My Post-DNC Thoughts (and why Julian Castro will be the 46th President)

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This year marked my 3rd Democratic National Convention to attend and the 3rd consecutive national convention for which Burnt Orange Report has been credentialed media. That accomplishment can be matched by no other state and is a credit to the owners, editors, writers, and readers that have followed us at any point over the last 9.5 years.

In 2004 I served as a (Deaniac) John Kerry delegate and was the youngest member of the Texas delegation to Boston. I was joined by Byron LaMasters, then owner of BOR, who carried this site's first of three media credentials to a national convention. The second was carried by former BOR Editor in Chief Matt Glazer and me in Denver. We used to joke about Matt being the youngest Texas delegate in 2004 for about 20 minutes… until I got elected. To think in 2012 we would been outnumbered 3-1 by the number of University Democrats alone who earned delegate status…it is just another example that the looks of the Democratic Party have indeed changed. The convention that BOR's Editor Katherine Haenschen reported so well had a totally different tone and feel, one that is the clearest yet about what the future of our Democratic Party looks like.

I have a number of thoughts and observations but I've tried to outline them by area as follows.

The Convention Itself- Boisterous in the hall, good energy. The raw number of delegates has grown so I believe this was the largest ever. Even so, people were fired up and ready to go once they stopped worrying about the weather and were delivered fresh, prime cuts of meat for the base. It was a tightly focused, incredibly well done showcase of the core of the Democratic Party. People you never would have seen onstage in 2004 saying things that were “liberal Howard Dean” lines (which more than once was accompanied by a long list of states being shouted out to the crowd). That left is the new center of the party which of course has been where a large chunk of America has been for some time. We've certainly demanded a Party that esposes what its members believe. It also shows the power of having a strong national narrative and candidate…

Nationalism of the Party-  In a saturated environment like this one, where voters are very aware of the race, the candidates, and already have hard opinions, there is little point to try to shy away or follow a strategy that denies the simple fact that the Presidential nominees in environments like this become the Party. Personally, I believe this trend is going to strengthen, not weaken in future elections. In the advertising world, brand identities have taken a turn towards individual people or “characters” because consumers are able to interact and personally identify with them. Presidential nominees have the power to command that sort of identity for themselves and to their party- Barack Obama certainly has the ability to, and that was on display at this convention.

But the difference this time is that Obama didn't have to command it, it was already there (certainly something NOT the case in Boston in 2004 or Tampa in 2012). This Party is in fighting shape, the delegates knew it, they could feel it unfolding in real time. Speech after speech, layer upon layer, fact upon fact you could see the Democratic Party give it everything it could from its Presidents past, present, and future because it knows how much is on the line just like the Republicans do. But we have better leaders, and we are winning the next generation and that was on full display in Charlotte.

With as much attention as Texas got inside the convention hall, you'd have thought we were a moderately competitive swing state! We're not, but it is a nod to the future that scares Republicans the most and should inspire Democrats for how sneaky it is.

Below the jump, find out why Mayor Julian Castro will be the 46th President of the United States.Julian Castro, 46th President of the United States It was Mayor Julian Castro we saw sitting next to First Lady Michelle Obama during the big speeches. Going into the convention, Castro had a high bar to cross, especially given expectations of a Keynote and an uneven trial-run at the Texas State Convention in June. He met and exceeded those expectations save for the harsher critics. A Harvard guy, I'm sure there are as many personal points of contact for the Castros and Obamas to connect with. They have similar stories. They are their stories. And stories, identities, national identities can become the center of our modern politics. Voters want accessible identities and Castro proved he could handle that. And that's just the one Castro, the other will be in Congress, and eventually the Senate.

So here's the scenario: Obama wins. He plays the long game, a generational change is at hand- an actual argument underling the entire point of the Charlotte convention, lost among the daily media chum. Government and economy restructure together for the long haul. Biden gives every indication starting November 7th that he's running for the nomination and if anything, the Charlotte convention was the real kickoff of Biden's commitment to be the 2016 nominee. He's got legit Internet “first” rights, badass “I can quietly bring you to tears” skills, and is the only person positioned to take the rains of the reconstruction while maintaining global relations. Biden is strong, but he's still just your Average Joe. Come on, it's America where President Biden is serving not only his jokes fresh, but also his coffee. Which is convenient as President Biden has claimed MSNBC's “Morning Joe” program for his own where he highlights independent roasters alongside his broadcasts.

