Waiting for Fadó

The noise from Fadó (Fa-dough) – a rowdy Irish soccer bar in downtown Austin – ricocheted in my ears as I walked up Lavaca to get over to Colorado to my truck.  At the last minute, Real Madrid had rallied against Barcelona in el clásico, the most important annual sporting event on the planet.  The walkers-by outside on the streets under the Texas Capitol that Saturday morning in November had no idea that Real and Barça had played – and played more than a game.

At least twice a year, the two Spanish powers bring together 700 million people or more to form and experience a global event simultaneously in real time, generating the largest cache of the most precious commodity of our time:  Attention.  It is the new currency of the global realm.

Other than cash, the key to power these days is attracting attention.  Donald Trump would not have been elected otherwise.  If you gain attention, you gain votes, web hits and followers.  In the most attention-addicted country in the world, Trump prevailed.  He understood that with attention you can stir those once thought un-stirrable to now command global events.

We are indeed in a new time.  The global village becomes universal megatropolis, something George W. Bush’s failed to understand when he held the world in his hand after September 11, 2001.  Bush was no different then than most Americans strolling through life today.  In many ways, most of us really do not get it.  With the globe as his audience, Bush muffed it by shouting vengefully to workers upon a heap of rubble through a hand-help microphone rather than using that precious moment to undermine radical terrorists around the world with an inclusive message.  Barack Obama tried to recreate what Bush messed up when the newly-elected President went to Cairo in his first year in office to speak to the Muslim world.  But the moment of billions had passed.

Yet those moments will come again.  For it being only a game, when the clásico gathers 700 million people in all bends and corners and fields of the earth to sit down for two hours to share the same sensations emanating from one soccer stadium in Barcelona or Madrid, do they not create a global impact two times each year?

The very idea that the most watched annual event in the world is between two teams in Spain should be instructive in some way.  My sense is that even the Spanish government has no idea of its potential impact on a growing Hispanic Hemisphere.  Seven hundred million is about three times the number who will watch the Super Bowl next month.  And the vagaries of soccer in Europe could pit Madrid against Barça as many as six of times this year – almost five billion people.  The numbers astonish the mind.

Not astonishing is the disengagement of most Americans – specifically, too many Hispanic/Latinos* in the United States – from an event that demonstrates how state-of-the-art telecommunications could accelerate changes in our consciousness and self-perception.

My parents knew nothing of sports.  We barely had a television set.  But because I went to a Catholic high school in San Antonio – a megatroplis compared to my small hometown 300 miles away in the desert – what we call soccer became a part of my life.  One of our teacher-priests was from Spain.  His black cassock would turn brown in our dusty field on Saturday mornings as we learned the game.  I then would wait for ABC’s weekly Wide World of Sports in the afternoon hoping for reports about soccer in Europe.  Nothing, alas, about el clásico; mostly news from Wembley Stadium in London about English soccer games.

That we can now watch a game live from Madrid or Barcelona – or from Rio or Mexico City or Buenos Aires – means that while English grows as the dominant language of the world, the world is changing simultaneously.  Once seemingly small affairs like Real Madrid-Barcelona are no longer small at all.  Who could have imagined that a 26-year-old fruit seller named  Mohamed Bouazizi angry at the Tunisian government setting himself on fire in the rural town of Sidi Bouzid would set off the Arab Spring and plunge the world into tumult?

The clásico serves as a reminder.  It fixates Spain, Europe and most of the former Spanish colonies in the Americas, Africa and Asia but more so it underscores how far Americans and Hispanic/Latinos of the U.S. variety have to go before we become part of the new megatropolis, whose emergence must mean something new.  If we grow to become more aware of our new world, perhaps we might not be surprised when something unexpected happens or when we learn that we can affect world affairs.

I could watch the clásico at home.  But I would miss the crowd at the bar: The expressive Moroccans, the silent Germans, the dismissive Italians, the tense madridistas shouting for Real and the always-angry culés screeching for Barcelona, the engaged Mexicans and the quiet Ethiopians – and the raucous Irish.  I would miss the world.

The next clásico is in April.

I will be waiting for Fadó.

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

*Hispanic/Latinos is not a typo. It is a run-in confection to overcome the rhetorical divide between those Hispanics who are not Latinos and those Latinos who are not Hispanic.

The Good Nephew

He is a nephew of my sister’s by marriage.  He has worked for decades for the CIA.  I presume he is still there.  I have not seen him since he was a toddler.  And that was 45 years ago, at least.  I would not know the Nephew if he walked in the door.  Nor do I know his politics.

Neither do I know what the Nephew does for the agency.  I do not want to know.  All I know is the agency posted him to places where we have vital interests and are known to have defended them.

I presume he has put his life at risk.  I wish I could call him and ask what he thinks of Donald Trump dissing the CIA’s conclusion that Russia directly interfered with the Nov. 8 elections.  History will record that Russia caused the best qualified candidate in a long time to lose and the worst qualified candidate ever to win.  Sen. John McCain is right: Russian involvement is a form of warfare.

I bet it rankles the Nephew that Trump is not taking full advantage of the briefings he should be receiving, information for which members of the CIA are risking their lives — today — while Trump meets with Kanye West.

I am so proud, yet worried when I think about it, that the Nephew knows more about world affairs and our national security than the president-elect of the United States.  The Nephew is one of too few Hispanic/Latinos* in the actual game.  Hispanic/Latinos lag in engagement and presence across the entire foreign policy and intelligence establishment.  No Hispanic/Latino diplomat in the nation’s history has excelled at the highest level in the handling of American foreign policy.

Development and management of foreign policy is the area of government in which Hispanic/Latinos might be the most underrepresented.  Some have used theatrics to project themselves as foreign policy experts but few people take them seriously. Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Madeleine Albright, George Marshall they are not.

The short- and long-term implications are serious.  In the short-term, if had we an experienced corps of Hispanic/Latino diplomats, active and retired, they might help mitigate how NAFTA is going to be recast by the least-knowledgeable chief executive in our lifetimes, how immigration policy might be managed and how the impact of the plutocrats Trump is appointing to government might be ameliorated .  In the long run, we will not have enough foreign policy experts to help change, reform or reorient current U.S. foreign policy in the years ahead if — and most likely when — Trump comes up a cropper.

Trump in dealing with Russia, China and Israel already has shaken up the country’s foreign policy arrangements of long standing.  By empowering Russia, basically recognizing Taiwan and perhaps now moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, Trump is going to leave the world a vastly more complicated place for many, many years.  This could mean the beginning of a Thirty Years War on top of the almost Twenty Years War we have fought since September 11, 2001.

And who shall pay the mounting bills?  Hispanic/Latinos?  The very group whose economic and social progress almost surely will be laid waste by a Trump administration and Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures across the nation?  The very group that is growing and on whom the nation should depend as the white, non-Hispanic/Latino population declines in share and number?

In the span of four hours on the evening of Nov. 8, our future overnight became evermore dangerous, evermore costly and evermore painful.  No scenario is out of bounds over the next four years.

I do not know at what age the Nephew signed up for duty to serve his country.  I doubt his colleagues and he signed up for their years of dangerous, perilous work to be devalued.  But I hope they keep working and not wander off into much-deserved retirement – not yet.

If he survives the mess Trump seems on the precipice of creating, perhaps the Nephew will be at the right age, time and place to manage the aftermath.

If he were, that probably would be good.

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

*Hispanic/Latinos is not a typo. It is a run-in to overcome the rhetorical divide between Hispanics who are not Latinos and Latinos who are not Hispanic.

The Miami of My Dreams

From the roof of a hotel at night two years ago, the emerald city below looked destined to unfold as the new capital of the hemisphere.  Knowing what we know about the ongoing economic and demographic integration of the hemisphere, Miami in our lifetimes might still become the new geostrategic center of the 50 or so nations of the Americas.

I thought of my nocturnal musings when news came that Donald Trump’s nominee to direct the Environmental Protection Agency does not believe climate change poses a threat, even as more-knowing homeowners sell their homes in Florida and businesses begin to hedge their bets.  I know this to be true because I had called a friend in southern Florida the week before the election seeking reassurance that Hillary Clinton was going to win the state.

My friend is a seasoned professional, and she had been working for an adjunct of the Clinton campaign for almost a year, and so I was not expecting to hear Clinton was going to lose.  I certainly was surprised to hear, however, that she had sold her house, which she had owned for many years.   “You’re kidding.  Why?” I asked.  “Too close to the water,” she responded.  “But you love that house.”  She became poignant for a moment before regaling me with her troubles when even mild tropical storms push ocean waters her way. “It’s real,” she said of climate change.  And sad.  I grew to love Miami when I lived there. Somewhere in storage in San Antonio is a white Gatsby-like hat I used to wear when I went there to recover from the aftermath of the election of 2000.

