Not Normal

The normalcy of the Republican Party is no more, of course.  What many thought was going to happen did not.  The Donald Trump-Mike Pence ticket upsets what I believed was almost a given: That  the GOP would put a Hispanic/Latino on the ticket, more likely as its vice presidential nominee since I did not think Marco Rubio would achieve enough traction to secure the top spot.  As Rubio sputtered, I thought the chances of a Spanish surname in the second slot in both parties kept improving.

In my mind, any of the 16 other normal candidates for the Republican nomination probably would have gone that route, knowing that the new demography continues to tilt the electorate in the direction of the Democrats.  In response, I believed, the Democratic nominee – whom I always believed would be Hillary Clinton – would respond by choosing a Hispanic/Latino to prevent any erosion among Hispanic/Latino voters.

Almost nothing is going according to what even long-tenured observers thought would be one of the central operating scenarios that would drive the presidential campaign this year: a Hispanic/Latino on a presidential ballot.

In truth, an important opportunity has passed, for the GOP more so than the Democratic Party.  As important a moment has passed for Hispanics/Latinos.  I was hoping for a Hispanic/Latino on both tickets for a simple reason: It would spur the incorporation of Hispanic/Latinos in the national consciousness – something that is needed more than most people understand.  The fact that Hispanic/Latinos have not been an operational part of daily American life at all levels of business and government and media is the very reason Trump has done so well and the reason he choose another white male.

The moment that has passed is striking and it has the potential for roiling already roiled times.  If the GOP is now fast becoming a white party, it seems that Rubio – if he is able to win a tight re-election to the Senate – probably has even less of a chance now of ever reaching the White House.  He started off with such promise for 2016 and now ends with a slew of demerits he would have to overcome within his own party.

The ongoing battle for the soul of the GOP — assuming Trump loses — probably cannot have the face of Rubio leading the effort.

Since he has demonstrated a remarkable ability to evolve and adapt according to changing political exigencies – to put it kindly – he almost certainly must have given thought to changing parties.  Becoming a Democrat is not a reach for Rubio, and he could argue, like Democrats who left the party as rank and file or as elected officials to become Republicans for the past 30 years, that ‘I did not abandon my party.  It abandoned me’.  And he would be right.

Rubio’s fumbled engagement with immigration nevertheless shows that he understands the importance of immigrants to the future of the country.  Rubio is at a crossroads.  Personally, his remaining a Republican clouds his future in no small way.  Politically, he should know that he would be well-received by Democrats.  After all, the electoral value for Democrats of nailing down Florida in 2020 and beyond is inestimable.

On the Democratic side, the probability that a Hispanic/Latino on his or her own could mount a race for the Presidency in the near future without the boost of first serving as Vice President is not high – unless he or she were an exceptionally talented rendition of Barack Obama.  With apologies to the Hispanic/Latinos still being mentioned in the Democratic veepstakes two weeks before the convention in Philadelphia, the importance of the changed circumstances of 2016 is evident.

Hillary Clinton might yet surprise but her decision to not accentuate the issue that is driving significant numbers of white voters to Trump – in an age of increased terror that too many conflate with ethnicity – is understandable, especially for Democratic, reasonable Republican and independent Hispanic/Latino votes.  Their primary goal should be to stop the abnormal threat poses by Trump, not to win the vice presidential nomination.

These are not normal times.

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

Two Parties: Two HispanicLatino Vice Presidents

The attention that the HispanicLatino vote received during the presidential campaign and future demographic projections of its growth have caused the media and obsessive politico-types to speculate about when the first President of HispanicLatino descent will be sworn into office.  The strategic placement of the HispanicLatino population in critical states has made a deep impression on political strategists that appears lasting and could accelerate the election to the Presidency a member of a group that only this year surpassed 10 percent of the national voting electorate.  It seems absurd that people on television are fantasizing about future administrations, but the emergence of the telegenic Castro twins of San Antonio on the national scene had fueled the chatter.

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Asking More from Marco

Marco Rubio has gotten himself into a pickle, hasn’t he?  Is the shine off the apple, or is there something behind that Bush?  These questions forced the first of the faux 2016 presidential candidates to show up in Iowa 10 scant days after the election to give a speech.  Rubio officially found out on Nov. 6 that Americans rejected the fearful-anxious movement that catapulted him onto the national scene in the first place.  The Tea party is not dead but it does not have as much of a future as the ink it gets.

