Within days of dropping out of the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination, Julián Castro, Obama’s former Secretary of Housing, endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president. At a quick glance, it seemed like an odd choice as she appears to be dropping in recent polls. Her recent push for a ridiculously expensive Medicare-for-all plan ultimately hurt her candidacy because no one bought her explanation for how it would be paid for. Why not endorse one of those who appears to be in a decent position to win the Iowa caucuses? Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Joe Biden are virtually neck and neck, while Warren’s standing in the state has been on the decline since October.
So, what’s Castro playing at?
Election analysts have been predicting for at least a year that the 2020 Democratic ticket will be a split between a man and a woman. In fact, the entire 2020 Democratic primary has been defined as much by identity politics as it has anti-Trumpism. Earlier in the campaign, the slate of candidates was seen as a reflection of diversity. In addition to old white men, they had women, minorities, and they even have a homosexual. It was the perfect metaphor for a party that claims to be tolerant of any group as long as they agree with them.
Months earlier, various candidates, particularly the male ones, promised that they’d choose a woman to share the ticket with them. This wasn’t just simple pandering, mind you, this was reflecting the political reality that Democrats care as much about identity as they do policy. Democrats want a ticket that purports to represent their pro-diversity values. However, as minority candidates started dropping out or failing to qualify for debates, the Democrats front and center became increasing white and male. The only minority that made the stage at the December debate was Andrew Yang—and, let’s face it, when it comes to the left’s racial policies, they tend to favor other minorities over Asians. Harvard University, for example, has been accused of discriminating against Asian Americans over other minorities in their affirmative action policies.
So, for Julián Castro, endorsing Elizabeth Warren makes sense. Publicly endorsing her could give her candidacy a measurable boost before Iowa. He wasn’t exactly polling all that well, but the publicity of the endorsement could give those on the fence reason to think again about Warren. He could have endorsed any of the top three candidates in Iowa, but they’re all white males who, should they win Iowa and go on to win the nomination, will definitely not be picking Castro as their running mate. Elizabeth Warren, however, might just have Castro on her radar, and for more than one reason.
As a man of Mexican descent, he’s exactly the kind of minority that a Warren ticket could use in a battle against Donald Trump. Better yet, he’s from Texas—a state with a lot of electoral votes that has been trending purple lately and Democrats have been hoping for a hostile takeover. That won’t happen in 2020, but Democrats dare to dream.
Elizabeth Warren may not win the nomination, but if Castro wants a chance to be on the ticket, endorsing her was his best play. He knows how identity politics works in his party. We all do.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis