So in July I told a group of Hispanic/Latino professionals in Boston they could count on Donald Trump not ever being elected President. I feel I owe them an explanation. Simply put, had millennials and African-Americans voted at the same rates they did in 2008 and 2012 for the Democratic ticket, Hillary Clinton would have won enough of the close states to secure at least 270 electoral votes.
I assumed that President Barack Obama would want to protect his achievements and thus work indefatigably to elect her. By his hitting the campaign trail hard he would make the millennial/African-American vote materialize on election night. I was right that he campaigned tirelessly for her but we were all wrong to think he could recreate 2008 and 2012.
I was also wrong in that I believed that many white Republican voters would be so turned off by their crass, embarrassing nominee. I thought the GOP ticket would suffer a 6-10 percent fall-off from 2012. Not only did that not happen but Trump actually ran better than Mitt Romney’s numbers among white voters.
I am aghast that of white women who voted, 52 percent voted for Trump! Who would have ever believed that?
Clinton did not lose the election because the Hispanic/Latino vote was not in her corner. Hispanic/Latinos came out – in record numbers – to stand in line to support her. She lost because the Democratic coalition splintered enough to cause three critical states to vote Republican.
Not once did I believe Trump could win — until Tuesday night about 7 p.m. when, with 25 percent of the vote still to be counted in Florida, a friend texted me from Miami. She was on the ground. “We lost Florida.” This was someone who only seven days before assured me we were going to win there. I went into near-shock.
In retrospect, blinded by Hillary’s qualifications, I did not give great importance to the baggage she carries. People who know me know I am not an easy follower, but in this I lost my journalistic skepticism. Her problems did weigh more on the electorate than on me. Though she won the popular vote, it turns out that Democrats nominated the only person whom Trump could beat in certain states. In the end, the Democrats did not follow the formula for winning: run the right campaign with the right candidate and the right message with the right people who know the electorate making the decisions.
What happens now, though, is a more important question today than What went wrong. Today I am concerned that many Hispanic/Latino families are now under direct threat, as is the republic itself.
I wish I could be as sure as I was in July about the immediate future. I am still numb. I am not optimistic that Trump will make a better President than he is a businessman. If so, we are in for a very tough time. He might be our Hugo Chávez in that he screws up so quickly that there is no return from the chaos he unleashes.
I asked a friend of mine who travels in high business circles if anyone in his network knows Trump personally who can gauge what kind of man he really is. Can he be checked by a competent staff? Can he choose a competent staff? At the core, does he really believe he knows more about ISIS than our generals? Is he serious about building walls and deporting millions of our families, friends and neighbors?
My friend said no one of any consequence in the business world knows him, and my friend does not know anyone who can answer my questions.
My only sense now is not a good one, and on that I hope I am wrong.
Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.