in the last 10 years. Youngkin also improve on Trump’s performance with White voters, even though he fell behind in some of the rural Western parts of the state. He improved his vote share among white voters in the state.

Julian Castro 

And it’s especially I think it’s especially non college white voters. And I think that 19% jump that I cited was non college white women, at least from what I saw, you know, McAuliffe actually held his own with college educated White voters.

Sawyer Hackett 

Yeah, I mean that I think that is becoming. And I think that was the story. Maybe it was in California, but like, it’s increasingly we’re becoming more polarized based on education levels. And I think that if we’re not keeping an eye on that in the midterms, and I think part of that is just the Democratic message, we have to bring it back to what our roots are as a party talking about working class issues, talking about how the deck is sort of stacked against you, as an American, these billionaires and millionaires are taking advantage. And these, you know, politicians like Glenn Youngkin, who, by the way, is a private equity CEO worth half a billion dollars, who made his entire fortune on laying off workers, we probably shouldn’t run somebody who’s invested in his firm, like Terry McAuliffe, who’s worth $30 million, we probably should have a candidate who can give, you know, the economic appeal of what Democrats are bringing to the table, what issues we’re running on, and why you should stand with us, as opposed to somebody who works for private equity company worth billions of dollars.

Julian Castro  16:00

There was some criticism of the McAuliffe campaign after the election results came in that hey, you know, why didn’t you turn this guy into Mitt Romney? Because like Mitt Romney, he was steeped in the private equity world. I mean, in some ways, even looked like Mitt Romney, right, like, as a candidate, else, tall, decent looking guy wearing those fleece vests, he looked the part, here’s the thing, you know, if you’re trying to look at the bright side as Democrats, right, we still have a year, the infrastructure package that we’re going to talk about with Joaquin, in a little bit, that just passed, the President’s gonna sign it, he’s gonna go on a tour. And there’s gonna be plenty of opportunities in the next year to put an exclamation point in city after city, county after county, rural suburban, urban areas of the difference, the Democrats are making by what they’re getting done in DC, and even more so if the Build Back Better legislation passes. Universal pre-K, that expansion, the child tax credit, money for child care, elder care, people’s quality of life improving in very measurable concrete ways, not something you got to talk about, in theory, it’s something that people can relate to, because they’re able to afford a better life for themselves and their family.

Julian Castro 

All of that is good. The other thing is that a candidate level, there are very few of these Republicans that are actually going to be able to pull off what Glenn Youngkin did, because they can’t play the part. They don’t look like him. They don’t sound like him, they’re more extreme than he is. They already or embed with Trump to a much greater extent, like Greg Abbott. And Trump will not stand for staying away and all in state after state after state. He just not going to do that. I think he made an exception for Virginia. But he ain’t going to be able to help himself throughout the entire 2022 cycle. So those are some of the things that if you’re a Democrat right now, and you’re looking for reasons to remain optimistic positive. I think those are some, but not all of that doesn’t make a difference unless we do what we need to do to turn people out.

Sawyer Hackett  18:15

So yeah, I mean, I think obviously, the most important thing that almost all Democrats are united behind right now is that we need to get something done in Washington, we need to pass these two bills, we need to make sure that voters know that we pass these two bills, we need to, you know, highlight the impact that it’s having in communities across the country. I think what concerns me most is this new playbook that Republicans have, that Glenn young can use that I think you’re right, that he uniquely has the ability to do, but where they play these culture war issues that is clearly moving independent voters, in addition to amping up the Republican base. But you know, I don’t know that we have a clear strategy to be able to combat these things. I mean, clearly the Democratic Party, the Democratic establishment, is not comfortable talking about race, they’re not comfortable talking about, you know, issues like policing and immigration. And then when these culture wars issues pop up, they sort of laugh and point at them. They make jokes about critical race theory, or just say a critical race theory isn’t being taught in schools. That’s not sufficient. That’s not, first of all, it’s not able to reach all of these voters who are hearing this misinformation and having it pumped into their Facebook feeds and on Fox News every night. But I think we need to find a better strategy for talking about these duck whistles. So that, you know, voters are we’re talking about these issues on our turf. We’re running these campaigns with our narratives. And we’re not playing into their hands by letting them control them with these cultural war issues that we’re afraid to touch.

