The Wrong Guy(s)

Sometimes you hire the wrong person.  It just does not work out.

That is what the polls are showing now about Donald Trump.  But it is going to be hard if not impossible to fire him.  And that almost certainly will prove ruinous to the nation.

But the same thing can be said about Democratic Party activists, strategists and those on-air know-it-alls whose election-loss records reveal something other than mastery of campaigns, politics, messaging and issues.  They, too, are hard to get rid of, or at the very least it is difficult for them to understand the political realities of the country today.

I am not going to comment about how to get rid of Trump institutionally.  The ways and means set out by the Constitution are there for use.  Whether there are enough Republican members of Congress or of the Cabinet courageous enough to put country before party remains to be seen.  I rather doubt it, however sad, and much can be written about that, however desperately.

But the only way or means available to the public to be rid of Trump and the disaster that is the Republican majority in Congress are the 2018 and 2020 elections, which brings me back to the Democratic political establishment.

There is growing suspicion that Hillary Clinton – whom I love – is setting about to see if she might yet make another run for the office that slipped through her hands twice.  I have heard it from enough people who believe she has a winning argument that the Trump campaign in collusion with the Russians stole the election from her.  I can see the logic of it, but it does not resonate with me, I am sorry to say.

The problem is not Hillary.  Anyone who has read anything I have ever written on this website, the least-visited of the planet, knows that I believe she is eminently qualified to be President and that Trump being in the White House and not she is the cruelest moment in U.S. history.

But being anti-Trump is not enough.  That is what the Democratic political establishment does not understand.  Democrats have to offer more.  What the GOP offered in 2016 was a vehicle of resentment about things as they are.  Many voters took the ride of anger and hate that Trump offered.  In contrast, too many of us believed that in comparison to Trump, Hillary was a slam-dunk, and so what we offered was not well said and projected by the campaign.

And that is where we erred, with most of the responsibility landing on the decision-makers who now go on television with handy excuses related to Russia, Jared Kushner, Russian-owned banks, shadowy financial magnates and, of course, the now-infamous James Comey.

Yes, let that be part of the way we win what most voters wanted in 2016.  The anti-Trump sentiment at the Democratic grassroot-base is real, and it will grow as the GOP in Congress and the Supreme Court head down a road that most voters do not want to travel.

But that is not enough because the components of the voting electorate favor the Republican Party.  That might sound oxymoronic given that Hillary won the popular vote.  But that proved not enough.

There has to be a spokesman or spokeswoman who is able to say persuasively – unlike Hillary – this:  That America can solve its problems, especially those larger than abortion, transgender bathrooms, guns and immigration.  What makes the learned Democratic establishment think that the majority of Americans gets up in the morning thinking about these causes and that they want to hear about them every moment the television in on?

I am all in favor of women’s right to choose, for the protection of the transgender community, for common sense on guns and for the protection of immigrants.  But I and many others do not have to be labelled as less progressive because we do not want to be so wedded to ideological litmus tests that we lose the greater reality that if we do not win we lose on all fronts, not just bathroom bills.  Most Democrats did not support gay marriage but they do now, having been brought there by party activists who then convinced the country of their argument.  Fine – and good.

But surely we can be more inclusive of voters whom we somehow do not hear who believe we have gone off the rails.  We can them back because most Americans are good people.  There are too many activists afoot within the Democratic Party who suspect that too many Americans are not good because they are not as enlightened as the established elites.

This above all must be our game plan:  To turn perceived negatives into positives – a message that could resonate with, for example, many Hispanic/Latino men who showed less willingness to vote for Hillary than we presumptuously thought.  That is just one component of what we should worry about as we head into 2018 and 2020.  And you are not going to see too many pundits or experts on television or at party conferences talking about that kind of detail, which is where the devil is.

The fact of the matter is that we have the numbers to prevail — even in off-year elections.  But we shave off our majority status when we project the cause rather than the common good.

Unless we win next year and in 2020, we will have ruin and be even more desperate.

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

Reading the Times and my Morning Joe

I have not been watching as much television as before Nov. 8.  But I did go to bed resolved to watch Morning Joe at 5 a.m. and monitor the three major news network in light of The New York Times breaking the latest revelations on Trump-Russia.  Morning Joe is not a bad place to get a sense of how official Washington is initially reacting to an overnight development.

