Cepeda column: Why isn’t Julián Castro getting the same media attention as the other candidates?
CHICAGO — Why aren’t I as sick and tired of Julián Castro as I was of Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke in March and as I am now of media-flavor-of-the-month, Pete Buttigieg?
I want to have Castro fatigue. I want to snark online about the glamour-shot treatment he got on the cover of whatever influential magazine the East Coast reveres most at the moment. I want his appearances on late-night TV shows to be the stuff of breathless news reports for days.
I want to be able to pass no newsstand, click on no news website and walk by no TV without seeing Castro giving a speech or rolling up his shirtsleeves.
This isn’t because I have any sort of interest in Castro — he’s fine. I have no beef with him.
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To be honest, most people here in the heartland are not already invested in the 2020 presidential campaign. The stampede of candidates is overwhelming and baffling even to those who are already following the horse-race coverage of who’s up or down in the polls.
The reason why I want Castro to start taking up space in the public’s mind is because it’s annoying how the media anoints “hot” candidates — even if the ardor only lasts a fleeting moment — and they seem to never be female or people of color.
On paper, Castro checks so many boxes. He’s young, he’s Latino, he has as much experience as Beto and Mayor Pete, he can appeal to the right with his strong religious beliefs.
But even Castro’s time as a former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development can be read as problematic.
“Consider … his relationship with Hillary Clinton, his time in politics, and I think compared to the two others mentioned, Julián Castro is considered to be a part of the establishment that needs to change,” journalist Shahrazad Maria Encinias told me, via Facebook, echoing the sentiments of other journalists I reached out to in order to discuss Castro’s campaign.
And, for that matter, many think that, despite Castro’s resume, there’s not a lot of “there” there.
“I have worked for three elected officials and volunteered on several campaigns,” another Facebook pal, Shelli Romero, told me. When I consider Castro, I think of him as young and inexperienced. And I don’t know what he has accomplished — maybe he has accomplishments, but he does not talk about them enough. I don’t know who would be identified as his base. I have not heard concrete issues that would cause me to associate with him. … I am not sure what issues to identify when it comes to Castro.”
The Twitter account for the PBS documentary “Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle” chalked it up to Castro being a little unrelatable: “His handlers have reduced him to role of competent functionary, endorsed by elite institutions. Perhaps a function of white supremacy that they are obscuring any personal, idiosyncratic aspect of his experience — or maybe the guy is just that niño bueno (“good boy”) robotic.”
Still, others were more forceful about perceived media bias. One of my Twitter pals declared that the problem is: “Racism against Mexicans. It’s as simple as that. Julian has more national experience [than] Pete.”
Even President Trump feels Castro is no threat to his reelection campaign — we know this because Trump hasn’t blessed Castro with a snarky moniker or signature put-down.
Writing on the Latino Rebels blog, theologian Melissa Cedillo noted a disparity: “Castro is bringing his religion to the main stage and embodying Mexican-American faith in a way that not been seen before.” Yet, Cedillo writes, “White Christianity often dominates the political narrative when it comes to faith.” Are progressives “more comfortable hearing about faith from a white man than a Latino man?”
It’s difficult to imagine that attractiveness, skin color, height and other cues and markers of social class and ethnicity don’t play into the lack of coverage for Castro.
It’s unknown whether the media has declined to breathlessly cover the young, Latino candidate’s every move because more people aren’t excited about him or if Castro is not breaking through because he just can’t get the camera crews and news site bloggers themselves excited.
It’s a shame that Castro may end up as another example of the way that, at this American moment, Latinos’ prospects for success are likely limited by our complexions, hair color and surnames.
Esther Cepeda’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter: @estherjcepeda.
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