I did a pretty good job of recuperating from an election that Al Gore would have won over the disastrous George W. Bush but for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Miami would be a mirage playing off the waters of South Beach were it not for the traffic.  Without the noise and bustle of visitors, languages and commercial transactions across nations and islands, the light that bounces off the many colors of the city’s buildings creates an eternal rainbow that camouflages an economic powerhouse of immense and global potential.

From atop my hotel, the city dazzled me again.  Most people can visualize Miami as generally the midpoint between Alaska and the southern-most part of South America.  As important, though, is that most of South America rests east of the United States, in time zones more conjoined with Europe and Africa.  Almost all of Central America itself is east of Texas – a difficult concept for Americans who use south of the border to mean anything south of the Rio Grande all the way to Tierra del Fuego in Chile.

Spread across miles of light at night, it seemed to me that Miami, blessed eons ago by the caprice of a small break in the continental plates, was making the best of geology, geography, time and, now, demography to become a super city in the age of globalized trade.  The demographics of Florida and of Miami have fast-become more representative of the rest of the hemisphere than traditional Cuban redoubt.  The blinking lights in near and far signaled the city was about to take center stage in hemispheric affairs – and perhaps more.

Yet it seems the marvel of Miami might one day be our age’s Atlantis, the mythical city said to have disappeared into a watery grave.  The very waters that make Miami so splendid now threaten its very existence.  The sense of the city’s growing grandeur itself might be mirage.  Miami’s dreams could be undone, inundated slowly by the very sea that shimmers day and night.

Or they could be swept away instantly next year or the summer thereafter by the growing size and anger of hurricanes made more powerful and more frequent by changes in water temperature and the climate.  Had Gore won the election 16 years ago, Miami and we might have stood a better chance.  Still, we need to convince the Senate to reject an EPA nominee so divorced from the reality of homeowners selling their homes already.  Certainly, Sen. Marco Rubio has an interesting vote to cast.  Perhaps we who love Miami should give him a call.

When I think back to that night high above the city, I was not Gatsby.  But I did want the emerald, elegiac light to mean more than it did to him.

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

 

The Media Cometh

I often am asked to identify the most important issue facing the Hispanic/Latino population that has led the country’s demographic transition into the new America our country has fast become.  Defaulting automatically to education, jobs, health care, immigration and equal protection of the laws is easy – so critical are they to how we move forward.

Yet preeminent in my thinking is the media and its workings, both the new and the old.  The Hispanic/Latino narrative, already astonishingly absent in one is being trampled by the other at precisely the wrong time in history.  And greater inattention looms as large events and a larger President suck in all the oxygen in the public space.

Without appropriate measures of media and informational input into a society as diverse as ours, its democratic output is dubious – ultimately threatening economic growth when economic progress is the key to securing the nation’s future.  To that most gracious end, then, the success of the Hispanic/Latino population is indispensable, for we are more of America than we ever have been and only more so each passing day.  And each day that passes, we do not get back.

In order for Hispanic/Latinos* to succeed, public and national attention must be a positive force, expanded and calibrated to complement our progress.  More, not less, reporting of the Hispanic/Latino story;  more, not less, production of films; more, not less, publishing.

Until we weave the importance of the Hispanic/Latino population into the national consciousness as part of the nation’s lifeline, Hispanic/Latino concerns are flotsam in a sea of partisan hyperbole.  I mean, who can have a serious discussion about the existential challenge of education when more than half of the country thinks most Hispanic/Latinos are in the country illegally?

Without a wide and truthful – and consistent – exposition of the importance of the Hispanic/Latino community to the country, none of the conventional issues matter.  Not enough Hispanic/Latinos will get better educations.  Employment in the lower ranks of the second-largest economy in the world will persist.  Health care will be hit-or-miss, depending on local governmental funding of emergency rooms in public hospitals.  Immigrants will remain vulnerable to economic exploitation and racist attack.  And social and political equality will remain chimera.

Many of the people who run the news business also run the entertainment business, and they are cut from the same slab of media meat.  Holding up their lack of engagement in and knowledge of the Hispanic/Latino community for embarrassment will not prove effective if they truly do not understand the importance of the story.  Since so many of these executives seem unmoved even though they are told repeatedly that Hispanic/Latinos already mean much to their bottom line, they can only represent – to our great fear – how far behind the rest of the country lags in understanding the emerging place of the Hispanic/Latino in history.  After all, the man elected to lead our armed forces knew only after being told by a journalist what constitutes the nuclear triad.