But alongside Biden, Vice President Julian Castro is sworn into office thanks to a receptive electorate and a new electoral destiny. Texas has the attention of a swing state in 2016 for a confluence of reasons and Castro on the ticket only magnifies the activity. With no Governor or US Senate seats up for play, Castro is effectively the Democratic Party in Texas. While not not necessary for an electoral win in 2016 for the Democrats, the GOP finally sees, much sooner than it thought, a very real electoral relevancy problem as Texas lurches away from it. Plus, Joe and Julian get along great, are laid back, funny, two generations, two cultures, just what America is ready for in 2016 and everyone knows it because that means the 46th President, the one after Biden, would be Julian Castro. That fact does some amazing things for youth and Hispanic turnout in 2016, not as big as when Castro takes the Party's nominations banner up after Biden, but with enough certainty that it turns out new voters starting in 2016 as is apparent in Texas and a host of other states.

The only thing I'm not entirely decided on is if Biden serves one or two terms. I could totally see him do a passing of the torch thing, to the next generation. Sort of even makes sense.

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About Author

Former Publisher & Owner of the Burnt Orange Report. Political Thinker, Digital Explorer, and Time Traveler.


  1. Your scenario for Castro focuses on Biden
    So your scenario for a Castro presidency is to follow Biden as the president. It all hinges on Biden, meaning that's the only path. It's an interesting scenario and probably the most unique out there.

    Unfortunately I don't think it's plausible since Clinton seems to be garnering the most attention as the 2016 nominee. Do any of your scenarios take that into account?

    Secondly, while that might be interesting for Castro it does create a political gamble for him in furthering his career. One thing you don't take into account is that Castro is a long-game person and would be content to wait it out. Following a Biden bid as VP has a lot of risks, possibly consigning him to reality TV if Biden lost.

    It's a neat scenario but it's an outlier, in my opinion.

      • Castro for SOS… then President
        Biden will be 74 in 2016 which would make him the oldest Presidential candidate in US history. That's older than McCain(72)and Reagan (69) when they ran for President. I can't really see Biden until serving until the age of 76 or 80.

        Clinton will be 70 in 2016. While she is by far the most qualified and one of the most knowledgeable and respected political figures in the world, I'd be interested in seeing if she's still got the fire she had in 2008 if pitted against someone like Rubio.

        On that note, since Clinton is retiring from the SOS after the 2012 election, SOS Julian Castro might be interesting. Following by Presidential candidate Julian Castro.  

    • Path to president
      I did a column in Plaza de Armas about Castro's next big move. In that column, I pointed out that the path to the presidency has been through one or more of three offices – governor, US senator, or Vice President, with the later being the longest shot.

      No cabinet member has ascended to president since Herbert Hoover. What's to say this would change, especially with the ferocity we vet candidates with these days.

      I think a LOT of people are ignoring reality in living in fantasy situations.

      How about we just elect some Democrat to a statewide office. What's wrong with Land Commissioner, Comptroller, or Agriculture Commissioner? After all, that's how Perry started the shift in statewide offices.

      • My example
        Takes one of those 3 paths- Vice President. So it is more reality than not right?

        My point is that if narrative becomes the “sell” in politics, there is no reason for Castro to waste his time on Texas waking up one of these days and deciding to elect a Democrat. Instead, he could vault up through the Vice Presidency (and sure, that could still happen from something higher than Mayor, I'm not denying that- that's actually more likely in a 2-term Biden with a potential split Vice Presidency opening up the spot in 2020 instead of 2024.  

    • not as big of a political gamble as you think
      Unless Julian Castro is elected to a statewide office in 2014 (and that's surely possible, although its likelihood isn't great), where else does he go? 2016 offers only Railroad Commissioner races on the statewide ballot in Texas, so if he doesn't run in 2014 then he might want to wait until 2018…and waiting to run for something higher would make him stale as a political prospect. Or he runs in 2016 for a low-attention Railroad Commission spot?

      Further, if Obama wins a second term, it's not a bad bet that the economy will finally bolster before 2016 and Democrats will be favored to win that presidential election. (This is the reason this 2012 presidential election is so important — the winner may very well take lots of credit for the economy regardless of their policies.)

      So if, once again, Obama wins reelection and Castro isn't a statewide officeholder after the 2014 elections…why wouldn't he accept the VP nom from Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, or anyone else?

  2. Why wait to Turn Texas Blue?
    This was my first national convention and it was truly amazing and a honor to attend. It was the first political event of any sort, where I was able to just truly enjoy myself and soak it all in. It was wonderful to see so many beautiful faces and share this beautiful week with them. The excitement was real, the speeches were great and the tone was that of a campaign marching to re-election. I could not help but feel that the Democrats just knocked the Romney Ryan campaign off their high horse, were kicking them while they were down and then just put a boot on their neck. All while speaking calmly and pointing to simple arithmetic.

