Becoming part of the 80-percent

Hillary Clinton is moving to get more than 80 percent of the Hispanic/Latino vote in November, a measure not seen in half a century.  Perhaps Lyndon B. Johnson received as much or more in his lopsided win in 1964.  In this day and age, support of that kind among Hispanic/Latinos can trigger a landslide.

Clinton appears to be winning majorities across the entire Hispanic/Latino population.  The latest defection is Carlos Gutiérrez, the Cuban-born Secretary of Commerce in the administration of George W. Bush.

The highly respected Gutiérrez sees his vote for Clinton in November as a vote for free and open trade, and he has voiced grave concerns about Donald Trump’s hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric.  To some extent, Gutiérrez perhaps now sees part of what many Hispanic/Latinos for years have seen in Clinton.

For me — for whom cynicism comes easily from my newsroom years — I remember the day I became part of the 80 percent.  My time as a journalist had passed when the Monica Lewinsky scandal involving Bill Clinton blew across the front pages of the nation’s newspapers and millions of television screens with the force of a hurricane.  And Hillary, of course, was in the middle of the storm.

My first time to lay eyes on her was at the beginning of the tempest.  She was the featured speaker at the annual dinner of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts in 1998 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.  The swirling scandal was engulfing the White House five blocks away, with talk of the President’s imminent resignation cascading across town.  Inside the Mayflower, the expectation built among the small, intimate crowd as the time neared for her to appear.

Many in the room were Clinton political appointees, and their tense, worried expressions collapsed into chagrin when someone at the table interjected the specter of impeachment. The person seated next to me suggested Clinton should have called in sick. Another speculated she would look a mess.  Someone referenced The Taming of the Shrew.  Soon enough, the number of Secret Service agents deployed grew, flooding the room.  Expectation muffled the chatter and noise.  Gossiping mouths stopped in mid-sentence; wide, inquiring eyes said everything.

And then there she suddenly was.

She was resplendent in a blue dress.  Her hair, perfect.  Her smile wide.  She did not hold her head high so as to avoid. Rather, she was making direct visual contact with people and waving at friends she recognized.  She had entered the arena.

Audiences by tradition stand by rote when the President’s wife makes an entrance. But this crowd rose slowly, near-paralyzed at what it saw:  A woman not cowed; an individual with self-respect intact; a professional driving a stake into the ground to claim it; a winner in command.  Her glamour radiated her courage into the crowd.  The crowd embraced her in ever-growing applause.  Her countenance struck me, and I could only wonder what was coming next.

What came next was a long, protracted dinner that must have been excruciating for her.  With hundreds of eyes on her, Clinton carried on conversations with others at the head table as if they were talking about Kramer’s latest antics on Seinfeld.  At long last, the actor Jimmy Smits introduced her, and it was her turn to speak in a room at near-silence.  The waiters and waitresses had joined their also-entranced supervisors, all conjoined in the drama.

She started by joking about the many beautiful people in the room, cleverly underscoring her own bedazzling aura.  Then, after the usual acknowledgement of political potentates and luminaries large and small, she plunged into a speech that without any teleprompter or notes ranks as one of the best speeches I have ever heard about the state of the Hispanic/Latino community and its promise.  She was nothing short of brilliant.

She talked about her time growing up and coming to understand the complex history of the Hispanic/Latino in this country.  The statistics and figures and facts she drew from her head were as normal as the breaths she drew from within.  More important, she provided context.  She knew where everyone in the room fit in the current and future story of the country.

In an ever-confident voice, she talked about registering voters in South Texas Hispanic/Latino precincts in 1972.  She talked about children and the role of women, of Hispanic/Latino veterans, the need for all to commit to civil rights and social progress.  Her demeanor demanded respect.  She mesmerized the crowd.  And she caught me off guard.

I was not expecting anything like what I saw that night.  I wish I could swear that at the time I entertained the thought that she, not Bill, should be President.  I did not.  I was too in shock to see it.  But I see it now.

Since then, she has given hundreds of speeches to Hispanic/Latino audiences throughout the country.  When you are in the marketplace for as long as she, your brand gets around, and if your brand is one of competence, intelligence, courage, compassion and loyalty, the brand sticks.  And as every marketer in this country knows, Hispanic/Latinos are brand-loyal if anything.

What you see is what you get with Hillary Clinton.  She is neither shrew nor saint.  But compared to Donald Trump, she is eminently presidential.  Has been for years.

Since her youth, Hillary Clinton has given to the Hispanic/Latino community.  She has invested real, hard work on behalf of Hispanic/Latino children, so much of the nation’s future.  Her soul gives others hope.  Now a rate of return awaits her dedication and commitment.

An 80-percent-plus rate of return is about right.

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

An American Vote Lost

It was one of those coincidences that has happened to me often in life.  Not but two days after Khizr Khan, with his wife, Ghazala, standing by his side in stoic support, delivered his jaw-dropping defense of the Constitution at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I boarded the Southwest flight home to Austin via Dallas.

I had noticed what seemed to me was an Indian family in the waiting area.  They easily could have been Pakistani like Mr. Khan.  I took my aisle seat and knew the middle seat would not remain empty.  Indeed, while looking out the window for that unseen cloud formation that I always fear is going to force a screw out of the wing and send us plummeting to earth, a young man took the window seat.  And not long after him came another young man who I came to know by his nickname, Nish.  He was part of the family waiting to board in the last group.  He took the middle seat.

I soon learned that Nish, his parents and a brother after landing in Dallas were driving to Oklahoma City for a wedding, well, two weddings, really: the first a Christian ceremony and then another of the same couple he said would be in Hindu.  I immediately warned him to get on Interstate 35 quickly to try to avoid the construction mess near Denton, 30 miles north, where my sister lives, lest they add an hour or two to their trip.