If inattention and failure of awareness in the old, mainstream media were not enough of a problem for us, we have now the invasion of the unregulated, unedited swamp that is the internet with which to contend.  Its loathsome loosening of anger and fear multiplies by many factors hate against minorities of any kind, including Jews and Muslims, and complicates by many more factors the kind of public discussion we need to have in these perilous times.

It is hard to fathom that we have sunk into a netherworld in which soulless individuals fabricate news, and these fake news “stories” reach significant parts of the public, which reads and absorbs them in an echo chamber ever more closed with each reinforcing untruth.  Harder to believe is that the effort to undermine responsible journalism is led by none other than the president-elect, who fabricates numbers and data out of thin air and threatens the press and the First Amendment – on the record.

The lack of a common sharing and acceptance of basic truths and facts across society well spells a point of no return, for with it goes the sense of community vital to a democratic republic.  This genie hardly seems the type to return to the bottle voluntarily.  The furies of the times, in fact, give it tornadic dimension.

However male and white the founders of the republic thought an informed citizenry should be, these men, in fact, were exceptionally informed and well-read.  They produced extraordinary documents that organized a free country that with free markets powered itself into economic and global success and, slowly but surely, to greater social equality.  Does anyone think that a constitutional convention convened today could actually produce again The Constitution of the United States?  Quite to the contrary, sinister forces, creating their own sources and data, are propounding the nonsense that being of native birth in the United States does not carry with it automatic citizenship.  Wow.

Years ago, when the phrase Information Age came into vogue, I wrote in an editorial that it more likely heralded an age of disinformation.  I was laughed at then.  But, oh the travails of Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook!  He now has to manage how to zero out the fake news that spreads through the company’s countless labyrinths as like a plague to all corners of the known world.  Unlike the plague of old that festered in the bad sewers of a Europe that had not caught up to the growth of its population, the modern media plague has no easy fix.  Building conduits for raw sewage is simple; channeling the hate-filth of the internet not so much.

I am often amused by the operatives and the titans of the news, entertainment and publishing world who more often than not blame budgets, etc. for not hiring, promoting, acquiring Hispanic/Latino talent in any form that might help stem this drift.  Which means there is room and a place only for themselves.  But I am not amused when high men and women do not get the more important story: That without the Hispanic/Latino population succeeding, the country is doomed.

I once had the editorial page editor of The Washington Post suggest over lunch he did not have room on his staff for a full-time columnist writing on Hispanic/Latino affairs because ‘I doubt there would be much to write about for a whole week.’  It is tough to get through at times even to enlightened men and women in charge of fateful things.

These days, when I am asked for my advice or counsel, Eugene O’Neill’s play, from which the title for this post emanates, comes to mind.  O’Neill, through the iceman, forces his characters to labor and live under unending self-destructive illusions that they cannot escape other than through death.

We live now in an age of unending illusion, not news.

Yet, only by pounding away at the mainstream media to raise the correct, full implications of the Hispanic/Latino narrative, do we – or Zuckerberg, for that matter – stand a chance.

For the moment, though, all media is killing us.

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

*Hispanic/Latinos is not a typo.  It is a run-in confection to overcome the rhetorical divide between those Hispanics who are not Latinos and those Latinos who are not Hispanic.

Of Wages and Sin

It was fairly cold early in the morning two years ago when I went to drop off my shirts at the cleaners within the Randall’s.  There were few cars in the parking lot where I go every two weeks or so.  I had parked farther than usual from the grocery store to give a knee extra steps to work out the kink the passing cold front had induced overnight.

I walked in the chill past an older model car that had last seen a car-wash in several months but whose engine was running.  A man in the driver’s seat was slumped over the steering wheel.  I peered inside.  His right arm, dangling off the wheel, rested on the gear shift between the two seats.  What appeared to be a baby doll lay folded over on the passenger side.  I feared the worst and hurried toward the store.

Coming out of the store was a Randall’s employee heading to a rack of shopping carts at the side of the building.

“There’s a man in that car, and the engine is running,” I said in as unalarmed a voice as I could muster.  His lack of response instantly bothered me.  I stood there for a moment.  “He’s sleeping.”  I must have looked puzzled.  “Overnight job.”

The man in the car was cold and taking a nap, not attempting suicide nor suffering accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.  I surely took on the face of someone trying to shake off embarrassment. “Oh, okay,” I managed.

Okay was not what I was feeling after leaving my shirts and heading to the Starbucks next door.  I did not know what the man in the car earned; I presumed he had a family; and I did not know if he had the health insurance he would need soon, given his weight.  I have not seen him since.  But I thought about him the moment I heard that a federal judge had jumped ahead of Donald Trump and rolled back some of the minimum wage protections that President Obama put in place to protect workers, perhaps especially those with more than one job.

