THE COST ALREADY

NEW HAVEN, CONN. — Several days later, on the train to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia knowing that I should get used to a surprise a day, I nevertheless still have to pinch myself to believe the raw hate and anger that swelled up from the floor of the convention hall and the delegates who nominated Donald Trump in Cleveland. It was shocking.

As astonishing were the odious speakers, culminating in Trump’s wretched ranting about race and ethnicity. His congratulatory stepping away from the podium and self-congratulatory bopping of his head up and down – feeling the fury he had unleashed come back at him in a rush from the delegates – reminded me of Benito Mussolini.  It was eerie, abnormal.

The many commentators on television who tried to equate this 2016 convention to the troubled 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago were engaging in lazy thinking. In Chicago, delegates fought angrily over the war in Vietnam. In Cleveland, the delegates in reality were hurling invective at half of the country that elected Barack Obama President, fearing, of course, that we will elect Hillary Clinton as well. I got a sense that the Republican delegates intuited their defeat come November, metastasizing their rage.

The Clinton campaign team played brilliantly their hand, running again and again the ad featuring the kids watching snippets of Trump at his foulest worst. Kids in commercials are a powerful force. This was LBJ’s daisy ad. For four days the ads began to build a huge virtual jaw into which on the last day the disdainful Trump walked, his ego clouding the reality around him.

But hate is a potent force that has turned elections in the past, and despite the disaster that was Cleveland, Democrats cannot afford to let up and must work to win the election.

Trump, though, has achieved one of the underlying sentiments of his fellow Republican delegates in Cleveland: He has stymied the growth of the political power of Hispanic/Latinos not only at the national level but the local level as well.

Another, more normal GOP nominee would have seen the demographic writing on the wall and chosen from one of a handful of plausible Hispanic/Latino Republican officeholders. Nevada Gov. Ruben Sandoval or New Mexico Governor Susana Martínez or the ever-ready Marco Rubio were well-suited to the office. Either Sandoval or Rubio would have been a nightmare in a normal contest. But Trump chose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, forcing Clinton to not accentuate ethnicity and thus Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine emerged on the Democratic side.

For the next eight years, then, unless events intrude, Hispanic/Latinos, already disproportionately underrepresented in the Senate and the House of Representatives, will continue their too-slow entry into the American political mainstream. A Hispanic/Latino on the Democratic ticket and as Vice President would have spurred much-needed efforts at the local level to strengthen Hispanic/Latino involvement and engagement in public and civic life.

It should more than matter to Hispanic/Latinos that in the next eight years great decisions will be taken on issues and challenges that involve their immediate future in which they will have limited say. And it should matter that no one in the White House will take personal interest in the further enhancement of the Hispanic/Latino electorate at the local level.

It is no longer acceptable to entrust in a presidential administration our whole destiny. Nothing beats being at the table. Discussions at tables more often than not lead to compromise. And how quickly can fall off the needs and concerns of Hispanic/Latinos! It has been happening for decades.

I traded e-mails with a friend who earnestly supported the idea of Julián Castro being named Clinton’s running mate. He was disappointed but realistic.

“We have to win the election.”

Indeed.

The cost otherwise would be higher than it sadly already is.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

THE UNTHINKABLE

Hispanic/Latino leaders at all levels of the community now need to ponder a future few of us imagined only weeks ago:  The election of Donald J. Trump and his ascension to the Presidency and the harrowing horror that awaits.

The summer of 2016 augurs morass for the fall – in more ways than one.  Events in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas and now Baton Rouge again – and by extension Nice – make November fraught with portent, with more terrorist or mass shootings between now and then in the offing.

The crushing victory by Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump that I expected is now in uncharted waters.  Swift currents of hate and anger and reaction are moving Trump’s candidacy, once moored upon the beach of unviability, into larger streams of possibility.  The worst fears of many in the Hispanic/Latino community no longer loom only as nightmare.

