Could we see a Latino U.S. President? | OP-ED
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Monday, Feb. 20, was President’s Day, and if you know anything about U.S. presidents outside of the years 2008 to 2016, they’ve all been white. In fact, looking at the whole of U.S. government history outside of the last decade, and it’s painfully white.
There have been your trailblazers, but it’s really been the last decade or so that’s seen the most progress away from a white-dominated Washington D.C.
It started with President Barack Obama in 2008. He didn’t usher in the “post-racial” world everyone in the media thought he would at the time, but did take the lead in diversifying the halls of power in the U.S.
Since then, the number Black and Latino reps has multiplied by exponential numbers.
Before Obama took office, only four Latino senators had ever served at the same time in the U.S. Senate, and that was before Obama took one of them — Ken Salazar — to be his Secretary of the Interior. No Latina had also ever served in the Senate.
Heading into the 118th Congress of 2023, there are six Latino Senators serving at the same time, one of them being the first Latina ever in Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto.
The impact is even starker in the U.S. House, where 52 representatives of Latino or Hispanic descent had served in the 231 years before Obama’s election in 2008. In the 15 years after, 63 representatives of Hispanic or Latino descent have been elected, with the 118th Congress boasting the biggest class of Latinos ever.
With that growth, also comes more potential for some of those leaders to elevate to even higher rungs of the U.S. government. Biden’s administration boasts the first Latino HHS Secretary and DHS Secretary in Xavier Becerra and Alejandro Mayorkas, respectively.
But what about those that could eventually challenge for the chief executive’s office in the White House? Sure, Becerra is currently 12th in line and Mayorkas is 18th, but we’re talking about those Latino figures who could capture the nation’s support in a presidential campaign.
There’s a growing roster, and the reality is there will likely be a Latino president at some point in my millennial-Gen Z cusper life (born 1996).
Here’s some top candidates:
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — Yes, this still feels like a longshot in 2023, but 2024 will be the first year she’s eligible to file her name in a presidential election if she so chooses. She’s progressive and wars with her party far too often to be a viable candidate right now, but give it time. Anyone with AOC’s appeal to the youth and social media following — one of the biggest in the world, not just the U.S. — could hang with the big dogs in a race for the White House.
- Rep. Ruben Gallego — Gallego still has to win his upcoming 2024 race against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and a Republican challenger, but he has the leadership chops and appeal to be a formidable candidate if he can get some backing. He’s a military vet and has never been shy to let the world know his feelings about the issues that matter to him and Arizonans.
- Rep. Joaquin Castro — Sure, his brother Julian ran and didn’t make it very far in the 2020 Democratic primaries, but he did put the Castro name on the national radar. Joaquin also holds a longtime post on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was a manager in the second impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
- Rep. Pete Aguilar — A relatively unknown California representative before last year, Aguilar is now the highest-ranking Latino in Congress as the chair of the House Democratic Caucus.