With the plane rising into the clouds, I also learned that this young man was hell-bent on a military career, not unlike Captain Humayun Khan, who had died a hero in Iraq in 2004 helping defend his fellow soldiers and whose valiant legacy as embodied by his father at the convention might have been the turning point of the 2016 presidential race.  I asked Nish if he had watched the Khan speech.  He said yes, and the conversation, of course, quickly careened into all things Trump.

I was intrigued by Nish, who said he works as a paralegal at a law firm in northern Virginia while working to figure out a way to get into the Army’s officer training program.  His youthful earnestness and ambition were endearing, and so knowing something of how these things can be short-circuited, I began to give him some advice about how he might be able to jump-start the process of gaining entry into the military at the officer-training level.  He grew greatly enthused.

As we talked, he confirmed he was Republican at heart but that Trump was beyond the pale.  I got the sense he could easily vote for a Ryan-Rubio ticket in 2020.

I found his enthusiasm ennobling but also troubling.  I usually have not counseled young men or women to pursue careers that might cost them their lives.  But one cannot deny a patriot his calling whatever his political persuasion or his religion, something Trump, who would purport to be Nish’s commander-in-chief, does not.

Nish’s parents were born in India; Nish and his siblings here.  But Nish like so many products of immigrant parents knows instinctively that there is no escaping being labelled an immigrant in a land in which minorities are singled out for attack – even minorities who were here before the founding of the country.

Republicans like Trump and the know-nothing wing of his party do not realize that attacking minorities re-enforces the ethnic, religious and cultural constructs that support their different roots and identities.  Attacks on minorities even overcome sentiments within immigrant groups, for no one should doubt the sometimes real animosity that exists between Indians and Pakistanis.  In the fight against Trump, there is no difference among minorities.  Ask Cuban Americans who year after year increasingly are joining every other Hispanic/Latino group coalescing against recalcitrant Republicans.

Public opinion surveys reveal that an incredibly high number of Americans — as many as 40 percent! — believe most Hispanic/Latinos in the United States are immigrants – and ‘illegal immigrants’ at that.

In today’s toxic environment, Nish will remain ever the son of immigrants – even were he, God forbid, to perish somewhere like Capt. Kahn did for his country.

Were that horrible fate to await him, he with grim coincidence would join the thousands of Hispanic/Latino military service men and women who sacrificed their lives for a country that produces the Trumps of the world.

All of these thoughts were going through my mind as I listened to Nish soberly yet excitedly talk about his future.  What an incredible young man.  Trump does not know what he is losing.

But in Trump losing the American votes cast by Nish and millions more like him, America gains and the legacy of Capt. Khan and thousands of Hispanic/Latinos heroes vouchsafed.

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

As Important as the Khans

Reports that Donald Trump almost matched Hillary Clinton in raising money for the month of August for his campaign should alarm everyone.  In the end, the news could overshadow the events leading up to and after the Republican and Democratic national nominating conventions.

The money Trump raised in July, about $82 million, came mostly from small donors.  If Trump can harness the full potential of his base, he could turn around a race he is currently losing.  If it is about the money, Hispanic/Latinos need to take note.

Trump has made religion and the color of one’s skin a cornerstone of his campaign though he might deny it.  He is close enough to the White House for Hispanic/Latinos to make a trip to the credit union if necessary.  After all, as I have said before, this election is an existential matter.  It was and is for the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan.

Trump as President is an immediate, direct threat to the existence of many in our community.  More so, he endangers the existence of the republic and our democratic form of government that in the end could endanger the very existence of humankind itself were he to get his hands on the handles and gears of war or delay us in making hard decisions about climate change.

Forget the rising oceans for now.  It should be enough for Hispanic/Latino parents to worry about their sons and daughters once again being shipped out to war to return mangled or killed or their skins and minds damaged in more ways than one.

It should be enough for Hispanic/Latinos — especially veterans who have voted Republican — to be repelled by someone who mocked a Gold Star mother; got his hands on a Purple Heart even though he got five deferments from serving in Vietnam; denigrated prisoners of war; and called a general who served all of his life in the military a failed person.

Imagine Donald Trump meeting flag-draped coffins at Dover.  Of what possible comfort could he be to a family in tears, this man for whom empathy is so distant?  Imagine the rage for any war-deaths that result from the decisions of a President who knows nothing about foreign policy but can command troops into battle.  How long before a constitutional crisis would ensue?

Against that backdrop and in tandem with our lower voter and electoral participation rates, Hispanic/Latinos have never contributed in any significant way to political campaigns.  Most Hispanic/Latino households do not have $25 lying around to give to anyone, much less a presidential campaign.  Worse still, high-net-worth Hispanic/Latinos have not been especially supportive either.

It is time for everybody to give.  This race could turn.

Bernie Sanders raised tens of millions of dollars in small sums from millions of contributors, many of whom never had given to a campaign.  Likewise, Trump’s campaign coffers could explode overnight despite his plunging poll numbers.  Hillary Clinton since her convention has opened up a significant lead over Trump in national surveys of registered and likely voters.  But that should neither excuse nor preclude us from giving.  Candidates with larger leads than Clinton’s today have lost.

As a group, Hispanic/Latinos cannot give much, but one million Hispanic/Latinos averaging $25 now and in September and October amounts to $75 million.  That is a lot of money but hardly enough.  Nevertheless, it will be money well spent, especially if the economy and the stock market were to tank were Trump to win.

Instead of giving up two hours of wages or so, many Hispanic/Latinos might have to give up their jobs — or much more.

Like the Khans, we have a lot of skin in the game.

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

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.