Only last week, I assured a group of Hispanic/Latino professionals in Boston at an event hosted by El Planeta and Conexión near MIT that Trump would not win and that Hillary Clinton would be elected unless unforeseen events spilled out of control.  Almost suddenly, with each passing day, civil strife invokes the specter of reaction and disunion.  An increasing number of voters will find in Trump the candidate who intensifies their fears, feeds their hate or stokes their anger – or all three.

I remember the flush of voters in 1972 sweeping Richard Nixon to victory over George McGovern in the wake of violent protests against the war in Vietnam and loud demonstrations on behalf of civil and human rights.  The unrest scared the electorate into the arms of a man whom history would reveal as a threat to our very republic.  Trump needs no unveiling.  What we see is what we get, already jeopardizing the First Amendment.  Nixon is Jefferson in comparison to Trump.

I know we live in a changed nation whose new demography should provide ballast for the Democratic Party.  I also know, however, that floods can inundate and overwhelm.  Still, 1972 is not 2016.  This is not the country of 44 years ago.  I remain confident that Clinton will win but how many more events between now and the election will lift a swell for Trump?  I do not know how to factor into my thinking the specter of police killing citizens and citizens killing police.

But let us assume the worst: that Trump wins.

For the first time, Hispanic/Latinos need to think through – now – how we will react to increased aggressive policing of the streets and whole-scale police operations across the nation seeking to identify individuals not in the country legally.  A Trump Presidency will empower local law enforcement officers to engage – outside of their scope and mission – in actions that will harm the community directly and Hispanic/Latinos individually.  Not to mention that individual non-Hispanic/Latinos will feel encouraged to take matters into their own hands.

When the current Supreme Court started to undercut laws that once protected the civil rights of minorities, it set the stage for re-fighting the battles we thought we had won in the 1970’s and 1980’s – that now could spatter the streets with violence.

It is not out of the question that Trump as President would act against a Supreme Court that might summon the courage to stand up for the Constitution and for America itself if minorities came under direct attack.  Troops in front of the Supreme Court and citizens surging into the streets with easy guns at the ready.

It is no longer unthinkable.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

Not Normal

The normalcy of the Republican Party is no more, of course.  What many thought was going to happen did not.  The Donald Trump-Mike Pence ticket upsets what I believed was almost a given: That  the GOP would put a Hispanic/Latino on the ticket, more likely as its vice presidential nominee since I did not think Marco Rubio would achieve enough traction to secure the top spot.  As Rubio sputtered, I thought the chances of a Spanish surname in the second slot in both parties kept improving.

In my mind, any of the 16 other normal candidates for the Republican nomination probably would have gone that route, knowing that the new demography continues to tilt the electorate in the direction of the Democrats.  In response, I believed, the Democratic nominee – whom I always believed would be Hillary Clinton – would respond by choosing a Hispanic/Latino to prevent any erosion among Hispanic/Latino voters.

Almost nothing is going according to what even long-tenured observers thought would be one of the central operating scenarios that would drive the presidential campaign this year: a Hispanic/Latino on a presidential ballot.

In truth, an important opportunity has passed, for the GOP more so than the Democratic Party.  As important a moment has passed for Hispanics/Latinos.  I was hoping for a Hispanic/Latino on both tickets for a simple reason: It would spur the incorporation of Hispanic/Latinos in the national consciousness – something that is needed more than most people understand.  The fact that Hispanic/Latinos have not been an operational part of daily American life at all levels of business and government and media is the very reason Trump has done so well and the reason he choose another white male.

The moment that has passed is striking and it has the potential for roiling already roiled times.  If the GOP is now fast becoming a white party, it seems that Rubio – if he is able to win a tight re-election to the Senate – probably has even less of a chance now of ever reaching the White House.  He started off with such promise for 2016 and now ends with a slew of demerits he would have to overcome within his own party.

The ongoing battle for the soul of the GOP — assuming Trump loses — probably cannot have the face of Rubio leading the effort.