    Like many other people from Texas, I felt this convention really put some momentum in the step of Texas Democrats, wind in the sails of our collective Turn Texas Blue dream. Maybe it was just because so many of us became famous from being on TV, or maybe because the kool-aid was strong, there is no doubt we all could feel the energy in the air.

    However I think there was more to it than kool-aid. I think given the national spotlight the Castro's and other Texans filled so well,  the national discussion began to turn to something we have had brewing in Texas for years. “It might be possible to turn Texas blue. What happens if Texas is a battle ground? What happens if Democrats actually win the war? It will be a game changer. Nothing will ever be the same.”

    Even Nate Silver could not help but pile on. Fueling the fire nationally about what so many of us have been working on, believing in and fighting for, for so long. Part of me wants to yell, no duh! Why the hell do you think Texas Democrats have been fighting so hard for so long?

    Honestly though, I am just excited that the cat is out of the bag. The discussion about winning Texas is now out in the wild nationally and the future is wide open. I  have believed since I was the Field Director for Obama in 2008 that the pieces to the puzzle are on the table, its just a question can we put it together? The answer is simply, YES WE CAN.

    I love KT's scenario. And Kath25's is a sure fire ticket to some high octane grassroots excitement. But I am going to dream big for a moment. I don't believe we need a handout, we can build this ourselves. I have always believed that if we can get a Democrat into the Governors office, that Texas Democrat would be on the short list for President. If you are able to win Texas, its hard to argue with front runner status out of the gate.

    And I truly believe, we as Texas Democrats can do this. Our math is already there. Our base is already registered and just waiting for someone to come talk to them. Our major county parties are already running coordinated campaigns, we just need to coordinated a campaign statewide. Our rural counties are hungry. Our candidates are already giving the keynotes at the DNC Convention, they are just waiting to see if we can build the infrastructure of political opportunity.

    I believed that it was possible for a one term US Senator to jump up and grab the Presidency, why not a one term Texas Governor? A Texas Governor who just took out the longest serving Governor in Texas history. Why should we wait for 2016 for the national organizations to dictate the time to kick the tires and light the fires? I don't want to sit through one more cycle while we wait for the time. I know that we have the people power, I know we have the candidates and walking out of the convention, I felt a little bit of the good ol fashion momentum.  

  3. Thanks for the feedback Debbie D.
    You are right. I am one of the convention attending, hardcore folks, with no clear understanding of reality. I am “just plain ridiculous.” I have no perspective on the matter. I have never done any work in the field of statewide organizing in Texas.  Never worked on this math problem before.

    “…2014 for at least one down ballot statewide office PROVIDED Texas Democrats will field the right candidate AND the party machinery will back that candidate solidly.”

    You and I do agree on this. We need a state party based coordinated campaign to make any campaign viable. Does not matter if its for the top of the ticket or down ballot.  I am not sure why it could not be governor? And I think that Abbot might have to talk to Perry about it being locked up. But golly you know whats up, so lets bank it.

    Pack it up folks, its clear we have no chance in 2014. Good to know we are throwing in the 2014 towel before the 2012 cycle is even over.

    In all honesty our math is not that far off. Our targeting is what is off. We are around 500k votes short in Governor year. We can find those votes already registered in safe democratic house districts.

    We just need to go talk to them.

    You and I do agree, we need a long term base building strategy. If we want to see increased turnout in base precincts than then we need to spend time talking to voters in base precincts. There is not a magic wand that can be waved and turnout base voters, its just good old fashion organizing.

    • Reality
      See, I can already see you're not really following the political movements in TX regarding these races. Let's start with Abbott and the governor's race. Perry has essentially announced but Abbott has already said he'd challenge Perry even if Perry does run. Words coming from a lot of insiders say that Perry may say he'll run but the support just isn't there for him. Expect Perry to pull out and go make some money.

      Looking at the numbers, those 500K voters would have been 10% more of the voting population in that race. Finding 10% in a race that historically runs 35% turnout is pretty challenging.  Unless you can accomplish some miracle, it's not going to happen.

      But when I mention a down ballot race, it's like that's just absurd. You need to follow the track of how Republicans turned the statewides around for their favor. Perry didn't start out running for governor or lite gov. He started in the Ag Commissioner slot and built statewide name recognition, as well as working with an energized based established by Rove.