I wondered, too, if the man in the car had voted for Trump, and I wondered how many other two-jobbers like him helped put Trump in the White House come January.  I wondered if they were part of the 104,000 voters out of 135,000,000 who, had they voted differently in three states, might not have their wages so quickly endangered, barely two weeks after the election.

If some of them did vote for Trump, they do not deserve to be judged morally.  It would be sinful to do so.  They do not deserve what might happen to them and their families.  They deserve rather to be pitied, more so if they lose all hope, for they will have been taken, given Trump’s announced choices so far for the Cabinet and important agencies of government.

If they do not lose faith in the country once they realize they might erred, they might be the bounce-back opportunity the Democrats need for 2020 and even in the midterm elections in 2018 if Trump proves as incompetent a president as he is a businessman.  Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

(It bothers me to use businessman to describe Trump.  I know businessmen and businesswomen who have worked hard to build their businesses and paid significant amounts of taxes while doing so without using the court or tax systems to gain an advantage while mistreating their employees.)

If the two-jobbers who voted for Trump knew nothing about his intentional failure to pay taxes and to use loopholes to game the system and exploit workers, then the Republic might be in real danger, for we are dealing with a truly uninformed lot.  But they might soon enough know that they might not ever recoup the wages they will start losing here pretty soon, judge or no judge.

We are in an unstable, dangerous predicament from which no one, worker or business owner, is exempt.

If I ever see that man again in the parking lot of the Randall’s, I hope his kids are not sleeping in the back seat.

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

Meet the Press? Not me.

A commercial break on Sunday’s Meet the Press on NBC featured a young man in a Charles Schwab advertisement having lunch with his father.  The son challenges his father about not being able to recoup fees from his broker should an investment sour.  “That’s not the way the world works,” his father responds, laughingly.  The young man is easily direct in his rejoinder:  “Well, the world is changing.”

Too bad the producers of Meet the Press do not know what a 30-second ad can tell them.

I am a former journalist who is marinated in the media, to quote former New York Times columnist Russell Baker.  Throughout my life, I have read newspapers and watched public affairs and cable news programming in excess.  But I will no longer watch Meet the Press. 

I began watching the program in the black-and-white days of television at about the time I read my first political book, Teddy White’s The Making of the President, 1960 and before Lawrence Spivak hosted the show.  I was in junior high school in West Texas then. Sometimes the winds of the Permian Basin would sweep away the signal from KMID in Midland and make viewing an adventure in my small town 40 miles away.  Always hopeful, I would tune in before I ran off to Sunday Mass.  No more.

These were the guests on Sunday’s show: Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s campaign manager;  Cory Booker, senator from New Jersey;  Keith Ellison, a member of Congress from Minnesota; David Brooks, NY Times columnist; Hugh Hewitt, conservative radio talk show host from California; and Katty Kay, a journalist for the British Broadcasting Corporation.  Non-guests quoted by remote were David Axelrod, formerly chief political strategist for President Barack Obama; and someone named Cliff Clayton, an agricultural editor for something called DTN.

As far as Hispanics/Latinos go, I think a Hispanic/Latino woman was quoted for about three seconds in a report on voters.  That was it – this, on a national television network in a country whose Hispanic/Latino population is the second largest population group and whose white population loses about one percent share of the country’s population every 18 months, more or less.

To the producers of the program, it must be really, really important to have a journalist from England tell me about my country’s politics.  And how could I do without the views of DTN’s agricultural editor?

I have nothing against these people, and I am not a provincial dolt with a bad education, and I am not against globalization.  I read Brooks religiously.  Booker and Ellison are fine, I am sure.  Hewitt is a conservative but not deplorable.  And Kay is smart and intelligent.

But part of Sunday’s program was devoted to where Democrats go next after the disaster of Nov. 8.  Nowhere to be seen, much less heard, was someone from the fastest-growing raw-number voter population that voted probably around 70 percent Democratic (this figure is still being determined).

Incredible.

I am of the age of a generation that still flinches at the use of the word damn on television, and I recoil at the social and civic coarseness that has debased society, and so I would certainly never use in this space some of the expletives people use in blogs and tweets.  That is not to say they were not exploding in my mind as I watched Sunday morning.

Seriously, what is going on?

Having been a newspaper reporter, columnist, editor and member of an editorial board and having been a television producer myself and having worked in national presidential campaigns and in the Clinton and Obama administrations once I left journalism and having lived in all parts of the country, I have been around and I know why these things happen.  That does not ease the surprise when I see them happening again and again.