Since he has demonstrated a remarkable ability to evolve and adapt according to changing political exigencies – to put it kindly – he almost certainly must have given thought to changing parties.  Becoming a Democrat is not a reach for Rubio, and he could argue, like Democrats who left the party as rank and file or as elected officials to become Republicans for the past 30 years, that ‘I did not abandon my party.  It abandoned me’.  And he would be right.

Rubio’s fumbled engagement with immigration nevertheless shows that he understands the importance of immigrants to the future of the country.  Rubio is at a crossroads.  Personally, his remaining a Republican clouds his future in no small way.  Politically, he should know that he would be well-received by Democrats.  After all, the electoral value for Democrats of nailing down Florida in 2020 and beyond is inestimable.

On the Democratic side, the probability that a Hispanic/Latino on his or her own could mount a race for the Presidency in the near future without the boost of first serving as Vice President is not high – unless he or she were an exceptionally talented rendition of Barack Obama.  With apologies to the Hispanic/Latinos still being mentioned in the Democratic veepstakes two weeks before the convention in Philadelphia, the importance of the changed circumstances of 2016 is evident.

Hillary Clinton might yet surprise but her decision to not accentuate the issue that is driving significant numbers of white voters to Trump – in an age of increased terror that too many conflate with ethnicity – is understandable, especially for Democratic, reasonable Republican and independent Hispanic/Latino votes.  Their primary goal should be to stop the abnormal threat poses by Trump, not to win the vice presidential nomination.

These are not normal times.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

Nice and Time

The curdling and compounding effect upon fear and anger by terror and violence is real. The terrorist attack in Nice on July 14 was happening as I was in Boston reassuring a group of worried Hispanic/Latino professionals that I cannot see any way that Donald Trump can win and Hillary Clinton lose the election. I still believe it, yet the attack in Nice is precisely the unknown factor that can recast the race for President.

Few can resist the line Trump again immediately parroted after the horror in Nice once again overwhelmed the entire media and political landscape. We must, Trump said, close the borders and ban Muslims. To be sure, there is reason to re-enforce strategies and defenses against those who would harm us. But Trump means to embark on a national policy of exclusion of any person or group that to him represents the collective fear that produces anger at a national level – and that can win an election he has no business winning.

I have thought long and hard about the probability of Trump getting elected. I have believed from the very beginning — after it was apparent that the Republicans were going to nominate him — that he could not win a general election. I have believed also that the election would not be close. But the terror in Nice, to be blunt, comes at a fortuitous time for Trump as Republican delegates gather in Cleveland.

At the GOP convention that starts Monday, he will have the nation’s attention – a nation truly worried about the future at its most basic level. There, of course, speaker after speaker will rant without exhaust about the presumed answers to the spreading threat of terror. The wrong answers. But the nation needs to hear them in order to begin processing them in real time. And so, to be blunt again, the attack comes at a fortuitous time for Hillary Clinton, too.

The first reaction will help Trump. Yet Nice gives her, the more competent of the two candidates, time to display her strengths and, as important, gives the nation time to digest the latest terror.

An example of the advantage that time gives Clinton is the compressed period she has to react to Trump’s selection of a running mate. Given the upsurge in public sentiment in favor of Trump as a result of Nice, Clinton now has time, indeed, to pursue the idea that she might select retired admiral James Stavridis as her vice presidential nominee.

His selection would underscore her strengths and signal the nation that she will wage the war against terror that Trump only knows to declare.

In pure political terms, Trump’s timing in picking Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, boxed him into a situation that should now cause Trump’s advisors to try to convince him to retract his offer to Pence. If he does pull back his offer and instead reacts instantly by choosing a running mate with military experience, he might get away with it, but the nation will see how without planning and thought he is. Clinton’s campaign had started vetting Stavridis weeks ago by comparison.

In a presidential campaign as in life, time is of the essence.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

Dallas to Debacle

The effect on the 2016 elections by the recent shootings by and against the police underlies the struggle to absorb the horror of what has happened.  If the slayings reverberate in favor of Donald Trump, then this week’s events only presage greater terror.  Trump’s lack of understanding of most topics of any magnitude and his shoot-from-the-belt approach —  seriously, no pun intended — would make matters worse.  He has more than demonstrated his capacity to unleash upon the land the full furies of the hate he already has used to fuel his campaign.