Julian Castro 

You can’t win the argument if you’re not even making the argument right yourself. And like, I’ll give you a perfect example of this the other day, President Biden took a question from Peter Doocy at Fox, and Doocy starts talking about is it true that you’re going to pay these Illegal immigrants $450,000 who were separated from their kids. And Biden’s first response is oh that’s trash. It’s garbage. You know, why are you guys spreading this, I don’t know what was going on there. Maybe the President hadn’t been briefed on the potential settlements with parents who had their children taken from them by the Trump administration. And, you know, because of that they may be compensated, which I think is a humane, reasonable thing to do. But what was fascinating was Biden’s first reaction to it was to totally play the conservative card. Of course, that’s not true. You know, there’s a fear of issues like immigration and race. And I understand the political reality. You know, I understand that there’s a difference between theory and practice on all of these issues. But until we’re able to come up with a compelling way to talk about these touchy issues that at their core involve race, and demography and a changing America that makes a lot of people nervous, unless we have a compelling narrative, and we’re not afraid to make the argument. They’re going to hoodwink us; they’re going to beat us every single time with these culture wars. And with this racial priming.

Sawyer Hackett 

And I think you know; we’re going to dive a little bit deeper into that in next week’s podcast is because I think it is the strategy of the future for the Republican Party. It’s exactly what they’re going to try and do to win these midterms and take back the House and Senate. But if you’re looking for a clear example of how it actually moved voters, you know, my hometown, my home county, Loudoun County, was sort of the home base of all of these issues on the critical race theory, that parent who wanted to ban Beloved, the book from Toni Morrison from the public schools. Loudoun County was front and center to all those issues. Loudoun County turnout increased by 43,000 votes, and McAuliffe won 55% of those votes. But Northam carried it by 20 points in the last election, a 20-point victory for Northam versus a five-point victory for McAuliffe and in a county like Loudoun, one of the biggest counties in the state, you just can’t afford to have that much attrition amongst the Democratic base. And so, you know, we have to figure out a strategy to combat this stuff, or else, we’re just gonna see more and more attrition amongst Democrats and independents.

Julian Castro  22:27

I mean, you’re right in there plenty of lessons to be learned. And you know, everybody has a role to play in making sure that we’re in a better spot a year from now, one of those things that there’s going to be an intense focus on is delivering results to Washington DC, to change people’s lives for the better. And this past week, a blockbuster part of President Biden’s agenda, the infrastructure package, the infrastructure week, that Trump always talked about, but never delivered on President Biden delivered on a few days ago. But, the Build Back Better, legislation is still up in the air, there’s a lot of back and forth, to get behind the scenes, tick tock on all of that, we’re gonna welcome none other than the guy who likes to think that he’s a little bit better looking than me, my twin brother, Joaquin Castro, right after the break, stay with us.

Julian Castro 

Welcome back to OUR AMERICA. Well, today, I’m excited to have a very, very special guest. I know we say that all the time. But hey, I actually mean it this time, walking the halls of Congress in DC is somebody that looks almost exactly like me, except the way to tell us apart is that he has a beard. He’s also my congressman, I live in the 20th Congressional District of Texas, in the near northwest side of San Antonio, and also calling my brother, Joaquin Castro, Congressman.

Joaquin Castro  24:20

As long as you don’t run against me, you can stay in the 20th congressional.

Julian Castro

I’m telling you, the only time that we ran against each other in the spring of 1995 for the Stanford students Senate, you and I tied with 811 votes, we still have to settle who the better politician is. And now I’m having a little inspiration from the call for change that the results in New Jersey and Virginia represented you know, people want something different I might file for that… I’ll take that to heart. We want to talk about the landmark passage of the infrastructure bill $1.2 trillion. Biden finally got infrastructure done even though Trump had talked about it for four years. And also the bill back better agenda that includes so many of the things that would improve the quality of life for people across the country, that is still up in the air. And we want to get kind of your inside track on what’s going on. But first, just, you know, reflect a little bit on the results from last week in New Jersey and Virginia. What’s the mood there in Congress?