In a way, I could be the traditional, older man in the Charles Schwab commercial not familiar with the new ways of wealth management.  But I will never be as clueless as the producers of NBC’s premier political show.

Things are happening in this country within the Hispanic/Latino community that probably will determine the fate of the country.  The producers have no idea on assessing how to gauge the reaction to Trump’s election – beyond reporting the usual immigrant-scared-of-being deported story.  Is there a “brown” nationalism forming as a logical response to the white nationalism that is core and central to Trumpism?  Are more Hispanics/Latinos buying guns?  Did the 2016 election give birth to a new pan-Hispanic/Latino identity?   Has a false poll narrative (that Trump got 35 percent of the Hispanic/Latino vote) already taken root to become the conventional wisdom among the media and political class and to be spouted senselessly over and over and over again for the next 20 years by the learned guests of Meet the Press?

But who would know otherwise?  That the company that owns NBC owns Telemundo and that the other Spanish-language network, Univisión, airs a highly regarded news program on Sunday are not enough.  Hey, guys, it is not just Hispanics/Latinos who need to know what the hell is going on, to quote the president-elect.

Instead of replaying a Saturday Night Live video that a great majority of Meet the Press viewers probably had seen already, the producers might have considered discussing how Hillary Clinton got five percentage points more of the statewide vote than Obama in Texas; how Democrats won all county-wide offices in once-Republican Harris County (Houston); and picked up four GOP seats in the lower house of the Texas Legislature — all because of the Hispanic/Latino vote.  And that is only Texas.

If it’s Sunday, it is no longer Meet the Press for me.

And judging by my conversations with friends and family, I am sure I am not the only one.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman and writes at HispanicLatino.com.

Incertitude

So in July I told a group of Hispanic/Latino professionals in Boston they could count on Donald Trump not ever being elected President.  I feel I owe them an explanation.  Simply put, had millennials and African-Americans voted at the same rates they did in 2008 and 2012 for the Democratic ticket, Hillary Clinton would have won enough of the close states to secure at least 270 electoral votes.

I assumed that President Barack Obama would want to protect his achievements and thus work indefatigably to elect her.  By his hitting the campaign trail hard he would make the millennial/African-American vote materialize on election night.  I was right that he campaigned tirelessly for her but we were all wrong to think he could recreate 2008 and 2012.

I was also wrong in that I believed that many white Republican voters would be so turned off by their crass, embarrassing nominee.  I thought the GOP ticket would suffer a 6-10 percent fall-off from 2012.  Not only did that not happen but Trump actually ran better than Mitt Romney’s numbers among white voters.

I am aghast that of white women who voted, 52 percent voted for Trump!  Who would have ever believed that?

Clinton did not lose the election because the Hispanic/Latino vote was not in her corner.  Hispanic/Latinos came out – in record numbers – to stand in line to support her.  She lost because the Democratic coalition splintered enough to cause three critical states to vote Republican.

Not once did I believe Trump could win — until Tuesday night about 7 p.m. when, with 25 percent of the vote still to be counted in Florida, a friend texted me from Miami.  She was on the ground.  “We lost Florida.”  This was someone who only seven days before assured me we were going to win there.  I went into near-shock.

In retrospect, blinded by Hillary’s qualifications, I did not give great importance to the baggage she carries.  People who know me know I am not an easy follower, but in this I lost my journalistic skepticism.  Her problems did weigh more on the electorate than on me.  Though she won the popular vote, it turns out that Democrats nominated the only person whom Trump could beat in certain states.  In the end, the Democrats did not follow the formula for winning:  run the right campaign with the right candidate and the right message with the right people who know the electorate making the decisions.

What happens now, though, is a more important question today than What went wrong. Today I am concerned that many Hispanic/Latino families are now under direct threat, as is the republic itself.

I wish I could be as sure as I was in July about the immediate future.  I am still numb.  I am not optimistic that Trump will make a better President than he is a businessman.  If so, we are in for a very tough time.  He might be our Hugo Chávez in that he screws up so quickly that there is no return from the chaos he unleashes.

I asked a friend of mine who travels in high business circles if anyone in his network knows Trump personally who can gauge what kind of man he really is.  Can he be checked by a competent staff?  Can he choose a competent staff?  At the core, does he really believe he knows more about ISIS than our generals?  Is he serious about building walls and deporting millions of our families, friends and neighbors?