Sadly, the assassination of five law enforcement officers in Dallas by a black man transcends tragedy.  The murders personify the country’s new fragility that changing demographics, a difficult economy and vitriol and corruption in Congress are abetting.

Like the new age of climate change that jeopardizes our very existence, we have entered a new era in which race and other critical social stresses animate the possibility of disunion.  It can’t happen here, we are told.  Yet the greatest and most dangerous moment in this already perilous passage into the immediate future emanates from the social media and 24/7 news platforms that govern the public space today.

Ironically, the very tools shedding light into the continuous and discriminate shootings of black men also are the weapons that will be turned against the development of leaders who could lead us through these times.  Those who would lead will have their heads decapitated on social media before they can finish their statements on how to move us forward.  Social media and 24/7 news will serve to make us increasingly leaderless.

If the new-media normal hamstrings President Obama and Republican leaders at so important a moment as this week represents, then it surely bodes ill for the country.  How can anyone float a vision for the future in this unnerving environment?

In this poisoned mess, the country needs a Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Instead, we hear the voices of angry whites and, justifiably, of angrier black men and women who are tired, tired, tired of the rampant murders inflicted on their community by police officers who almost always face no consequences for their actions.  The question is if reaction to action will breed reaction and put us on the path to an abyss.

We as a nation need to rise above ourselves.  But who can call us to our better angels?  White people finally are beginning to understand that black and Hispanic/Latino complaints about law enforcement are neither bogus nor confection, and so white acceptance of reality must be encouraged.  So, too, minority communities must rein in their rancor.  But who can summon us together as a people to make sure that tomorrow or the next days or year or decade are not the beginning of the civic and internal strife that throughout history impelled empires and nations to self-immolate over time?

It can’t happen here denies the possibility of collapse of democratic rule or the arrival of a new holocaust or increasing disconnection that fosters extended paralysis.  It is a view fast becoming antiquated.  The new environment we have entered makes anything possible – even the election of a man like Trump who makes no bones of admiring dictators and dehumanizing his fellow citizens.

Without the anvils weighing her down, Hillary Clinton could have been the one who could speak directly and persuasively to moderate white voters and spark an electoral landslide to set us towards a better future.  O, what judgment history might render on Clinton and her decision to install a personal computer server in her home!  And this is easy stuff for the social media and the 24/7 menace.  What they have done to her we shortly could rue.  Not perfect, Clinton, compared to Trump, is clearly the way to not increase the chances that the new age ahead will be the history of old.

It really does not have to happen here.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

The Veep Matters

I love Frank Bruni.  The columnist for The New York Times writes as to invoke envy.  He is smart.  He is creative.  I look forward to reading him.  But his column, published Saturday, July 3, while not wrong, was incomplete.  With the best of his writing, he dismisses the importance of whom Hillary Clinton selects to be her running mate.  Utterly inconsequential, he declares.

If you live in the context of Bruni’s world, you also would be wholly on point, correct and logical.  Except that other things are going on in the country that he and others under-appreciate.  I do not have to go too far to prove my point that perhaps major opinion-shapers like Bruni do not know it all.  The surprise Donald Trump sprung on the entire eastern establishment of writers and television experts of CNN, MSNBC, etc. and on seasoned political operatives more than suggests that perhaps the veep-pick-is-unimportant  view, too, is not altogether correct.

I remember, after Al Gore’s defeat in 2000, having lunch with the editorial page editor of a major eastern newspaper.  I proposed that I join his staff to write about Hispanic/Latino affairs.  A new demography, I said, led by Hispanic/Latino population growth, had taken hold of the country and would change it forever.  He listened politely but in the end said, and I quote:  I do not think that there would be enough to keep someone busy writing about Hispanics full-time.  By then, of course, a significant part of the Hispanic/Latino vote already had helped George W. Bush win.  Like so many pundits who dismiss the importance of the Hispanic/Latino vote, who do they think got Bush so close in Florida to win by 500 votes?