Joaquin Castro 

Oh, look, obviously, it’s different everybody up. It wasn’t the result that we were hoping for, certainly in Virginia, and New Jersey was a lot closer than we expected. You know, I kind of go back and forth, because this kind of debating myself because we see this happen in midterms for every party, it seems like when the President, their President is in power. Usually you get popped in the midterms. Now I realized that this is an off-year election, not a midterm election. But you’re facing a headwind, usually so in that sense, it wasn’t surprising. It was surprising, though, because Democrats in Virginia have been I know, Sawyer, I think you’re in Virginia, right? And Democrats have been on a winning streak for you know, the last, what, four or five times that folks have run for governor, maybe since she has a nine. Yeah. And so in that sense, it was quite different. And it’s I think it kind of stiffened everybody?

Julian Castro  26:24

Well, what I mean, there was talk as these results came in, and as it became clear that McAuliffe had lost and Murphy barely survived, sort of a breath that was taken and wondering of when it comes to Congress, and this Build Back Better agenda? Is it going to make elected officials Democrats, they’re less likely to go forward with something that’s perceived as progressive legislation? Or is it gonna give them you know, the energy that they need to say, look, we better get this thing done and deliver results for the American people, or else we’re definitely toast next year?

Joaquin Castro

Yeah, I mean, look, I hope that it motivates everybody to fulfill the agreement that we came to, before we passed the bill for the infrastructure bill, which is that we’ll come back on the week of November 15, or shortly thereafter, and pass the Build Back Better act. And there’s some very popular and great things in there. Child care, and health care and education dollars and things that Americans want things that are very popular when you pull them. So it’s a matter of politics. These are also very popular. Just very popular things.

Sawyer Hackett 

So Joaquin, obviously, the election was last Tuesday, but on Friday, you guys passed this bipartisan infrastructure framework that has sort of been the source of negotiations for the last 10 months in Washington. Was that timeline moved up was that because Democrats were sort of rattled from those results? Did those results sort of change everyone’s calculations about whether those bills absolutely had to be coupled together? Or whether it was just important to notch in that victory on the bipartisan infrastructure do?

Joaquin Castro  28:10

Yeah, I mean, I think my sense is that people, you know, we had come close a few times before, I remember a few weeks ago, the leadership, the speaker held us in session until like, I don’t know, if it was the end of Thursday for the end of the week, or Friday, for the end of the week, until four or five in the afternoon. We were hopefully going to vote that day. And then finally, we got to notice that there weren’t going to be any votes that day. And that was supposed to be the day that we were going to pass it right. And that happened a few times. And I think people finally figured, you know, we got it, we got to get this done. And let’s pass the infrastructure bill and also come to a very strong agreement that everybody can rely on passing the bill back better act when we come back in in two weeks.

Julian Castro 

So the bipartisan infrastructure plan passed $1.2 trillion, a lot of investment in communities across the country. Good for people who need to show results. But as we mentioned, there’s still this build back better agenda that has all of this great stuff. It’s still up in the air, and it’s been ping pong in between, basically, conservative Democrats who want some stuff out. And progressives who want more stuff in me, where is that right now?

Joaquin Castro

Well, before we pass the infrastructure bill, we got an agreement all around that’s basically signed, if you will, by both what are called the moderate Democrats or frontline Democrats, Blue Dog Democrats, and then also the Progressive Caucus, that we were going to do the infrastructure bill, we’re going to pass it, it goes to the President’s desk that leaves us with a bill back better act. And for the bill back, better act. This is what we’re agreeing to. The frontliners wanted a CBO score. And so that CBO score should come. And then at that point, we should be able to pass it now, yeah, I mean, it’s going to be important that it get passed. Because I think it’s going to be a disaster for Democrats. If the bill back better act doesn’t get passed, politically, it’s going to negate a lot of the success that we’re having, because we passed the infrastructure bill. Because if you, you know, we had this sense that both bills were gonna pass, there’s a lot of important things for Democrats and for Americans in the bill back better act. And if somehow it goes awry, and it doesn’t pass, that’s going to be a huge problem for Democrats, and a huge problem for these frontliners that are concerned about their races in the midterm next year.

