AUSTIN, Texas — With rhetorical bows to Pericles, Ecclesiastes, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Shakespeare and Tom Joad, Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler defended the taco truck and the desirability of having one on every corner in a mock epic speech at the Texas Democratic Party’s annual Johnson-Jordan Dinner on Saturday night at the JW Marriott Austin.
“We in this room know taco trucks for what they are: the very ambassadors of community, of justice, and of guacamole — truly all that makes life worth living, the very bedrocks of our democracy, and of our breakfast,” declared Adler, who then, channeling his inner Churchill, continued, “And so I enjoin you friends to stand with me, to tell the enemies of taco trucks that we will fight them on the street corners. We will fight them in the parks. We will fight them with tortillas, cheese, and chorizo. We will fight them with growing confidence at breakfast and at lunch, and most of all, after closing time.
“We. Will. Never. Surrender. And when it is over, we shall say, never before have so many eaten so well so often.”
Adler was responding to a now famous, much ridiculed comment from Marco Gutierrez, the founder of Latinos for Trump, in a Sept. 1 appearance on MSNBC in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s Aug. 31 visit to Mexico and very tough speech that night in Phoenix on immigration, the border wall, and mass deportation.
“My culture is a very dominant culture,” Gutierrez said. “It is imposing and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.”
There is no evidence that Trump, his campaign, his other surrogates or the fellow Republicans across the country and across Texas share Gutierrez’s fear of or contempt for the potential ubiquity of the taco trailer.
But no matter, Adler treated Gutierrez’s pronouncement as the last, intolerant, unacceptable Republican word on the subject and summoned the great orators of the past in condemnation.
There was Adler at Gettysburg:
“This election, already ugly, may yet get worse. There seems no low to which our opponents will stoop. It is possible they may yet slander the noble enchilada. And that is why we in this room must commit ourselves to their defeat, to our victory, and to the promise that a nation of the taco, by the taco, for the taco shall not perish from the earth.”
There was Adler’s seamless segue from Ecclesiastes 9:11 to Hebrews 10:23 to Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee’s eulogy for George Washington. (Note: the prepared text of Adler’s speech was footnoted.)
“We are reminded daily that the tortillas are not always to the swift, nor the cheese to the strong, nor refried beans to the wise, nor guacamole to people of understanding, nor sour cream to people of skill.
“Yet this enlarges rather than defrays the hope that we confess.”
“This is, after all, Austin. We are first in war, first in peace, first in line for breakfast tacos.”
And there was Adler borrowing from John Steinbeck, if Steinbeck had written “The Tacos of Wrath.”
“Wherever you can look, wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat tacos, we’ll be there. Wherever there’s a guy who needs a taco, we’ll be there. We’ll be there in the way guys yell when they can’t find a taco truck. We’ll be there in the way kids laugh when they want a taco and they know the taco truck’s comin’, and when there are people eatin’ the tacos and livin’ near the corners where the taco trucks are — we’ll be there, too.”
Adler, who was dressed in a tuxedo because he had just come from a Ballet Austin gala, also at the Marriott, opened on a Periclean note:
“Friends, every public servant must at one time be called to speak in praise of those who should require none, to hold aloft exemplary citizens whose deeds should raise them far above the power of any mayor — no matter how well-dressed — to celebrate, honor, or laud. This is such a time.”
Adler concluded with an homage to Shakespeare’s St. Crispin Day speech from Henry V, Act IV Scene iii:
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. We band of Democrats. For her today that defends the taco trucks with me shall be my comrade in eggs, onion and cheese, light on the salsa.”
Adler is hardly alone in seizing on a “taco truck on every corner,” as a partisan battle cry.
“You’ve stayed focused no matter what kind of outlandish and offensive comments we’ve heard from my opponent and his supporters,” Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said in remarks to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Thursday. “By the way, I personally think a taco truck on every corner sounds absolutely delicious.”
The featured speaker at Saturday night’s dinner was former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who unsuccessfully challenged Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“I have been to many party dinners,” O’Malley said in his remarks. “I have never heard a passionate defense of tacos like I’ve heard tonight.”