My meeting with this highly-placed and influential journalist was not as eye-opening as depressing.  He confirmed my view that some of the most provincial people live in our supposedly most cosmopolitan cities.  And they are not alone.

I met at the coffee shop of the Capitol Hilton not long after Gore’s defeat with a former member of Clinton’s Cabinet.  I told him that a national anti-Hispanic/Latino reaction would seize the country in one of the next few presidential cycles.  I explicitly said it would be in the vein of California’s Proposition 187 that in 1994 was aimed at immigrants but which everybody understood was specifically anti-Hispanic/Latino, and more specifically anti-Mexican and anti-Mexican-American.   I did not get very far with him.

And so, as much as I love Frank Bruni, he and others who should know better do not understand the whole picture. Part of what he does not understand – beyond the reading of the polls that show Hillary Clinton racking up significant support among Hispanic/Latino voters – is that there is also a new undercurrent of thought within the Hispanic/Latino community that is changing it.

A telling story about the roiled times we live in and how the Hispanic/Latino community is changing occurred in Miami a couple of years ago at a meeting of about 100 or so influential Hispanic/Latino leaders from throughout the country.

The meeting was called to discuss the future of the Hispanic/Latino population, and so the attendees were mostly of Mexican origin, but with a heavy Cuban host contingent.  The attendees were mostly businessmen and businesswomen, both Democratic and Republicans.  No elected officeholders nor the usual political consultants were present.  The conference was meant to think and reflect, not preen nor forage for business.  The environment lent itself to mature, calm exchanges.

The most salient moment for me was when a highly visible Cuban American stood and said to the mostly non-Cuban group:  “Now we understand what you are talking about.”  His reference was to legislation that Alabama and Georgia were then considering that was clearly aimed at Hispanic/Latinos.  A significant number of Cuban Americans live in Atlanta and, of course, the Cuban community’s representatives gather in the legislature in Tallahassee just down the road, not far from nearby Tampa.  They heard the confederate gunfire. The sheltered experience of Cuban Americans finally caught up with the rest of the Hispanic/Latino history in the country.

When these most Republican of Hispanic/Latino voters began to understand the threat Trump poses, they set the stage for something much more important and historic:  The unification of Hispanic/Latino groups and their increased participation in the civic life of the country.  And from that is coming a new kind of energy that can work on behalf of a ticket already destined to make history, especially if Hispanic/Latinos could see on the ballot a name like Becerra, Castro, Peña, Pérez or Salazar.

Polls surely are picking up how Hispanic/Latinos feel about Trump, but that is only part of the story.  I wrote in another blog that this moment is of existential importance for Hispanic/Latinos.

Whom Hillary selects is not utterly inconsequential to us.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

Inflection Point for Hillary

Given the announcement by Attorney General Loretta Lynch that she will accept the recommendation of her civil service employees investigating Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and server, the campaign is at an inflection point.  Nothing good is going to come of this, whatever Department of Justice lawyers recommend, mostly because we do not know when their recommendations are going to come.

Timing is everything in politics, and for us not to know when the report will come and what it will say destabilizes the general election environment that favored Clinton.

For me, the inflection point is not constrained solely to the legal issues of the case. Rather, it is within the internal strategic thinking of the campaign itself.  The campaign must prepare for the worst and must consider — now — how to win an election in the most adverse of circumstances against Donald Trump, who is a true danger to the republic.

I have said it again, and I will say it again.  If the Clinton campaign does not make the Hispanic/Latino vote central to its strategy beyond what we have seen so far, we truly are in danger of losing an election that by any other measure should be a historic landslide.

This is the time for Hispanic/Latinos closest to Hillary to speak up.  If they do not, then they are ill-serving Hillary, the Hispanic/Latino community but, most important, the country.  I know some of those people, and I fear that they love Hillary too closely to not step up and say what needs to be said and done.