What Marco Rubio said during his transparent trip to Iowa last week is not going to cut it for him or his party – or the nation.  The country today needs real leadership – political brinksmanship, even – not the cautious catnip Rubio offered last week.  The country needs more from all of us.  It needs us to be less ideological.  It needs the no-tax pledge signers to understand fiscal reality.  It needs environmentalists to understand natural gas development.  It needs a new integrity.  It needs less media.  It needs a new way to fund campaigns.  It needs a lot more than what we are giving it.  And it certainly needs more from young telegenic Hispanic/Latinos like Marco Rubio who are supposed to be a great part of the future.

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Far, Far From a Status Quo Election

Years ago as a young boy in the small town of West Texas where I grew up, I would daydream along the railroad tracks in the shallow valley below our home.  I would wait for the high, mighty trains that I imagined came roaring from Los Angeles from the west or Atlanta from the east.  The trains would slow down as they sped by an old salt lake but even so would displace enough air to create a powerful force that on occasion sent my thin, reedy body reeling and crashing into the brown dirt.  While other boys were sniffing glue, I was getting off on sudden blasts of air from caravans of steel that the day before might have sat idling near the Pacific or come from the other side of the country where Sherman ran roughshod over the Confederacy.

One day, one of the trains slowed to a pace slower than usual.  A clump of rail yard workers not far from me waited.  One of the crew stood by a thick iron stick that he pushed away from his body.  As he did, the tracks moved and separated in part.  I watched with fascination.  A new set of tracks appeared suddenly and diverted the massive train to another set of tracks.  That decades-old image came to mind as I sat with my old college roommate watching the returns of the election of 2012 that some observers have characterized as a status-quo election.  It was anything but.  In fact, it was a shattering election – far more important than the pedantic conclusion that Democrats retained control of the White House and the Senate and that Republicans maintained their majority in the House.

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Election Post-Scripts as Tea Leaves and Footnotes

Whether President Obama wins re-election tomorrow, some electoral post-scripts will be engaged immediately.  We will know if the HispanicLatino vote was important as expected, especially in the swing states.  One of the two campaigns clearly will not have done enough to win – while hundreds of thousands of HispanicLatinos who did not vote could have made the difference.  In either case, the HispanicLatino vote becomes ever more important.  On the very day after the election, they will add more potential voters for 2016 proportionately than any other group.

If Obama wins with the HispanicLatino vote having proven decisive, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will shoot to the head of the pack in his party, and his political action committees will begin to attract immediate money.  Just as important, he will draw additional, competent political advisors with national experience to make sure the young legislator does not misstep and try to turn his party away from its harsh anti-HispanicLatino rhetoric.  For those reasons, Rubio and sophisticated political analysts – not necessarily the ones on television every morning – will look closely at the results from three distinct congressional races across the country to read tea leaves about the future and to consider other possibilities.

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Hillary and HispanicLatinos in 2016

The just-past national conventions dropped a number of stones into the political pond ahead of 2016.  The splash from each stone might be dismissed as early speculation but in politics speculation mists the leaves of future candidacies.  From each splash-point already radiates the ripples that will form the ebb and flow of the currents leading to the next series of election cycles.

Some of the ripples emanating from Charlotte and Tampa were larger than others.  Some will have staying power but most will run out of energy over time, dreams lost in the backwaters of unviability.  Other currents, perhaps waves, might form as human events trigger as yet unseen political storms.  But whatever crests come at whatever time, they will have to lap up against the immediate reality of a woman named Hillary Clinton.

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A swing and a miss but they got a YouTube sensation out of it

Posted on Thursday night for Friday’s blog.

Mitt Romney’s speech was a single with no one on base.  Whether the voters move him around the bases is very much a very open question.  The curve balls the Republican national convention threw the country were too simple and the lines too obvious.  Hispanics. Check.  Women. Check.  Marriage. Check.  Romney could have hit a homerun, but when you start with another Bush, it is hard to be taken seriously.  Jeb Bush defending his brother – certain to go down in history as the worst of presidents – reminded the country of how bad George W. Bush was, how bad a time the country is having recovering and how bad Mitt Romney might be.  The video promoting Romney before he spoke included photographs of Romney’s father, who with his record on civil rights probably would not have supported Arizona’s anti-HispanicLatino that are metastasizing across the country.

