Just when I thought that Donald Trump couldn’t say anything new to set me off, he came to Miami and did.
You can say one thing about Donald Trump. He hasn’t trod the beaten path taken by every other Republican presidential candidate. He didn’t try to mask the party’s essentially white nationalist, xenophobic core by using coded language and symbols. Instead, he built his campaign upon an open appeal to the raw feelings of that very core. True, Republicans have walked all over minorities many times before. But they generally did it with shoes with soft rubber soles. Trump wears golf shoes.
Trump has taken the road less traveled. Except in Miami. In his brief visit here, he pulled out of the bag of made-for-Miami Republican card tricks the most worn-out one. The Cuba card.
Trump, in a rare moment of veracity, said that all the changes in U.S. Cuba policy have been taken under President Obama’s executive power. A president Trump could undo those changes, and Trump said he would unless Cuba met certain conditions that even he knows Cuba would never agree to. End of the thaw. Back to the Cold War.
Trump came to Miami and promised to take us back to the George W. Bush era.
That Trump was purely pandering to Cuban-American hardliners is obvious. What he said here now directly contradicted what he said a few months ago. Then he said he was OK with Obama’s new policy. Changes in latitudes, changes in platitudes, plus Trump being Trump, shameless, contradicting himself at every turn without batting an eyelash.
Don’t expect Trump to repeat what he said in Miami anywhere else. That line is not popular nationally and was strictly for local consumption. I doubt he would follow through with action to match his words even if he wins the election. Even coming from Trump, however, a threat is still a threat. Such a threat is yet another good reason for progressives in general and Cuban-American progressives in particular to work hard to make sure Trump is never in a position to carry it out.
Trump knows he needs every vote he can get in Florida. So pandering even to a fading constituency makes a certain political sense. Then again Trump might just be looking for the one minority whose votes he might win. Because, when it comes to African Americans and Latinos (Cuban-Americans are a tiny sliver of the latter pie), his prospects are very dim even by Republican standards.
A September 13 New York Times opinion column by Emma Roller analyzes the main reason Trump will do significantly worse with blacks and Latino voters than even Mitt Romney’s dismal showing. Trump has managed to raise the ire of black and Latino Republicans.
“Many Republican strategists, donors and other members of the party establishment — especially minority men and women — have made their disgust with their nominee known. Mr. Trump’s candidacy has been especially frustrating for the people who have worked to bolster the party’s dismal outreach to black and Hispanic voters in recent years.”
That frustration is so great it sometimes leaves “people who have worked to bolster the party’s dismal outreach to black and Hispanic voters” at a loss for words. Charles Badger, who led the Jeb Bush campaign’s outreach to black voters, told the Times that Trump has sent the party “back to, I don’t know, the Stone Age — it’s that bad.”
Feelings are also running strong among Latino Republicans. Carlos Gutierrez, Commerce Secretary under George W. Bush and a Cuban-American Republican, told National Public Radio he would not vote for Trump because “I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.”
Lionel Sosa, who for decades has been working to get Hispanics to vote for the GOP, won’t be voting for Trump either. He told Roller that “when he says ‘Make America Great Again,’ to me, it means, ‘Make America White Again,’ make it the way it used to be when there were only other people like ‘us’ in this country.”
The polls are consistent with the tenor of these comments. Roller reports on polls that show black support for Trump at a laughable 1 percent. Among Latinos, the number goes all the way up to 19 percent. But that is not impressive when you consider it is less than half of the 40 percent George W. Bush once received.
The toll Trump’s candidacy is taking has shown up even at the Republican National Committee. It has led to several resignations among minority staffers, including that of Ruth Guerra, who directed work with the Hispanic media.
No problem. Bring in our very own Helen Aguirre, whose family has run the main Spanish-language paper in Miami for decades. Some people have no shame, and I am not talking just about Donald Trump.
Exposing the shameless among us may be just one of the silver linings visible behind Donald Trump’s dark campaign. His campaign may even be the best thing that could happen to the nation at this juncture in its history. Why? Because it may well mark the beginning of the end of the GOP as a national party.
The contraction of the Republican party to fewer, demographically fading constituencies has been taking place gradually for decades. The black vote gone in the 1960s. Later the gender gap. Declining Latino support more recently. The youth gap most recently, and in the next election probably an education gap too.
Trump’s rise, however, has turbo-charged the process. Among other things, it may provide the spark that finally pushes Latinos to the voting booth.
More broadly, Charles Badger, the Republican activist who thinks Trump is driving the GOP back to the Stone Age, hit the nail on the head when he told the New York Times:
“We are receding more and more and more into just being a white Southern party that’s really only viable in Western Plains states and the Deep South. By definition, that makes you not a national party.”
[Photo at top of Trump last year during a campaign stop in Doral.]