Dallas to Debacle

The effect on the 2016 elections by the recent shootings by and against the police underlies the struggle to absorb the horror of what has happened.  If the slayings reverberate in favor of Donald Trump, then this week’s events only presage greater terror.  Trump’s lack of understanding of most topics of any magnitude and his shoot-from-the-belt approach —  seriously, no pun intended — would make matters worse.  He has more than demonstrated his capacity to unleash upon the land the full furies of the hate he already has used to fuel his campaign.

Sadly, the assassination of five law enforcement officers in Dallas by a black man transcends tragedy.  The murders personify the country’s new fragility that changing demographics, a difficult economy and vitriol and corruption in Congress are abetting.

Like the new age of climate change that jeopardizes our very existence, we have entered a new era in which race and other critical social stresses animate the possibility of disunion.  It can’t happen here, we are told.  Yet the greatest and most dangerous moment in this already perilous passage into the immediate future emanates from the social media and 24/7 news platforms that govern the public space today.

Ironically, the very tools shedding light into the continuous and discriminate shootings of black men also are the weapons that will be turned against the development of leaders who could lead us through these times.  Those who would lead will have their heads decapitated on social media before they can finish their statements on how to move us forward.  Social media and 24/7 news will serve to make us increasingly leaderless.

If the new-media normal hamstrings President Obama and Republican leaders at so important a moment as this week represents, then it surely bodes ill for the country.  How can anyone float a vision for the future in this unnerving environment?

In this poisoned mess, the country needs a Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Instead, we hear the voices of angry whites and, justifiably, of angrier black men and women who are tired, tired, tired of the rampant murders inflicted on their community by police officers who almost always face no consequences for their actions.  The question is if reaction to action will breed reaction and put us on the path to an abyss.

We as a nation need to rise above ourselves.  But who can call us to our better angels?  White people finally are beginning to understand that black and Hispanic/Latino complaints about law enforcement are neither bogus nor confection, and so white acceptance of reality must be encouraged.  So, too, minority communities must rein in their rancor.  But who can summon us together as a people to make sure that tomorrow or the next days or year or decade are not the beginning of the civic and internal strife that throughout history impelled empires and nations to self-immolate over time?

It can’t happen here denies the possibility of collapse of democratic rule or the arrival of a new holocaust or increasing disconnection that fosters extended paralysis.  It is a view fast becoming antiquated.  The new environment we have entered makes anything possible – even the election of a man like Trump who makes no bones of admiring dictators and dehumanizing his fellow citizens.

Without the anvils weighing her down, Hillary Clinton could have been the one who could speak directly and persuasively to moderate white voters and spark an electoral landslide to set us towards a better future.  O, what judgment history might render on Clinton and her decision to install a personal computer server in her home!  And this is easy stuff for the social media and the 24/7 menace.  What they have done to her we shortly could rue.  Not perfect, Clinton, compared to Trump, is clearly the way to not increase the chances that the new age ahead will be the history of old.

It really does not have to happen here.

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

Inflection Point for Hillary

Given the announcement by Attorney General Loretta Lynch that she will accept the recommendation of her civil service employees investigating Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and server, the campaign is at an inflection point.  Nothing good is going to come of this, whatever Department of Justice lawyers recommend, mostly because we do not know when their recommendations are going to come.

Timing is everything in politics, and for us not to know when the report will come and what it will say destabilizes the general election environment that favored Clinton.

For me, the inflection point is not constrained solely to the legal issues of the case. Rather, it is within the internal strategic thinking of the campaign itself.  The campaign must prepare for the worst and must consider — now — how to win an election in the most adverse of circumstances against Donald Trump, who is a true danger to the republic.

I have said it again, and I will say it again.  If the Clinton campaign does not make the Hispanic/Latino vote central to its strategy beyond what we have seen so far, we truly are in danger of losing an election that by any other measure should be a historic landslide.

This is the time for Hispanic/Latinos closest to Hillary to speak up.  If they do not, then they are ill-serving Hillary, the Hispanic/Latino community but, most important, the country.  I know some of those people, and I fear that they love Hillary too closely to not step up and say what needs to be said and done.

These individuals face a daunting task:  A fully effective plan to maximize the Hispanic/Latino vote across the board is a very expensive proposition but it is in my mind a necessary insurance policy.  And nothing is as hard to do within a campaign than convince others to spend money on anything – especially if it is out of the ordinary.  And trying to persuade a campaign to spend serious money takes herculean task commitment.  But it is imperative that she carry Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada and think about taking Arizona.

Were Trump to succeed in winning any of the Midwestern states that he covets, then Florida and the Mountain West can save the Democratic ticket, and this, of course, brings to the fore the need to put a Hispanic/Latino on the ticket.

The cost of exploding the Hispanic/Latino vote is by far more expensive than maintaining the high level of African-American support President Obama received in 2008 and 2012.  More expensive by far than expanding the impact of the women’s vote, of the gay and lesbian electorate, of the Asian American vote.

It is absolutely true that the campaign must spend what it must to try to defend the states that Trump — now given fresh ammunition — is targeting by trying to wrest away non-Hispanic/Latino white voters from Clinton.  Were he to succeed, only one group can fill the void: Hispanic/Latino voters.

The immediate consequence of the announcement this morning is that it takes the steam out of the momentum that Hillary was generating.  Her campaign was building — impressively and quickly — an electoral wave that seemed on the verge of swamping Donald Trump weeks ahead of the nominating conventions, much less the general election.