      This is what frustrates me about the TDP. There is no real strategy. Just a bunch of people nostalgic for the good old days and idealistic that voters are just going to wake up and vote Democratic (“we just need to talk to them”). I'm not throwing in the towel. I'm just saying we're not even in the game to throw a towel in.

      • You win buddy.
        You have convinced me you know more than I do. About the inside workings of the republican establishment, the game changing math, where to start our comeback and general optimism.

        But for the shake of arguing with a know it all…

        “Looking at the numbers, those 500K voters would have been 10% more of the voting population in that race. Finding 10% in a race that historically runs 35% turnout is pretty challenging.  Unless you can accomplish some miracle, it's not going to happen.”

        I do know something, we have never even really tried it. A surge of 500K voters is not impossible it just take a true commitment to organizing.

        To be clear, that does not even get us to a win. It just brings our DPI up to the 44-46% range, so that a creditable candidate is even in striking distance. Top of the ballot or further down, either way, this step is important.

        “But when I mention a down ballot race, it's like that's just absurd. You need to follow the track of how Republicans turned the statewides around for their favor.”

        Actually its pretty clear that before the republicans won a statewide race, they spent a lot of time and money winning at the local level, county wide races, etc. They spent a lot of time on a strategy that worked even before they won a statewide race. We can work that strategy or we can come up with our own new strategy.

        “This is what frustrates me about the TDP. There is no real strategy. Just a bunch of people nostalgic for the good old days and idealistic that voters are just going to wake up and vote Democratic (“we just need to talk to them”). I'm not throwing in the towel. I'm just saying we're not even in the game to throw a towel in.”

        I understand your point, and to a degree its true. In general the strategy was a talk to them with a magic message and they will vote democratic again, plan. However the people they were talking about were/are anglo voters in swing precinct in swing house district and rural voters. Most of them with a heavy republican voting history. But the theory was / is some model plus some message means that one time, for that one race, we could make them vote Democratic again.

        Clearly that is not the future of the party. Its not a strategy to build a base. I do believe there is movement towards talking to the right people with the new leadership of the party, the methods however are still debatable. Its not clear people in Texas want to to do what the Democratic party does in FL, OH, NV, NM among many other states and run an organizer based system.

        I am not against trying to win a down ballot race. No matter what race we win, the time we turn the map blue it will be a victory for everyone who has worked so hard. It will prove what people think is impossible is possible. It will set the stage for bigger and harder fights in the future. But that loser monkey on our collective backs will be gone.

        However I am not for writing off the entire Governors race because some dude from SA says we are not even in the game. Sorry brother, we are in the game, lets try to win one huh?

        I firmly believe that if we begin the process of organizing a statewide coordinated campaign, begin a real investment in an organizer based strategy, target less than likely voters in under preforming high DPI precincts (majority of which are in safe house districts) and do it before Oct of an election year, we really would be running a new strategy based on doing something you think is impossible, increasing our turnout dramatically is base precincts. Why has it not worked so far? Because we have not done it.

        But heck, I still might be drunk on the post convention kool-aid.

        • Fun Fact (actually a depressing one)
          Of the 26 particular safe / safest Democratic state House districts, only 6 turned out at a better rate than the state as a whole in 2008.

          Only 3 of those 26 turned out better than average in 2010.  

  4. Different paths
    We can (and do) disagree about the likelihood of this or that scenario for electing Democrats, but it sounds like we're mostly agreed on Things That Would Help:

    1) Better voter registration and voter mobilization, especially in the Hispanic community. Getting Texas Hispanics to vote isn't the same as getting Hispanics in New York or California to vote. The communities here are much older (older than the state) and have their own habits and traditions. For a variety of reasons, Texas Hispanics turn out heavily in the primaries and weakly in the general election. Fixing that requires both a lot of effort from the party and a change in the local culture. Neither one by itself will be enough.

    2) Electing a farm team. With no statewide wins in the last eon, we don't have experienced candidates for the top offices. Sometimes you can leapfrog into contention with appointed office or with a brilliant nationwide speech, but most of the time you can't.  We've got some great young stars in the Lege, but most of our congressional heroes are aging. (Joachim Castro is set to be an exception. We need more.) Our current congressmen are not going to be the ones carrying the ball 10 years from now.

    3) Blocking and tackling. Running everywhere, registering everywhere, and making a strong case for Democratic values everywhere. That's how you get voters' attention.

    4) Taking advantage of freak events. The usual path to higher office is through lower office, but every once in a while somebody does come in from nowhere, through a combination of luck and hard work. We need to push hard for our statewide candidates and hope that lightning strikes, even as we know that it probably won't.  

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