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).


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blind into the Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But we might have not seen anything yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here and Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The work continues.

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

Willie Velásquez: A Model for Our Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they come.

We will get there.

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

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.


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.”


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.