These individuals face a daunting task:  A fully effective plan to maximize the Hispanic/Latino vote across the board is a very expensive proposition but it is in my mind a necessary insurance policy.  And nothing is as hard to do within a campaign than convince others to spend money on anything – especially if it is out of the ordinary.  And trying to persuade a campaign to spend serious money takes herculean task commitment.  But it is imperative that she carry Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada and think about taking Arizona.

Were Trump to succeed in winning any of the Midwestern states that he covets, then Florida and the Mountain West can save the Democratic ticket, and this, of course, brings to the fore the need to put a Hispanic/Latino on the ticket.

The cost of exploding the Hispanic/Latino vote is by far more expensive than maintaining the high level of African-American support President Obama received in 2008 and 2012.  More expensive by far than expanding the impact of the women’s vote, of the gay and lesbian electorate, of the Asian American vote.

It is absolutely true that the campaign must spend what it must to try to defend the states that Trump — now given fresh ammunition — is targeting by trying to wrest away non-Hispanic/Latino white voters from Clinton.  Were he to succeed, only one group can fill the void: Hispanic/Latino voters.

The immediate consequence of the announcement this morning is that it takes the steam out of the momentum that Hillary was generating.  Her campaign was building — impressively and quickly — an electoral wave that seemed on the verge of swamping Donald Trump weeks ahead of the nominating conventions, much less the general election.

The slow-down now will cause the polls to change, and when polls change, everything begins to change.  Trump will get a second-wind; more Republicans will come home to their party’s nominee;  GOP  donors reluctant to give to Trump now will; states that vote Republican usually but were thought of as potential Democratic pick-ups now revert to the red column; and Clinton supporters will begin to fret and worry and as they fret and worry they cause some to begin to re-think their support.

And that is all before the report is released and any recommendations known.

The new moment serves to paralyze new thinking in a new environment in which the old playbooks no longer suffice.  To me, supporting the usual voter registration organizations is very important but not as important as devising other ways to broaden voter registration efforts, ones that engage average Hispanic/Latinos beyond political activists and paid volunteers in the process of getting Hispanic/Latino voters to the polls in November.

If Clinton’s numbers hold up in the Hispanic/Latino community as the election nears and becomes a tight affair, then still other states might be viable, especially if serious Republican voters cannot bring themselves to vote for Trump to be commander-in-chief.

Current polling suggests that Clinton could breach the 80-percent mark of support among Hispanic/Latinos in November – a historic accomplishment.  Even slightly elevated levels of Hispanic/Latino voter registration and participation can push her electoral-vote margin out of reach.

To not invest heavily in the Hispanic/Latino now is folly –  foolish and perhaps fatal.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

The Polls of Summer

Polls of the electorate are now coming at us in swarms.  Like summer’s mosquitoes, they are flying in from every direction, and it is hard to get a fix on any one of them.  That is why averaging them makes so much sense.  Every average so far shows Hillary Clinton with a steady lead.  Anything can happen, though, as the uproar over former President Bill Clinton stumbling into Attorney General Loretta Lynch at an airport in Phoenix on Monday demonstrates.

The damage of any Clinton meeting with the individual whose employees are conducting the investigation into the former secretary of state’s handling of her e-mails is the kind of thing that can turn an election won into paradise lost.  While inordinate, it was not an ordinary sting.

I am often asked whether an event yet unforeseen but easily imagined — a terrorist attack on our country in the days ahead of the elections — can suddenly turn the election.  It is, of course, wholly possible.  More likely it would make the 2016 election closer than it should be.  That is, of course, why Clinton’s political advisors should plan for a tight contest.  If they do not do everything today — including maximizing Hispanic/Latino turnout — they could find themselves ruing the day they got carried away by the polls.

In my heart, I cannot see how Donald Trump should do better than any of the candidates who got wiped out at the polls since 1960.  Would Trump make a better President than Barry Goldwater in 1964; George McGovern in 1972; Jimmy Carter in 1980; Walter Mondale in 1984; Michael Dukakis in 1988?  Of course not.  And these far more worthy candidates than Trump got an average of just 48 electoral votes in their landslide defeats.

