Soren Franz / Photo Editor

Alex Harvey

Equinox Staff

Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and current presidential candidate Julian Castro shared his vision for a better America in the Flag Room of the Young Student Center on April 28. Castro was introduced by New Hampshire State Representative and KSC alumnus William Pearson.

“I’m not interested in making this country anything again,” Castro said. “I don’t want to go backwards, I want to go forward. I want to make this country better than it’s ever been.” Castro added that “restoring honesty and integrity” in The White House is the only thing he is interested in “going back” to. In his speech, Castro outlined his vision for an America that is better than ever. “In the years to come America needs to be the smartest, healthiest, fairest, and most prosperous nation on Earth,” Castro said. Castro said he believes that the key to achieving this goal is to broaden America’s social safety net. Castro claimed to have plans for universal education, affordable housing, and universal health care coming in the next few weeks.

If elected president, Castro is going to ask the country to invest in its youth, their development, and their education. Castro said he believes in providing universal child care and pre-school. “My brother and I are the proud products of San Antonio’s public schools,”  Castro said. Castro stressed the need to reform America’s public school system by “decreasing class sizes and paying teachers what they deserve” and also provide better services for students with special needs. Investing in America’s education system does not stop with public K-12 schooling. Castro said he also believes in providing Americans with universal college and/or job training. Critics of universal college have long complained about the potential tax cost with such a system, but Castro argues that tuition in public state schools was low or non-existent as recently as thirty years ago. Exorbitant tuition rates are a relatively recent phenomenon in America. “It wasn’t that long ago that a lot of the state university systems in this country were either tuition free or very nearly free,” Castro said. Castro claimed that California’s university system was tuition free into the late 70s and early 80s and that in Texas thirty years ago, tuition rates averaged around fifty dollars per credit hour. “This isn’t radical but we need to do it more now than ever before,” Castro said.

Another aspect of Castro’s plan to “Make America better than ever before” is a reform of the American healthcare system. “I want to strengthen medicare for people who have it and make it available for everyone,” Castro said. Castro took a moderate approach to universal healthcare. Rather than imposing a national healthcare system, individuals who are already happy with their health insurance will have the option to remain on their existing plans, while acknowledging that individuals should have the freedom to be able to choose their own healthcare plan. “What I don’t believe is that the profit motive should ever prevent anybody in this country from getting the healthcare that they need, when they need it,” Castro said.

Castro said he also believes that mental healthcare is as important as physical healthcare, and that many Americans are deprived of the mental health treatment that they need, for a variety of reasons. “Get rid of this distinction between physical healthcare and mental healthcare. We need to recognize the importance of mental healthcare,” Castro said. He added that many health insurance plans do not cover mental healthcare.

Castro said that he believes America needs to have a strong, secure border, but he also believes that America’s southern border is already more secure than it has ever been. “Six hundred miles of border fencing, thousands of personnel, we have guns, we have planes, we have helicopters, we have boats, we have security cameras,”  Castro said. “Don’t confuse the fact that a lot of people are coming toward our border with not having a secure border.” Castro said that America’s border security should focus less on undocumented immigration and more on stopping human and drug traffickers.

“We should be leading the world in providing good environmentally friendly jobs,”  Castro said. “There’s no reason we should cede this ground to China.”

Many of these are common ideas that have been popular among progressives for years. During the 2016 election cycle the idea of Democratic Socialism was brought into the mainstream by Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign for president, as well as Senator Elizabeth Warren’s involvement in the election cycle. Since then, a new branch of progressive politicians and voters has risen in the Democratic party, in contrast to the old school party loyalists who supported Clinton in 2016. While Castro’s platform may have sounded radical to American ears four years ago, in 2019 he has serious competition. Marijuana legalization, raising the minimum wage to 15 dollars per hour, tax reform, and re-entering the Paris Climate Agreement are all standard platform issues for Democrats today. Even Castro’s vow not to take any money from Super PACs is unoriginal amongst Democrats now.

According to multiple sources including RealClearPolitics, Castro is polling very low among Democratic candidates, but this does not bother him. Castro said that the presidential race has just begun and he is not concerned about not being a frontrunner in April 2019 because he believes he will be a front runner in July 2020. “There are a lot of people in this room, in this city, in this state, in this country who don’t feel like a front runner all the time,” Castro said.

Despite his stiff competition, Castro said that he has an advantage in the election because he has what it takes to take on President Donald Trump. Castro cited the Mueller Report, and said that Trump should be impeached on ten counts of Obstruction of Justice. Castro said that it is imperative that Congress impeach Trump before the election because if they do not it will set a bad precedent for future leaders and the future of America. “We won’t beat Trump by being Trump, we’re never going to out-gutter him,” Castro said. Castro compared the upcoming presidential election to a game of football. “When the Patriots are defeated they probably aren’t defeated by a team with a similar skill set. They’re probably defeated by a team that is excellent at its own skill set,” Castro said. Castro said that the key to defeating Donald Trump in 2020 is to be the opposite of him. “I’m the opposite of Donald Trump. He’s seen as somebody who at least has an ethical cloud hanging over him, I want to be seen as a beacon of integrity,” Castro said.

Keene Community Member Abe Lopez was already familiar with Castro and wanted to learn more about his policies. “I’m from Texas so I know of Julian, and I saw on my friend’s Snapchat that he was at this event, so I came on over, to see what he had to say,” Lopez said. Lopez, who recently moved to New Hampshire from Texas, is fascinated by the election cycle. “It’s really exciting that since it’s one of the first states in the primary, all of the candidates come here. New Hampshireans [sic] should feel very privileged. Even living in a city like Austin where I was originally from, candidates almost never came,” Lopez said.

Vice President of the Keene State College Democrats and political science major Ryan Meehan introduced William Pearson. Meehan was also interested in studying Castro as a candidate. “I believe he’s the only Democratic candidate who has rolled out a specific policy platform on immigration, which is interesting given how central that has been,” Meehan said. Meehan said that Castro’s immigration reform plan would still leave undocumented immigrants open to civil offenses and deportation, but would not allow them to be charged with federal crimes. “That’s the reason this administration has been able to separate children from their families, because they are being charged with a crime, and that allows them to separate the parents from their kids,” Meehan said. Meehan also said that this is the most interesting part of Castro’s immigration policy and that the rest of it consists of “generic” policies such as not building a border wall.

While the event well attended, attendance by KSC students was low, to the dismay of students and community members at the event. Lopez noticed and was bothered by the low student turnout to the meeting. “That’s concerning, since students are over 18 they can vote as well. They do make-up thirty to forty percent of the population of Keene, so that’s kind of a low turnout,” Lopez said.

“Students are one of the least likely groups to turn out. It doesn’t surprise me, but I do wish that there were more students involved,” Meehan said.

Alex Harvey can be contacted at

aharvey@kscequinox.com

 

This article was updated on May 7, 2019, to remove an incorrect draft that was posted in its place. We apologize for the posting the draft of this article.