My friend said no one of any consequence in the business world knows him, and my friend does not know anyone who can answer my questions.

My only sense now is not a good one, and on that I hope I am wrong.

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

Blind into the Night

My God. They’ve got a madman on their hands.

Fans of the movie The Hunt for Red October will recognize the harrowing line uttered by a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he realized that a renegade Soviet submarine commander had stolen a new, silent Russian submarine on its maiden mission.   Its revolutionary silent propulsion system was designed to slip through American naval defenses with the capability to launch a sudden nuclear attack on the United States.

As it turns out, the captain of the sub wanted to defect and deliver the ship into American hands to equal the playing field.  To get complete command of the vessel and its nuclear capability, the captain had murdered the Communist party apparatchik with whom he shared the code to the ship’s missiles.

No one is suggesting that Donald J. Trump should be murdered.  But like Sean Connery in October, Trump will have, in fact, the sole power to launch a nuclear strike after Jan. 20.  Be careful what you wish for, Vladimir Putin.  You got what you wanted.

And so did the American people:  Donald J. Trump is going to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States in less than three months’ time.

How we got here is not as important as what happens next.  Truly, Hillary Clinton was a very flawed candidate and the Democratic Party has the opportunity now to remake itself outside the Clintons’ shadows.  But we will soon miss her competence, experience and intelligence – the three mainstays of the Presidency that Trump lacks.

It is laughable now that we were worried that Sarah Palin would have been a heartbeat away from the Oval Office had John McCain won.  And we 16 years ago also were petrified about George W. Bush taking office.  And we were right.  His lack of competence, intelligence and experience proved horrifically bad.

But we might have not seen anything yet.

We have arrived at a singularly dangerous moment in human history.  It could well be that Trump never wakes up one morning and plunges the country into a nuclear war or a constitutional crisis.  But his election does mean that other dangers will fester.  For one, the great, silent danger of global climate change will almost surely now accelerate.  It is the secret propulsion system that will take humanity eventually to the brink.

For the immediate future, an unwise Supreme Court will abet those in the voting minority who want to take the country back 100 years.  We in the voting majority who won the popular vote must suffer the hope that a Republican Congress will counterbalance Trump.  It is a faint hope.  House Speaker Paul Ryan has the opportunity to be the patriot he says he is.

But I doubt the voting minority that elected Trump will let him.

If he does his duty to protect the country from Trump, Ryan will have to sacrifice his political career.  Faint hope.  So this does not bode well, and it is not hyperbolic to consider the possibility of real civic strife.  This is no movie.

The results of the election sadden me because the sons and daughters and the grandsons and granddaughters of the voters who pushed Trump into office well could rue Nov. 8, 2016, the day the country elected  someone who might be the madman the founders feared.

At the end of October, Sean Connery eases his submarine into the safety of a harbor on the Maine coast, averting disaster.

We can only long this ship America finds a similar haven.

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

Here and Present

In attending a memorial service for a friend, it is at first easy to think only about her and her family.  Soon enough, though, we lose ourselves in memories.  The nostalgia that comes from recalling our relationship to and time with her moves our minds to ruminate on other aspects of our lives.  And those of us no longer young also ponder the immediate future of our own well-being.

Yet something mutes the toll that weighty death take on us – the warm feeling of reconnecting with friends who are friends precisely because they turn out when you need them.  And, it turns out, they need you, too.  There is, in fact, strength in numbers, and the packed cathedral in San Antonio provided comfort for those of us for whom the sudden loss of Choco Meza to a rampant cancer was shocking, its physical finality too real.

Gazing around the church and crowd, I saw many of us who have lived and experienced the modern emergence of the Hispanic/Latino population into an important demographic reality.  And so the Rosary and the Mass we celebrated for her constituted a confluence of both history and future for those of us not yet finished.  That our contemporary died at 64 and that we might be slower in gait does not preclude us from knowing that Choco would not want us to be finished with the enduring business at hand – the social, political, economic and cultural progress and development of the Hispanic/Latino community.

The agenda is full.  It is constant.  And it is perennial – like the cathedral of San Fernando itself.

Having been forced to stand for the Rosary and having to deal with an aching back, I stole outside and walked around the iconic church.  In its illuminated state, I marveled again at its magnificent restoration, led by Father David García, a high school classmate, and a host of others in our beloved San Antonio.  And I take enormous but totally unmerited pride when I walk the one-block street named Treviño on the building’s northern side.  In my mind, the presence of the family name weds me to the cathedral’s old and historic stones that stretch back to before the nation’s founding.  I did not get that feeling walking around Independence Hall in Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention in July.