Given the furies of our times and the latest polling data, however, it seems that Donald J. Trump could make this election closer than the best of the five landslide losers since 1960: Dukakis won 111 electoral votes.

And it is Dukakis who should be on our mind.  His election turned on a dime when in the first question in a debate against George Bush he could not answer in a convincing manner his positon on the death penalty had his wife being raped and murdered.  Game. Set. Match.

It could be that in one small moment Hillary Clinton against the backdrop of a terrorist attack in October, she, too, could make a mistake that suddenly makes Trump — against  all odds — viable.

Aside from candidates shooting themselves in the foot, bad campaign management indeed can cost a candidate his or her election.  John Kerry and Al Gore should not have lost theirs.  Had Gore’s campaign better understood the true significance of the Hispanic/Latino vote in Florida in 2000, hanging chads and a Supreme Court bullied by Antonin Scalia would not have wrecked his election. The contrast, of course, to those two near-misses is Barack Obama’s brilliant 2008 and 2012 efforts, and about 2008 Hillary Clinton knows every detail, of course.

History would have been totally different after 2000 but along came someone like George W. Bush whose Presidency proved his incompetence and plunged the world into what it is today: A general mess that Republicans are trying to pin on Hillary Clinton.   Campaigns — their strategy, their rhythm, their messaging, their image, their mistakes — do matter.

Between now and the election, we will all suffer near-death from the sting of a thousand polls.

But more important is that we do not let Trump get the last bite.

 

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

 

Hillary Clinton’s Unusual Opportunity: Trumpexit

Any discussion of the data surrounding the Hispanic/Latino vote and its potential always produces the same negative narrative not to be repeated here.  This blog-post is not about numbers.  Rather, it is about motivating Hispanic/Latinos to vote in higher numbers than usual.

The credible, numerical reality that should drive the formulation of a Hispanic/Latino strategy within Hillary Clinton’s campaign is that Hispanic/Latino voters exist in sufficient registered and unregistered numbers to swing the election to Hillary Clinton and bring along additional states that a splintered Republican Party could help push into the Democratic column.

Conventional thinking suggests that Donald Trump’s candidacy will be enough to cause many more Hispanic/Latinos to register and vote in November than four years ago.  Indeed, I cannot remember a Republican candidate so unpopular among Hispanic/Latinos – to the point of being loathed.

That said, what are the messages that can elevate Hispanic/Latino registration and turn-out to historic numbers?

First of all, the Clinton campaign needs to jettison the standard, boiler-plate language about education, health care and jobs that Hispanic/Latinos have heard repeatedly through the years.  Hispanic/Latinos would not have voted Democratic for decades if they did not already understand that voting Republican is not in their best interest.  These issues are of clear and evident importance to Hispanic/Latinos from Seattle to San Antonio to Miami.  I say let the national convention in Philadelphia, the presidential debates and the campaign’s general advertising take care of re-enforcing the Democratic message to Hispanic/Latinos.

To me, the Clinton campaign should find – and deliver forcefully – a core message the like of which Hispanic/Latinos have never heard specifically from a presidential candidate.  Instead of staid, standard commercials and forgetful speeches, the Clinton campaign should make an icon out of the image of Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the jurist whose Mexican heritage Trump disparaged in racist language not heard on the campaign trail since George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, ran for the Presidency in 1968.  And the campaign should use the icon as bludgeon.

I believe the Curiel episode is an existential moment.  For many Hispanic/Latino voters, a Trump Presidency could determine whether some of their relatives and neighbors can continue to live in this country.  But for many more – for many Hispanic/Latinos whose families in what would become the United States predate the American Revolution – the Curiel episode is about how Hispanic/Latinos will exist in the future.

The fact of the matter is that Hispanic/Latinos only recently are beginning to be thought of as part of the mainstream – and that by only some segments of the national population.  It has come as a surprise to many Hispanics/Latinos, especially those who have voted Republican in the past, that many millions of non-Hispanic/Latinos do not consider those of us, who like Judge Curiel share Mexican or Puerto Rican or Central American or South American roots, as ‘Americans’.

