Former presidential candidate Julián Castro thinks Democrats should consider adding more justices to the Supreme Court if Senate Republicans rush to confirm a justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg this year, a reversal from his belief during his presidential campaign.
“For many of us, that wasn't our preference, but the fact is you have Mitch McConnell not abiding by, not working in good faith under the Constitution. … If you have that kind of abuse of the system, then I think that, yeah, Democrats should be open to different ways that we can stave off draconian changes to our fundamental rights,” he told BuzzFeed’s News O’Clock podcast on Monday.
Castro, who said in a Democratic primary debate last October that he “would not pack the court” as president, said on Monday that with reproductive rights, voting rights, and healthcare hanging in the balance, Democrats should consider structural reform to the court.
“When those are the stakes, and Mitch McConnell is the one who’s abused this system, then yeah, I think we need to be open to considering either adding more justices or other structural reforms that will prevent this kind of abuse in the future,” he said.
Listen to Castro's full comments in Monday's episode of News O'Clock.
Adding more justices to the Supreme Court, once a fringe idea, has become widely popular among progressives in the last year. Castro became a favorite among progressives late in his race and has recently been offering public advice to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. In a separate interview late last week, Castro, the only Latino to run for this year’s Democratic presidential nomination, said he believed Biden has been making progress among Latino voters but knows he has more left to do.
“I believe the campaign gets it in that they understand they have work to do,” Castro said, adding that he thinks that Biden will pick up Latino support by Nov. 3 because the campaign is now investing in voter registration, bilingual messaging across platforms, and tailored outreach to different Latino communities, rather than treating them as one unified voting block.
He said the Biden campaign has “a nuanced approach.”
“Out there in Florida where you have a pan-Latino community that ranges from Cuban Americans to Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, it’s not a monolithic community, and I think the campaign gets that,” he said.
After endorsing Biden in June, Castro has been taking part in some Biden campaign events. He’s also been talking about what matters to Latino voters, including this week at a Telemundo town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders. Though Biden has been competitive or ahead of President Donald Trump in many swing states, his campaign has struggled to build momentum among Latino voters. A poll over the weekend showed Biden winning Latino voters over Trump 62% to 26%, similar to the Latino support that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.
Castro’s campaign focused on progressive policy and racial justice issues. The former Obama cabinet secretary was the first Democrat in the race to have a comprehensive police reform plan, a progressive immigration plan, and a specific plan to address disparities faced by Native Americans. This summer, he launched the People First Future political action committee to support progressive candidates, and last week released the first episode of a new podcast focusing on underserved communities.
He has been outspoken about the lack of diversity in both parties; he criticized the minimal inclusion of Latino speakers at the Democratic National Convention recently and was vocal throughout his campaign about the disadvantages faced by both candidates and communities of color.
In last week’s interview, Castro said he’s “hopeful” but “not naive” that the US is making progress toward addressing racial inequities. He said any progress, though, is hampered by “a president who’s the biggest race-baiter, the biggest racial grievance politician that we’ve had since George Wallace on the national stage.”
Castro called Trump’s racist threats about people of color, particularly those in low-income housing, endangering white suburban communities “shameful.”
“It’s a naked ploy to stoke white fear about Black Americans and other people of color. It’s a lie. He lied about what the policy is. The fair housing rule was simply meant to provide fair housing opportunity to everybody, no matter their background. He lied about who is in the suburbs today. The suburbs are more diverse than they are when we passed the Fair Housing Act in 1968,” Castro, who served as housing secretary during the Obama administration, said.
“I believe he’s misrepresenting what’s in the hearts of many white Americans. I don't believe the majority of white Americans are sitting at home trying to figure out how they can keep Black people out of their neighborhood. He’s selling them short,” he said.
Castro said that in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis, he’s been heartened by the “vast outpouring of support for making progress in our country towards racial justice that included many white people, people of all different backgrounds,” including “a greater commitment at least in words by corporate America, by public officials, police departments, sports, celebrities, and people marching in the streets to press for racial justice.”
The question now, he said, is whether people will carry that motivation through to voting and pushing for change in corporate and nonprofit organizations.
“I’m hopeful, you know. I’m not naive,” he said. “I don’t think it's comfortable for a lot of people to do so, and I don’t think it’s second nature for a lot of people to do so either. But I also believe that most people have a kind heart and that they want to do it, most people.”
The Castro campaign’s progressive policy agenda and focus on communities of color won praise among progressive activists. Now, with the nomination of one of the least progressive candidates of the dozens of Democrats who ran this cycle, some activists have wondered if they’re being asked to shelve the progressive reforms they’ve been pushing for to defeat Trump. Castro said he’s not concerned that progressives won’t turn out for Biden.
“I’m confident that the vast majority of people who recognize what a danger Donald Trump represents also recognize that Joe Biden would do a much better job than Donald Trump, and they will turn out to vote for Joe Biden,” he said.
“Is it the case that there’s a more progressive vision out there than the one that Joe Biden has? On some issues, sure. It’s also true that Joe Biden has the most progressive vision of any Democratic nominee that we’ve ever had on a whole number of issues,” he added. “So if Joe Biden is elected we have a wonderful opportunity to do great progressive work in the next administration.”