Sawyer Hackett  30:43

So a lot of those centrist Democrats have essentially assured the rest of the caucus that they’re sort of on board willing to pass the bill back better act, as long as the CBO score sort of bears out what they’re expecting. But obviously, I think there’s still some outstanding items left for the Senate to negotiate. I think one of those is immigration, which is obviously, you know, a key issue of yours in the house. How do you see the things that are remaining sort of playing out with negotiations with Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema?

Joaquin Castro

Well, you know, you’re right. The immigration issue is a big one. I and many others in Congress advocates outside of Congress, certainly dreamers and their parents, for years, have advocated for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and people like essential workers and farm workers and others who are key to our nation’s success. Unfortunately, in the build back better act, a path to citizenship isn’t going to be in there. And there was a lot of heartache and heartburn and regret, that we weren’t able to get that in. A big part of the reason we weren’t is because the Senate parliamentarian at least informally ruled against both a path to citizenship, and also ruled against changing the registry date. And at that point, what happened was, the more or the frontline Democrats at least said, hey, look, you know, we’re willing to support immigration reform. But we don’t want to do it if it’s for not. In other words, we don’t want to do it if it’s just going to go to the Senate and die, because the parliamentarian already said that she’s not going to allow it in there. And so they were taking a very much more cautious, you know, what they would consider at least a pragmatic approach to it. And so what we ended up with was parole, which allows people to be protected from deportation. And in addition to parole, he would also allow for work permits and driver’s licenses, for example, so that people could essentially be in the country safe from deportation, and also be able to work and travel and so forth, without that same worry of being deported.

Julian Castro  32:55

I mean, I know that for you for Senator Padilla, by the way for a number of other Democrats, […] out there in Chicago, right? How much progress we’re able to make on immigration, through this reconciliation process has been an important part of that. And I mean, you along with Alex Padilla,  the proposed legislation that would have put essential workers, these undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship, just kind of as an aside, regardless of what happens in what seems like it’ll be a limited movement on immigration in this legislation, what do you hope to see during the rest of this 21′-22′ term?

Joaquin Castro 

Well, I mean, on immigration, I hope that at least the provisions we put into the build back better act, parole with work, permit driver’s licenses, etc. I hope that gets in there. That’s part of the bill, and that we’re able to pass it through the house into the Senate. But we also should continue to press on our other bills on a path to citizenship for essential workers, for example, like you mentioned, who literally risked their lives going out to work every day, during the pandemic, when many of us, myself included, and other members of Congress had the luxury of working from home. These were people that were literally putting their health and their safety and their lives on the line during a very scary and unknown early period during the pandemic, to make sure that our economy was still going to grocery stores, we’re still shelf with things and so forth. And so we want to make sure that we honor them and that we respect them by getting this done, and that we keep passing that we keep moving forward on these other bills that do create passive citizenship.

Julian Castro  34:35

I mean, just to talk a little bit about what’s already been accomplished, the infrastructure package passed. In that vote, there were actually I think, like five Democrats that voted against it, and something like 13 Republicans that voted for it. What I mean, you know, what should people take from that on the Democratic side and the Republican side, should we be hopeful? Because there was some bipartisanship there should progressives be disappointed? Because the reason that several folks didn’t support it is they felt it didn’t go far enough. How do you feel about both of those things, the prospects for bipartisanship coming out of this and also a progressive agenda?

Joaquin Castro 

Oh, look, I mean, even for many of us who voted for the infrastructure bill, before the Build Back Better act, we’re taking a leap of faith. We’re taking a leap of faith in that the frontliners, who, who have objected to some of the key provisions that many of us care about, that they are going to honor their word and their commitment and that they’re going to follow through and pass the Build Back Better act. I hope and I believe that that will happen. But that’s a leap of faith. It’s still up in the air. You had folks like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Presley, and a few more that were concerned that we were basically moving forward on one without doing the other. So for example, I talked to Alexandria a few days before the vote. And she said, I don’t think I can vote for the infrastructure bill by itself. If it goes first alone, because the on the climate issue in particular, she’s concerned that the things that mitigate climate damage are mostly in the Build Back Better Act. And if somehow things fall apart there, then you’re left with this infrastructure bill, that can have a negative impact on the climate. And you don’t get the benefit of the Build Back Better act, which does the mitigation. And so there’s a lot at stake. And there’s no question that it was a leap of faith, for those of us that voted for it. And that’s why we need, you know, everybody who made the commitment that they would pass the BBB to follow through on it.