It is not lost on Hispanic/Latinos that Republicans in the Senate have blocked President Obama’s selection of another judge,  Merrick Garland, to the Supreme Court in the hopes that a President Trump would appoint a justice to the court that would continue its recent decisions that carry an anti-Hispanic/Latino taint as the nation’s new demography exerts itself.  The court’s decision on affirmative decision on affirmative action notwithstanding, its decision that blocked President Obama’s plan to shield millions of immigrants from deportation is importantly instructive to Hispanic/Latino voters.

Hispanic/Latinos do not want to exist in a world in which a form of second-class citizenship characterizes their lives.  Messaging, then, on the part of the Clinton campaign should be aimed at Hispanic/Latino parents and grandparents and young Hispanic/Latinos contemplating raising a family to consider how their children and grandchildren exist and live their lives in the future.

The opportunity for the Clinton campaign extends to the traditional Hispanic/Latino Republican vote that usually comprises about 35 percent of the Hispanic/Latino vote.  In some states, these voters can push Clinton’s vote totals higher to bring unexpected victory in unexpected places and in unexpected down-ballot races.

Hispanic/Latino business owners would understand that Trump’s fiscal theories could wreck the economic recovery now underway and incur billions of additional debt that more and more will land on Hispanic/Latino taxpayers in the future.  Hispanic/Latino veterans are aware that Trump is all-talk about his support of veterans.  Veterans would react to a message that a disastrous Trump Presidency would jeopardize their benefits and the social security and medical benefits that the country affords their parents.   Veterans instinctively would come to realize how Trump’s domestic and foreign policies would set up the country for another round of George W. Bush’s failures.  Fallujah, anyone?

The goal to reduce the total Republican Hispanic/Latino vote in some places to near-naught and explode it in others is not fantasy.  There was a time, remember, that a Republican candidate for President in some Hispanic/Latino precincts would receive zero votes.

The Democratic ticket has an heretofore unknown opportunity to drive a series of sophisticated messages into the Hispanic/Latino community to maximize its vote.

And to sweep Trump and his view of the world from history in which the existence of more than Hispanic/Latinos eventually would be in peril.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

Aux armes, citoyens! ¡Viva la independencia nacional!

After almost four years, I am reclaiming my space amongst the blogheads.  In 2012, I said to myself I was finished writing on a regular basis.  But then Donald Trump came along and everything changed.  He is the demagogue Jefferson most feared would emerge at some point to threaten the republic.  The nation has dealt with other demagogic threats. The others never got this close to the White House.

It is a high moment, indeed, and it not outlandish to invoke La Marseillaise and Father Hidalgo’s cry at Dolores to start México’s revolt against Spain:  To arms, citizens!  Long live our national independence!

Recent polls indicate the Democratic presumptive nominee will win.  That historic possibility should excite us but not distract us from the possibility that the election will be close.  And though her standing among Hispanics/Latinos is high, I believe she and her strategists must handle the Hispanic/Latino vote well.  By this I mean, among other things, that she, you and I should work to amplify its impact, for it could deliver victory.  I, for one, am not yet sold on the idea that she should plan to win without a Hispanic/Latino on the ticket.

Every day, Hillary Clinton is driving a new nail into Trump’s political coffin.  Yet every day the phone rings, and I have to listen to the contagious hysteria about Trump that has infected seasoned political operatives.  In my gut I suspect they are wrong to fret as much as they do and that Clinton is in good shape.  Yet there is reason to be cautious and prudent.

I shall write in English.  Translation into Spanish will occur when and if time permits.  I have been working on another project now consuming my life, and it is amazing how aging slows down our best efforts and intentions and even bumps up against our responsibilities.

But, at whatever age, our responsibility to maintain and extend the American Experiment is perennial.

Before we are Hispanics or Latinos or Americans, we must be Jeffersonians.

 

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.