This whole enterprise is warped somehow.  The forced, awkward elevation of the man, the lofty descriptions of his business record, the declarations of self-achievement – they all evoke that old Shakespearean line:  “I think he doth protest too much.”  And poor Clint Eastwood.  He represents the skeletal notions of a make-believe past.  The disrespect for the Office of the President with the empty-chair act was astonishing.  I felt sorry for Eastwood and for the men and women who felt they had to prop up Romney with faded delusion and crudeness.  The computer severs at YouTube might be confused at the NSA with spinning centrifuges in Iran.  Not far behind Eastwood were the retellings of family stories – from Marco Rubio’s oddly agitated speech to Ann Romney’s pasta-and-tuna saga of the other night.  They sounded hollow and lonely, even, perhaps meant to scare people into loss.  I figured out that loss was the theme of the convention.  Loss of security. Loss of jobs. Loss of families.  The concept of the family was used to frighten, not to inspire. I also figured out that Paul Ryan is Eddie Haskell.

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In Tampa: More than a Tropical Storm Named Isaac

As the tropics churn with potential storms, they cast an ominous backdrop for Tampa as it prepares for the Republican National Convention that starts next week.  It is also a stormy time for speechwriters drafting remarks for the lineup of speakers, especially the Hispanic or Latino “stars” of the party.  With only minimal original input from the speakers who will deliver them, the speeches theoretically are intended to provide answers for voters, and so it will be tough going against a stiff wind for speechwriters to compose something for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martínez and senatorial nominee Ted Cruz of Texas.

Aside from the strident attacks on immigrants that are only a charade for how Republicans feel about the changing demography of the nation, these “stars” will have to address a national HispanicLatino audience with a straight face.  Behind the curtain in the convention hall, GOP strategists have put in motion plans to suppress – actively, consciously suppress – the HispanicLatino vote.  These four individuals know they were elected in unique elections with unusual electoral characteristics and that they are part of an organization that seeks not to expand the progress HispanicLatinos make but to limit it – and aggressively so. Continue reading

Julián Castro and the Democrats’ Looming 75-Percent Solution

Could President Obama’s share of the Hispanic/Latino vote – as high as 75 percent according to some polls – be bumped any higher after Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan as his running mate?  Seems unlikely, but the possibility of freezing HispanicLatino support at that stratospheric number alone should make the mouths of Democratic strategists water.  Think of it: Romney, clinging to the anti-HispanicLatino message that he embraced during the primary campaign, puts on the ticket a representative of the tea party – comprised of the most vociferous anti-HispanicLatino Republicans.

If Romney’s campaign already was taking a shellacking nationally – his unfavorable rating among all voters is at an unheard of 49 percent for a challenger to an incumbent President – then among HispanicLatinos Romney has tanked.  That sound you hear should be Chicago going in for the kill to seal the election.  Continue reading

What Ted Cruz Has Wrought

My rip-roaring social life allows me to watch Air Disasters, a program on one of those cable channels skipped over by millions.  Each episode analyzes and documents the cause behind the tragic destruction of a plane loaded with human life.  Each story revolves around a small thing – a screw, a wire, a microscopic air bubble – that over a period of time went unattended and then went on to trigger a series of regrettable, irreversible events.  The screw suddenly pops at the wrong time at the wrong place.  A wire long-frayed blows.  A microscopic air bubble balloons into disaster.  Perhaps the very design of the plane itself lends itself to ruin.

Ted Cruz’ win last night to become the nominee of the Texas Republican Party for the Senate was a hard-earned victory that was a very personal triumph for him.  But it speaks more to what Texas Democrats did – or did not do – years ago to avert catastrophe, which is what the 41-year-old Cruz is for them.  For years, the decision-makers in the party that once dominated political life in Texas began to commit the mistakes that have now caused a historic crash that will reverberate for decades, yes, decades to come.  The beatdown that Cruz gave the incumbent lieutenant governor last night is nothing compared to the beatdown Cruz has given to Texas Democrats who believed that demography alone would bring their state back into the blue column.

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