Having seen the “shows”, I believe that enough of the GOP on the Senate side is moving to make Mike Pence president.  My judgment might not matter.  I wrote that Hillary Clinton was going to win, and easily.  But elections are not fact until after the voting stops.  In comparison, you cannot get more factual than live intelligence intercepts, to which the Times presumably has access.

Everyone should understand something very important:  This has nothing to do with Trump cavorting with prostitutes in a hotel near Red Square.  I believe the military-intelligence establishment and others have concluded that Trump jeopardizes and already hurts the national security of our country.

Even if there were nothing in the intercepts, Russia now can control Trump.  If Russia doesn’t like what Trump does, it can simply build on and confirm the stories that are out there right now.  Whether the stories about cooperation are true barely matters.  If Russia confirms a cabal, Trump is in trouble.  Russia can expose him if they don’t like the line he is taking.  Trump is therefore compromised and so is our national security.  And that is what responsible parties in Washington do not like.

Take Sens. Bob Corker on MSNBC and Lindsey Graham on ABC this morning.  Politicians and other leader-types get animated when they get defensive or want to make sure that they justify their actions.  Unconsciously, Corker started to raise his arms and his voice, and he did everything to keep his eyes from popping out of their sockets the more he spoke.  Graham was the kid barely suppressing his giddiness at finding a bag of candy on the sidewalk he is keeping secret from his parents.

The straw that most likely has broken the camel’s back are the comments made by the active general in charge of special operations in Florida who said Washington is in chaos.  Do you know how many conversations that general had to have with fellow generals before he opened his mouth?

I should not have been surprised by how quiet John McCain and Graham were on Trump’s Cabinet appointments in general.  That they let Rex Tillerson skate into State now makes more sense, as does briefly watching former CIA director Michael Hayden on television two weeks ago.  Up until then he had been careful to mince his words as he has all his career.  Now Hayden seemed full-bore against Trump.  It would have been unthinkable last month that Hayden would have authored the op-ed which appeared in the Times two weeks.  What caused him to move?

When Trump dissed the CIA, the NSA, the intelligence units of State and Defense etc., some within – those just angry and others motivated by fear of Trump’s incompetence – moved all they knew, I suspect, over to McCain or some other place before Trump could take full control of their agencies.  They then laid the groundwork for what we see now, starting with the release of the dossier on Trump compiled by the British spy or former spy.  How on earth did BuzzFeed get it or parts of it?  Did someone mistakenly leave it at the Dairy Queen on Route 50?  I don’t think so.  Then came news quickly on CNN that parts of the dossier had been corroborated.

And when nine sources confirm the intelligence reports, it should be clear that McCain and company have much bigger fish to fry than Tillerson or Betsy DeVos — with a lot of help.  Rather than a Sam Dash at the Watergate select committee years ago orchestrating events, this drama seems to be a full-scale attempt by the military-intelligence establishment to rid us of a dangerously incompetent chief executive.  Michael Flynn being forced off the National Security Council is nothing compared to what seems to be building.

If the grounds existed to force the resignation of Flynn, then forcing the resignation of Trump would be easy in normal times.  But it most likely will require the threat of a looming impeachment before he goes on his own.

We should suspect by now that the McCains, Grahams, Portmans, the Collinses, the Murkoswskis, the Rands would not be hard to get to vote for conviction of Trump in the Senate if the facts support it.  In the House, at some point, Paul Ryan, who nauseatingly bides his time in classic political fashion, will have to act.  He might be pushed by GOP members like Michael McCaul and Will Hurd.

These two congressmen from Texas have national security experience and either man would make a better President than Trump.  They probably are alarmed at what is happening.  And other members, some from farming states who are starting to hear from their districts about Trump’s ideas about Nafta and women members who cringe when they see Trump on television – what makes anyone think these Republicans are immune from voting with the simple majority it takes for the House to impeach?

Other than impeachment, the other forced-resignation route could be found if the FBI (or any of the intelligence agencies or even Interpol that want Trump gone) know or uncover something that Trump did himself that constitutes a felony.

All this is enough to get up and watch television again.