Sawyer Hackett  36:48

So Joaquin, obviously, you know, some of the bill back better agenda items are yet to be hashed out. But what do you see as sort of the big-ticket deliverables either in the Biff in the bipartisan infrastructure framework, or in the build back better agenda that will, you know, help lift San Antonians, lift Texans, you know, help improve their lives on a day-to-day basis?

Joaquin Castro 

Oh, that’s a great question. I mean, this, these two pieces of legislation have the opportunity to be really transformative for the neighborhoods in San Antonio that I represent. And for Texans, you know, this is part of what I call, there’s an infrastructure of transportation. And then there’s an infrastructure of opportunity, which I think the Build Back Better Act helps build. And so let me just take one example, in San Antonio, in my hometown, is a town where you have people often working for low wages, people who don’t necessarily have easy access to childcare, or they can afford to pay the high cost of childcare. So even if you just take that one piece, that there’s so much money for childcare, and providing that and universal pre-K, for example, that’s going to be a great, just a great thing for San Antonians. Both of those things in terms of child care, and in terms of getting their kids started early in pre-K.

Julian Castro  38:07

Yeah, I know, you started the pre-K for the USA caucus. You know, we had gotten pre-K for essay done here in 2012. But you’ve led the charge. Following President Obama’s call for universal pre-K, a few years ago, you’ve led the charge there in Congress with some of your colleagues. And now it looks like you know, we’re on the cusp.

Joaquin Castro 

I mean, when you were mayor, San Antonio, voters raise their sales tax in order to create pre-K program that’s been an incredible success, and has been a model for other cities across the nation. And so shortly thereafter, a few years after that I was part of a group of four people that formed a bipartisan pre-K caucus, to push for universal pre-K, within the Congress. So for all of us that have been pushing this for years now, this is an incredible victory, but more important than that, it’s incredible victory for the people, San Antonio, people Texas, and really in the country.

Sawyer Hackett 

So I want to ask a political question about all this. I think, you know, Democrats are clearly facing this strange political environment where, you know, voters are more polarized than ever, but President Biden has sort of staked out political ground on his ability to bring the parties together to pass something that’s bipartisan to pass this huge infrastructure deal, and it’s a huge monumental thing. But at the same time, it may be sort of normalizing Republicans at a time when the Republican Party is anything but normal. I saw this morning, some Republican, I think her name was Malliotakis on CNN, essentially saying that President Trump laid the groundwork for passing infrastructure, so he deserves the credit for getting this thing passed in the first place. How do you think Democrats have to position themselves to make sure that we get credit for passing these things that voters know that it’s you that delivered these results for them and not, you know, President Trump or just sort of having washed over?

Joaquin Castro  40:01

Well, first, I think you need it, you need the president and the cabinet, barnstorming the country, in different communities doing obviously going out into the media and explaining to Americans, what exactly is in it, because as you all know, a lot of this was covered more as a horse race, or kind of a parlor intrigue about whether it was going to pass or not, and who was for it, and who was against it, and so forth. So now you got to go. Make sure that people appreciate exactly what we passed, and make sure that they know that we’re getting things done. This is the largest infrastructure package that we’ve had in decades, the most meaningful that we’ve had in decades. And also the members of Congress in their own communities are going out and making that case.

Joaquin Castro 

And I’ve also seeing the President now and some of the administration point out that Republicans and the media has done this also, but that Republicans shouldn’t show up. If you voted against this, you shouldn’t show up at a ribbon cutting for something in your district. If you voted not for it not to even happen, right? You shouldn’t go over there and act like oh, well, you know, I was a part I was an instrumental part of making this happen. But there were 13 Republicans voted for it. And so in that sense, it was bipartisan. And I actually think that there were more Republicans that wanted to vote for it. And they just, they just feel like there would be such intense heat on them in the Republican primary, if they do anything, to help make Joe Biden’s presidency a success.