And like the cathedral, Choco exists among the personal icons I choose for my life.  No one who met her, as I did oh so many years ago, could forget her wide eyes that would have been wild had they not shone with a goodness that offered immediate acceptance.  Her eyes literally exploded with commitment to the Hispanic/Latino community.  And so she is an iconic reference point for me not only of our history but for the future.

Julián and Joaquín Castro, in emotional remembrances at the end of the mariachi-garlanded service, personified part of that future and, surely, the history of the labors of Choco’s life.  But it was Henry Cisneros who sounded the clarion for us to do nothing less than to extend and continue her work if not her life itself.

Henry called on immediate family first and then cousins and then colleagues and then co-workers and then women whom Choco had helped empower and then the rest of us — and then all us together — to make our presence known as a testament to her.  In groups we stood when called and we echoed what Mexicans proclaim when they at a rally, at a meeting, at an event want to make their presence known and felt.  They stand and shout:

¡Presente!

We are here!  We belong!  We are with you!

The echo ricocheted off the thick walls of the old church with a force so powerful and willful that to my ear became resolve.

The work continues.

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

Willie Velásquez: A Model for Our Times

So the documentary PBS aired last week on Willie Velásquez perhaps accomplished more than its producers wanted:  It focused on a man who blended what so many Hispanic/Latino leaders today, frankly, lack:  A true sense of vision embodied in direct engagement and personal commitment to the growth of the social and political standing of Hispanic/Latinos.   Many talk a good game.  Few throw the ball downfield like Willie in his days.

For today’s young Hispanic/Latinos, Willie’s too-early death is a cautionary tale of the unforeseen sleights that history can throw our way.  What, in other words, would Texas, and therefore the country, look like had Willie lived?  The film – Willie Velásquez: Your Vote is Your Voice, a production of Galán Inc. and Latino Public Broadcasting – recounts his leadership of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project.  It did not freely speculate what he might have done had he not died in 1988 at the age of 44.  44!

The fact is we lost a strong and unrelenting voice that otherwise would have resonated louder year after year with a passion we desperately needed – and miss today.

With perhaps a better-financed organization as each year passed, he might have done more than we have to marshal the power of the Hispanic/Latino population that had begun to grow in leaps and bounds.  More important, he in all likelihood would have developed – and articulated – a sense of mission and purpose that, truth be told, we are lacking as a community and in too many of our leaders.  In too many ways, we are voiceless with our votes.

I was a young, inexperienced reporter in 1978 when I traveled up from Corpus Christi to San Antonio to profile Willie for my newspaper.  I was barely 26.  I walked into the office of his voter registration project on North St. Mary’s Street near the river.

There I met a man who could see the future and who wanted to help drive the mostly Mexican-American population of Texas and the country into that new future as rapidly as possible – one fueled by a demographic revolution that will not reach its apex in my lifetime but presents a new challenge for us:  What we do with the years ahead?

But I – nor any Hispanic/Latino of note whom I have met in my years in journalism and government – possessed his energy and commitment.  He grew personally and supported the progressive cause that includes the advancement and equal protection of all minorities and women and gays and lesbians.  More so, he would have fostered the ideals and principles and values to guide a minority when it becomes a majority.  He would have reached for something new, and he would not have repeated the atrocities visited upon us in the past.

I remember his eyes growing wider as we spoke.  “In the end, it is all about the numbers.”  I can hear his voice today.  And while all of our lives march inexorably to some end or another, the end that Willie was referring to is what we now are witness to: That Hispanic/Latinos have achieved the numbers to develop a new direction with a new sense of self and confidence to move into the days ahead.

“We are good in some counties, and we are making a difference, but we are not there yet,” he said to me.  Willie was referring to the handful of counties throughout the nation in which the Mexican-American predominated back then.  “But we will get there.”

Indeed we have – with the numbers at least.  But without his frenetic and near-maniacal manner that tossed around a million ideas in his mind, we have not gotten to where we should be.  We are more muddle than made.

Now comes the sad news that one of Willie’s closest associates, Choco Meza – as committed as he to the cause of Hispanic/Latinos and of women – died at the very moment that the country is on the verge of electing a woman to the Presidency.  Another veteran of those early days at Willie’s office, Grace García, a personal friend of Hillary Clinton, would have been in the thick of the presidential campaign.  But she, too, died too young in a car accident almost two years ago.

Women do have the numbers, and the victories for them as for Hispanic/Latinos have come slowly at times.

But they come.

We will get there.

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