Last Tuesday, it was announced that the mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, would be the keynote speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in September. Choosing Castro as the first Latino politician to be keynote speaker is not only a strategic political move but also a breath of fresh air for all Hispanic voters.
Being the second largest demographic in the United States, Hispanics are finally receiving their due recognition as a growing and changing population that is shaping the future of America. From where we stand, the Hispanic population will only continue to increase. According to the U.S. Census, the projected Hispanic population of the United States on July 1, 2050 will be at 132.8 million and constitute 30 percent of the nation’s population. Well, what does that mean for Castro?
It could mean much potential for his political future. Julian Castro has many things going for him. Not only is he quite young at the age of 37, but he also shares many similarities with Barack Obama. As stated in an article from Fox News Latino “they both are graduates of Harvard Law School. Obama gripped national attention – and acquired a ‘presidential glow,’ so to speak- with a riveting keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.” Julian Castro just may do the same at the 2012 DNC.
Castro has also gained much recognition and praise from influential people within the Democratic Party. In an article by HuffPost, Los Angeles mayor and Democratic Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa, stated “as mayor, Julian Castro has worked tirelessly to move San Antonio forward by building its economy from the middle out, not the top down, by putting the city on a path to being a leader in the new energy economy and making innovative investments in education to prepare San Antonio’s students for the jobs of the future.” Veteran Democratic strategist John Podesta also praised Castro saying he is “super smart, effective, innovative leader and young and Latino. What’s not to love?”
Perhaps the first Latino keynote speaker will also be the first Latino President? Maybe, but he also has a lot of obstacles to face. As noted in article from The Week, “he could face difficulties winning Texas’ governorship, the surest stepping stone to the White House, in a state as red as states get.” Sadly, most Hispanic voters, although eligible, are sorely apathetic about politics and don’t vote. Granted, Castro’s new role as keynote speaker may just be the move needed to sway Hispanics into voting during this upcoming election, as well as in the future.
Time Magazine declared that Latinos would decide who gets the White House this November. Unfortunately, a demographic population does not equal electoral influence – no matter how large. In an article by The Press Enterprise, concerns were raised about Hispanic voters and that “low voter registration means Latinos’ political influence in elections continues to lag far behind their population.” This is undoubtedly true because if Hispanic voters don’t show up in support of their fellow politicians, then they will always remain a part of the mainstream, ambivalent electorate. And if things don’t change, Julian Castro may never win a term at the White House – nor will any fellow Latino.