Julian Castro 

Just to wrap up our conversation, moving forward, give us a sense of the timeline, we’re already in November, things are gonna shut down soon for the holidays. And then we start the year off, people are in the thick of their primaries, and then you get into the summer of next year. And everybody’s thinking of, you know, thinking about their election and November, the window to actually accomplish big things. Even small things in DC is closing fast. I mean, just give us a sense of how you see the chance to accomplish a lot of what was promised.

Joaquin Castro  42:08

I think generally people feel like once you get past the first few months of 2022. Once the primaries get going in Texas, we have a very early March primary in 2022. Once that cycle starts, people tend to focus on their elections, they get very cautious and very conservative about the votes they’re taking. And they’re really focused on winning their reelections. And so then it becomes a lot tougher to do important things. And that’s why we’ve tried to act with haste, so to speak, and get a lot of this stuff done. Because you are operating on a certain time window. And we’ve got a few more months until really I think people start to focus on their elections, unfortunately.

Julian Castro

Well, we know that between now and then between now and next November, that there’s going to be a lot of back and forth about trying to create the kind of opportunity that I know you’re fighting for there in DC. And thanks for stopping by for a few minutes to reflect on last week and to think about these next couple of weeks with Build Back Better on the horizon. And the next year.

Joaquin Castro 

Good to be with y’all. Thanks for inviting me back.

Julian Castro 

We’re back. Well, look, there is no question that there was a lot of disappointing news out of last Tuesday. But we also wanted to highlight piece of good news like we always like to do at the end of OUR AMERICA. And you know, for me, one of those bright spots was the election of Michelle Wu, as mayor of Boston. Sawyer, you I’m sure saw her campaign. Inspiring candidate 36 years old. She’s the first woman and the first person of color to be elected mayor of Boston. She has served on the city council since 2013. Also, a strong supporter, and I think a student of Senator Warren so she’s, you know, she’s no stranger to policymaking and politics there in the state of Massachusetts. And her platform was a progressive one. I mean, she was the progressive candidate in the race. It included a city level Green New Deal, free public transit, and a focus on tackling the racial wealth gap in the city of Boston. And she won. You know, I remember when I became mayor of San Antonio, and there’s nothing else like it, you know, being from A community and getting elected at the local level, feeling the support and the energy, the enthusiasm of your neighbors, you know, people right around you that you know, and that you, that you have the opportunity to serve every day and see the difference that you can make. And so Michelle Wu’s election in an otherwise kind of grim night for Democrats. That was a real bright spot.

Sawyer Hackett

Yeah, she’s really an inspiring candidate. And I mean, I guess no, no surprise there being a student of Senator Warren, Warren has sort of created this nice umbrella of support from all these great, you know, young, talented political leaders across the country. But I think what’s interesting about being a mayor is that you can both take on some of these big national issues like climate change. And I know she ran on a very green platform, and supportive of green New Deal, but also talk about the local issues, talk about transit, talk about housing and homelessness. And I think Michelle Wu did that did that superbly and ran a very inspiring campaign. So it was great to see her when

Julian Castro 

absolutely will score a victory for Michelle Wu, but in a much larger way, for the most vulnerable in that community of Boston for everybody who cares about improving quality of life. And for progressives, for sure, in that city.

Sawyer Hackett  46:29

As always, folks can leave us a voicemail, if they have positive news that they want to share on the podcast. So if you have a positive story, some positive news in your life, give us a call at 833-453-6662. That’s 833-453-6662 And make sure to subscribe to the podcast and to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcast.

Julian Castro 

Right. Thanks for joining us on OUR AMERICA this week. We’ll catch you next week.

Sawyer Hackett

See you soon.


OUR AMERICA is a Lemonada Media Original. Our Producer is Xorje Olivares, with executive producers Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Julian Castro. Mix and scoring by Veronica Rodriguez. Music is by Xander Singh. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @JulianCastro, at @Sawyer Hackett and at @LemonadaMedia. If you want more OUR AMERICA, subscribe to Lemonada Premium, only on Apple podcasts.

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