Speaking to audiences of Latino activists, entrepreneurs and achievers, three Democratic candidates for president — and one potential running mate — voiced an unsurprising but essential lineup of domestic political themes on Monday.
The National Council of La Raza, holding its annual conference in Kansas City, heard presidential contenders Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders speak with varying degrees of passion about economic opportunity, jobs, education and the need to fix the nation’s broken immigration system.
Julian Castro, the former San Antonio mayor who heads the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and who is often spoken of as a potential vice presidential candidate in 2016, added his voice to many of the same themes.
And all, rather expectedly, weighed in on the political stink bomb that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tossed into the race, his untoward generalizations about Mexican immigrants.
“Americans,” Castro said of Trump, “will not stand for your rhetoric or your hatred — not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”
There was little daylight in the positions the candidates espoused. With audiences eager to become engaged in the moment and in the political process, it was also an opportunity to gauge the candidates’ styles.
Sanders, the New York-born senator from Vermont, was the firebrand who spoke about “the stain of racism,” immigration reform and economic polices. O’Malley, the lesser-known former governor of Maryland, earnestly touted his work on promoting immigration reform, freezing college tuition and boosting the minimum wage. Clinton, the former senator and U.S. secretary of state, carefully modulated her voice for rhetorical effect while touching all those bases. She added her perspective, as a grandmother and a warrior for women’s rights, on opportunity, education and families. “Quality affordable child care is not a luxury,” Clinton said, “it’s a growth strategy.”
The idea of Latinos sharing America’s destiny was an oft-heard theme.
Said O’Malley: “The genius of our country is not so much where you came from, it’s about where you’re going and where we’re all going together.”
Clinton embraced comprehensive immigration reform — “it’s time to get it done once and for all” — as a fundamental benefit to the nation as a whole. “This is an economic imperative, a family imperative, a moral imperative and an American imperative,” she said.
And Clinton rightly batted back GOP candidate Jeb Bush’s recent comment about workers needing to log longer hours to get ahead. Referring to the day-long labors of farm field workers and “nurses who stand up all day,” she countered: “They don’t need a lecture, they need a raise.”
Janet Murguia, the Kansas City, Kan., native who worked in President Bill Clinton’s White House and has run the National Council of La Raza for 10 years, addressed the rising voice of Hispanic America and its importance in politics. “Our mantra must continue to be ‘Naturalize, register and vote’ — our country’s future depends on it,” she said.
It’s a very long way to the November 2016 presidential election. Yet, the primaries are just six months down the road. The Democratic candidates in Kansas City gave listeners valuable, up-close views of what they think the election should be about.