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

Of Dunces and Horses

Walking into a restaurant I frequent in Austin on Jan. 20 a little after noon, a wry smile edged its way across my face.  On any day other than that of Donald Trump’s inauguration, most of the restaurant’s patrons eating alone face the television on the wall.  But not on Friday.  Every customer sat opposite the screen, defiant if not numb to the coverage from Washington.

Before I sat down in the order laid down by the opposition, I saw about five seconds of protesters somewhere fighting the police.  A sign of things to come.  The television that made Trump is going to destroy him, like the tiger that John F. Kennedy warned us in his inaugural address would consume ultimately anyone daring to ride it.

I saw nothing of that day’s usually grand events, which is odd, drawn to history as I am.  I will spend hours in front of the television watching things of historic importance, state funerals, for example, whether for a Kennedy, a Pope or a Reagan.  I watched Strom Thurmond’s funeral, for goodness’ sakes, one of the country’s most reprehensible racists.  Speaking of state funerals, I panicked when I heard that Queen Elizabeth II recently struggled to overcome a cold that sounded more like near-pneumonia, a dire threat to someone of that age, 91.

The idea of Trump going to England to represent the United States were the queen to die in the next four years appalls me.  Trump hauling his red hair and history with women into St. Paul’s Cathedral for a memorial service for one of the most respected figures of the last 100 years would be outright desecration.  And what about Pope Francis giving up the ghost during this specter of Trump? His arrival at so august a ceremony as a papal funeral corresponds to what this country has done to itself:  It went from electing a highly capable Hillary Clinton to empowering a ridiculous man, whose appointments to his Cabinet follow suit.

It is not the purpose of this space to regurgitate what we patently know about Trump’s Cabinet picks:  That across the board the men and women he selected for some of the highest offices of the land are so evidently out of their depth that our once-worry about the future is now real fear.

Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, did not know before he was nominated to be Secretary of Energy that on his shoulders would fall the responsibility of securing the nation’s nuclear arsenal.  Before I went to work at Energy as a speechwriter to a truly competent man whose desk Perry will now occupy, I myself did know about that particular part of the department’s portfolio.  Hard to believe that the governor of the nation’s premier energy-producing state did not.

Would that the Cabinet gathered only as a dance for dunces!  We could laugh them off and sit opposite our televisions in mirthful spite for a day or two.  But something more profound is at hand, and I am elated this Cabinet does not include a Hispanic/Latino.  No Hispanic/Latino of any note or reputation would want to be associated with what might well come from this crowd.  Should all go up in flames, we might be the ash of history but not responsible for it.

As important, I am glad that Hispanic/Latinos* are grasping – each day more thoroughly, deeply and communally – what Trump and most of his supporters think of our community of more than 58 million:  That we – the demonstrable demographic future of the nation – are not worthy nor important enough to be included in the Cabinet.  Into this oppressive quicksand of reality should be sinking those Hispanic/Latinos who voted for Trump, including a scant few friends of mine.

From this lack of inclusion in the Cabinet comes also an important lesson:  No Hispanic/Latino should ever feel that he or she is not entitled to occupy any office of the land at any level.  But we have to be better than that.  The bar has been set so low that we have to be conscientious about how we raise it in the future when this nightmare ends, hopefully without total devastation.

Observing the Cabinet selection and confirmation process reminded me that we shall never know how the Roman Senate would have reacted had the emperor Caligula named his favorite horse a consul of Rome, an office of superior rank then to that of Cabinet member today.  In our time, the U.S. Senate, being in Republican hands, already has proved too passive letting this Cabinet come into being when more is at stake than was two millennia ago.  An empire then, the whole earth today.

My sister Rosario texted me that she cried when she saw President Obama leave Washington.  But she and we should remember he will be back soon enough.  After a short vacation, he will join Eric Holder, his former attorney general, to lead the fight against the gerrymandered distortion of our congressional representational system that usurps the popular will.  It is the first step to turn this thing around.  And in the name of those three million more of we voters who formed the majority of the electorate in November, Obama will no doubt act to help stave off any direct madness that emanates from this already iniquitous administration.

Still, Obama and Holder and the millions they rally will need the likes of Sens. John McCain and Rob Portman and Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and other Republicans in the Senate to write their own profiles in courage to avert the clearest and most present danger of our lifetimes.

