As President Obama noted sardonically, Donald Trump makes the case against himself every time he opens his mouth. But for Latinos, it’s personal. On the very first day of his campaign, Trump declared war against us by saying that Mexico was sending rapists and drug dealers across the border. Although some, he assumed, were good people.
It’s the most outrageous ethnic slur ever uttered by a serious presidential candidate in modern times. Trump insulted all those of Mexican descent, and by inference all Latinos (including Cubans like myself) and immigrants to this country. Surely this would have disqualified any other candidate, but it rocketed him to the top of the GOP pack. He later doubled down by bashing Judge Gonzalo Curiel, claiming that this respected, courageous jurist (who took on the drug cartel) couldn’t do his job because he was ‘Mexican,” although he was born in Indiana.
He then added injury to insult with his absurd threats to build a massive wall to be paid by Mexico (at a cost of $25 billion), deport 11 million undocumented workers with a Gestapo-like deportation force (which would cost $1 trillion or so), and even do away with anchor babies by eliminating birthright citizenship.
Never mind the definitive statistics that there’s been no net migration from Mexico over the last five years, or that immigrants commit less crime than the native born. Trump depicts the border as a post-apocalyptic wasteland roamed by vicious bands of illegals. The last time I drove along the Rio Grande in West Texas (where the wall would presumably be built) I saw elderly tourists in Winnebagos rather than Mad Max.
And Trump’s cynical efforts to “pivot,” with his infamous Taco Bowl tweet on Cinco de Mayo, his Keystone Cops “Hispanic Advisory Council,” and his bizarro summit with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, were even more insulting than his insults.
Actress and activist America Ferrara wrote that Latinos should be grateful to Trump, since he unified us. But Trump hasn’t just brought us together, he’s defined us as Latinos. Because with its bigoted insults, racist stereotypes, and cruel immigration policies, his candidacy negates all that we have accomplished. As president, Trump would turn back the clock.
His supporters at least tacitly agree with him, and they comprise nearly 40% of the American electorate in most polls. This is a bitter pill for many of us to swallow, for it’s proof of the intolerance we still face in this otherwise great country, despite our surging demographics, cultural influence, and economic clout.
It’s impossible to be indifferent to Trump. How you see him defines your view of our community. That’s why craven Republican leaders such as Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have lost all credibilty with us, and why the GOP will lose the Latino vote now and in the foreseeable future. Even Texas may go blue with its 38 electoral votes.
This will be the nastiest, most brutal presidential campaign ever. At the end of it, few voters will like either candidate. But for us, there’s no contest. Regardless of party affiliation, or how you feel about Clinton, can anyone believe that Trump would be a better president for Latinos?
And that’s what this election will decide, whether we move forward or backward. There’s no middle ground. The Latino vote will make the difference in key swing states like Florida, which Trump must win. If we keep Trump from the White House, we keep moving ahead. If we stay home on November 8, we stay behind. So make your choice, and make your voice heard. Vote!
Alfredo J. Estrada