Column: De León embodied the American dream. After racist audio leak, he’s living a political nightmare, in the making
By JONATHAN ROGERS
February 03, 2014
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
De León is a Latino man of immigrant descent, the son of Cuban immigrants, who, since the 1960s, has lived a life of relative prosperity and privilege. He grew up in a middle-class Miami neighborhood before heading off to college and eventually, then, to a law career in Chicago — where he was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1988.
On that occasion, De León joined the Democratic majority’s successful efforts to curb the influence of lobbyists on members of Congress and to pass major laws, such as bankruptcy reform and the 1994 crime bill. Over the course of his career, De León has won plaudits for his bipartisan efforts, especially as Washington’s culture of compromise has turned into a partisan affair.
At the time of his election, he earned the label “crony capitalist” from many U.S. conservatives. But now, after months of the Republican National Committee’s smear machine, De León is being called on the carpet for his willingness to break the mold and cooperate with Obama.
Obama’s election in 2008, which resulted in Democrats gaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 28 years, saw him take action on gun control and climate change.
While some have called Obama a socialist, De León’s actions, which, as president, he said would “make America more competitive,” have been taken to advance a far more progressive set of policies. He has been an avid advocate for expanding social and educational programs, the abolition of the prison system, the empowerment of women and minorities, and other policies aimed at changing the culture of the U.S.
A native of Cuba, De León was born and raised a US citizen through his mother because of her Cuban father. While his father was in prison, his mother raised De León and his