Column: Jill Biden and GOP are two sides of a breakfast taco

Dr. Jill Biden stood in front of a packed hotel banquet hall this week in San Antonio and tried to inspire people by talking about her husband’s profile on Latino issues.

Instead, the first lady joined a growing club: a footballing club of favored politicians who tried to use Mexican food to win votes.

Speaking at the national convention of UnidosUS, a civil rights organization known for decades as the National Council of La Raza, the first lady praised longtime president Raul Yzaguirre’s vision for building Build a nonprofit that doesn’t just focus on a group of Latinos.

“Raul helped build this organization with the understanding that the diversity of this community – as distinct as the Bronx bodegas, as beautiful as the flowers in Miami and as unique as the breakfast tacos in San Antonio – are strength. yours,” she said, mispronouncing “bodegas.”

Biden giggled after the delivery, as if she expected a warm round of applause from the city where breakfast banh tet – like burgers, except they’re banh tet – are gospel. Instead there was nervous laughter and a few applause. She smiled and continued.

2022 is 2022, America is not.

Through her press secretary, the first lady soon apologized “that her words failed to convey anything but pure admiration and love for the Latino community.”

Republican politicians like Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Dan Crenshaw – you know, whose party is still behind a former president who has said that Mexican immigrants are “these are the people of the United States.” rapists” and Central American refugees from “shithole countries” – accused Biden of being out of touch with Latinos.

The Democrats largely kept quiet and left poor Biden alone, like the last sad tortilla chip in a bowl.

Assn National. meanwhile, Hispanic journalists criticized Biden for his “lack of cultural knowledge and sensitivity to Latino diversity” in Alamo City. And then, in perhaps the most unintentional quote of the year, it added, “We’re not banh tet.”

But we are. We are also bodegas and flowers that Biden uses as metaphors to praise Puerto Ricans in New York and Cubans in South Florida – metaphors that the NAHJ and Republicans have no trouble with.

So why beef – or rather chorizo ​​and eggs – with breakfast tacos?

Julian Castro Mexican restaurant

In 2019, presidential candidate Julian Castro, right, talks to Rolando Cuevas and Alma Márquez about a plate of huevos rancheros during a campaign stop at La Parrilla Restaurant in East Los Angeles.

(Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

Mexican food has long been a part of a presidential campaign, ever since John F. Kennedy received a 48-pound tamale as a birthday present from the San Antonio-based National Taco Council in 1961 “on behalf of citizens of the United States of Latino heritage,” according to the press release.

The primary season has long seen candidates from all sides perform photo shoots at Mexican restaurants, often accompanied by local Latino politicians.

Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama hosted lavish diplomatic parties with Mexican food (Gipper invited real Mexican chefs; Barry accompanied Rick Bayless). Jesse Jackson praised Democratic vice-presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen in 1988 for being able to “go from biscuit to bun to caviar really quickly, knowing it was just cultural diversity. made America”. Bill Clinton frequents the vintage Tex-Mex cafe Mi Tierra in San Antonio, so much so that it has a picture of Slick Willie jogging – guess what! – Mi Tierra Cafe T-shirt.

Not every presidential administration has the right political mix. Richard Nixon once turned down a giant enchilada from the National Taco Board. Gerald Ford bit into a tamale still wrapped in rice husks.

Then there was Donald Trump’s infamous 2016 tweet declaring, “I love Hispanics!” accompanied by a picture of him grinning in front of a giant taco salad.

UnidosUS President Janet Murguia told the New York Times, “I don’t know that any self-respecting Latino would admit that taco bowls are part of our culture” — never mind that the Chicanos here California and beyond have enjoyed taco salads for decades.

Using Mexican food as a campaign was previously safe, like grabbing a bagel in Manhattan, wrapping up a Philly cheeseburger in Brotherly Love City, or drinking a Schlitz beer in Wisconsin.

That was before 2020, when Trump – the most racist president in recent American history – not only did not lose Latino support from 2016 but increased it.

Suddenly, Republicans realized they had won votes from Mexican-Americans, who have historically overwhelmingly supported Democrats, mainly because GOP officials had long viewed them as invaders. The recent victory of Mayra Flores – a QAnon-watching Republican from South Texas who will not answer whether President Biden was legally elected – as the first Mexican-born House representative only added to their feverish dreams.

That’s why conservatives suddenly doing their worst wake-up impersonation and claiming that Biden and the Democrats are racist for claiming that Latinos are banh tet.

But that clumsy is also why the writer of the first lady’s UnidosUS speech threw in breakfast tacos. They are a culinary staple of Texas, but especially San Antonio, where the first meal has been widely acclaimed. (Don’t believe Austin.) It is hoped that by shouting out this beloved local staple, Biden will be seen as far more knowledgeable and attuned to Latinos than Republicans and will be able to keep his popularity. Latino support at a time when her husband was in dire need. it.

Tacos are no longer neutral. It becomes weaponized in the name of possessing the other side.

Immediately after Biden’s apology, I called Jose R. Ralat, taco editor at Texas Monthly and author of “American Tacos: A History and Guide,” the second-best book on Mexican culinary history. in the United States, after my book. . He took me out for tacos in San Antonio this May and I was still full but that sadly didn’t include breakfast tacos.

Ralat told me over the phone: “My friends are like ‘meh’. “It’s not an argument; it is a fake pas. It’s the equivalent of the groom’s mother wearing white to the wedding.”

He criticized Republicans as “reckless and cynical.” But he also applauded Biden for setting himself up for failure.

“Her big mistake was trying to lump an incredibly diverse cultural group into one thing,” he said. “It’s always been impossible, and that’s always going to be counterproductive.”

For National Assn worth laughing. In the statement of the Hispanic Journalist, Ralat – a member – was even less forgiving.

“They have more important fish to fry, man,” he said. “They need to focus on diversifying the newsrooms.”

Despite Biden’s comments, Ralat predicts that politicians will continue to eat and shout out banh tet throughout this year’s midterms and beyond.

“Taco is seen as an accessible subject and is enjoyed by Latinos in general,” he said. “And as we’ve seen, it doesn’t always work. But, hey: At least it’s not corndogs. “ Column: Jill Biden and GOP are two sides of a breakfast taco

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