Heroes can hold in this time of dunces, before the horses.

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

*Hispanic/Latinos is not a typo. It is an editorial confection to overcome the rhetorical divide between those Hispanics who consider themselves not Latinos and those Latinos who do not consider themselves Hispanic.

From Episcopacy, Legacy.

If you do not follow European soccer, you cannot possibly know who Sergio Ramos is.  For the past two years, Ramos has used his head to score amazing goals at the most critical times for the most important sports team in the world, Real Madrid.  On Sunday, however, the great Ramos headed in a goal into his own net that ultimately cost Real victory.  We all at times score against ourselves.  It is in our nature.  Otherwise, we would be perfect.

Ramos came to mind on my drive back to Austin from San Antonio after paying my respects to the city’s former archbishop, Patricio Flores, who died last week.  In thinking about Flores and Ramos, I was not dwelling on loss so much as considering legacy.  Many more millions of people know who Ramos is than who Flores was.  Years from now Ramos will be remembered around the globe through video clips for his heroics on the field.  Flores will not be as noted nor remembered.  But, of course, it is not the life led nor the name known but that which we leave behind that matters.

Flores was one of those important men and women whom I have known who did matter.  The former Houston priest became the first Mexican-American bishop and archbishop in a land made Catholic by Spanish explorers centuries before and as such Flores heralded part of the beginning of the new chapter of the American story that we are now writing.  We are in a time in which we are going to have to provide a new intellectual context for the Hispanic/Latino community going forward.  It is no longer a question of who was first at this or at that.  It is the new not the old legacy that matters.

This reconsideration of ourselves was destined to start in Texas.  There was a reason why the first premier Hispanic/Latino social and political organizations were all established in San Antonio and South Texas.   However important, the overarching principles of those organizations of the last 50 years – civil rights, social justice, equal protection under law – were not enough.  The well-intended idea that the Hispanic/Latino community would achieve equal status and power by pursuing alone the guarantees of the Constitution ultimately has proved deficient.  We could soon be again where we were before Paul VI made Flores a bishop in 1970.

Whatever you might think of the election and the prospects of a Trump Presidency, we need a new perspective that defines our community and its purpose and gives it energy for the future at hand.  The great repression that might be headed our way will demonstrate the need for unity and action and it will foist on us a new sense of solidarity that, unintended or not, will re-enforce our self-identity.  I am not talking about organizing a separatist model but we need a new model of thinking within our system of democratic governance.

Neither you nor I nor anyone cannot escape what we now confront.  We will be compelled at last to find the voice we have never had but which is now possible because of our growing numbers.   To find a voice to resonate within ourselves, some of us will think of Patricio Flores. In building a new but cogent school of thought that  generates a mission statement that expresses a world view that everybody easily and naturally understands, we would bring purpose to a large mass of human beings still being formed.

The basic tenet of the new thinking has to be that key economy-driving states like Texas will fail if Hispanics/Latinos do not accelerate our social, economic and political progress.  And if those states fail, the nation will fall.  A larger, poorer Hispanic/Latino community will not be able to shoulder the cost of servicing the nation’s growing debt, supporting its aging population and paying for new defense systems in an increasingly dangerous world.

It is incumbent that Hispanic/Latinos* internalize our role in saving the country, and we must inculcate that belief within our community so that it is as common as the rising sun.  We must draw out and build upon the best within us more effectively and fully:  our sense of family, our desire for community, our congenital loyalty, our desire to belong.  More so, our efforts must rest on the need to foster self-confidence and self-belief in our students, and I believe that rests in restoring cultural pride.  The loss of our culture, including respect for our names and surnames, is complicit in our present state of being.

What lies ahead for the world in this new age in which religion matters less and yet matters more no one can know.  Church attendance and reverence is down; religious judgmental fervor rendered into partisan use and terrorist tool is up; indifference to what made religion important – faith – is quotidian, a universal, daily reality and subversive.

We must be careful, then, to use our heads well and not score against ourselves lest we lose the whole game and leave a last legacy.

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 Hispanics who consider themselves not Latinos and Latinos who do not consider themselves Hispanic.

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.