The slow-down now will cause the polls to change, and when polls change, everything begins to change.  Trump will get a second-wind; more Republicans will come home to their party’s nominee;  GOP  donors reluctant to give to Trump now will; states that vote Republican usually but were thought of as potential Democratic pick-ups now revert to the red column; and Clinton supporters will begin to fret and worry and as they fret and worry they cause some to begin to re-think their support.

And that is all before the report is released and any recommendations known.

The new moment serves to paralyze new thinking in a new environment in which the old playbooks no longer suffice.  To me, supporting the usual voter registration organizations is very important but not as important as devising other ways to broaden voter registration efforts, ones that engage average Hispanic/Latinos beyond political activists and paid volunteers in the process of getting Hispanic/Latino voters to the polls in November.

If Clinton’s numbers hold up in the Hispanic/Latino community as the election nears and becomes a tight affair, then still other states might be viable, especially if serious Republican voters cannot bring themselves to vote for Trump to be commander-in-chief.

Current polling suggests that Clinton could breach the 80-percent mark of support among Hispanic/Latinos in November – a historic accomplishment.  Even slightly elevated levels of Hispanic/Latino voter registration and participation can push her electoral-vote margin out of reach.

To not invest heavily in the Hispanic/Latino now is folly –  foolish and perhaps fatal.

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

Unreal Times Are Real for the GOP

As the Republican party continues its autopsy of its epic failure to unseat an incumbent Democratic President laboring under the worst economy since the Great Depression, it should keep in mind the figures 124 million and 62 million.  If at least 124 million Americans vote in a presidential election, they are almost certain to put Democrats in the White House.  In truth, President Obama could have given up as many as four million of his 65.6 million votes last month and still won.  In the 48 months between the election of 2012 and 2016, another 2.4 million HispanicLatinos will turn 18 and most will be eligible to vote.  These new voters represent an increasingly politically-engaged group that last month voted more than 70 percent Democratic.  That is how real and deadly the future seems for Republicans.

In many ways the future is unmanageable for the GOP.  It is one thing to gaze at the spectacle of House Speaker John Boehner dealing with the Tea party in the Republican Caucus in the House of Representatives.  That is bad enough.  But even if Republicans at the national level can somehow moderate their views on issues of importance to HispanicLatinos, women, gays and lesbians and independent voters in general, they will have to deal with radical Republicans at the state level – which for all practical purposes in a digital, 24/7 world can produce unrelenting chaos.  Any story coming out from any state capitol or county courthouse can become a national sensation in a microsecond.  Think Joe Arpaio in Arizona or Todd Akin in Missouri.  That is what makes the 62-million figure important.

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The Enemy Within

It is hard to see how and why the leadership of the Republican party does not see the danger at hand for its future.  Its leaders are not aware that their party could be only a few years from extinction.  Things do die.  Larger entities than the Republican party – whole empires and powerful corporations, in fact – have disappeared through history.  A political party disappearing is nothing.  On this business of the fiscal cliff, the country already is suspicious of Republicans by a 2-1 margin.  So within a few weeks, the country could blame Republicans for throwing the economy back into recession.  And let us say that another storm like Sandy brews up in the Atlantic next summer, pushes past Florida and instead of wrecking New York and New Jersey parks itself over Atlanta this time.  Already caught in a demographic squeeze as the nation’s population changes, embroiled in an extended Bush recession and then pasted by another blow from the change in climate that Republicans deny – the GOP could be at the precipice leading into the 2014 midterm elections.  They just lost an election that if President Obama had had a better night in Denver one evening might have turned into a landslide.  And now, another storm named Hillary already is beginning to vent its first soft but undeniable breezes for 2016.

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Lincoln and the Questions of Our Lives

Are we fitted into the times we are born into?  So asks Abraham Lincoln in the new film that should be required viewing for all – more so for modern-day Republicans than anyone else.  The Lincoln in Lincoln is the dream of any Democrat or Republican.  A nation so divided as ours is today, riven by intense ideological rivalries and regional, sectional differences, could use an individual who commands the respect of all to ask the eternal question we ask of ourselves with often vague success, How and where do we fit?  Lincoln did not ask the more important question that has dogged humankind since it attained the power to reason, What does it all mean?  No, he asked the one that we should be able to answer, for we do have the power to control our lives.  Incumbent in Lincoln’s question is the degree to which each citizen and resident of the United States understands his or her responsibilities.

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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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A New Ambassador for a New Time

The topic of immediate concern in Washington is the nation’s fiscal crisis.  Nothing is more important.  But not long thereafter, the time for immigration reform will arrive.  What does immigration reform mean?  When will the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress draft and propose legislation?  Is the intention to build on the last proposal that went nowhere?  Is there a legalization component?  President Obama should be involved directly, but will he engage?  Who in Congress and within public interest organizations will be central to this drama?  Is there a cost to the Treasury?  What terms are acceptable to discuss in public?  Will the fight be as bitter as over healthcare?  What steps are being taken to assure that the public accepts proposed legislation?  Will all come to naught in the face of Republican opposition and predictable Democratic angst?  Will hard political capital on both sides of the aisle be used to get this done?  Or will one party use it to set up the other in time for November, 2014?

Listed in this fashion, the questions frame the sheer difficulty of what is demonstrably easier said than done.  No one has answers for most of them, except that the Administration will need every tool to achieve success – and develop new ones.

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Teetotaling the Tea Party

The baying at the moon began the instant it became evident that none of the swing states were going Mitt Romney’s way on Tuesday evening.  Like gargoyles atop a cathedral, the faces of Republican strategists and their sidekicks on right-wing television looked stunned with surprise then were etched by gall.  After denial could no longer hold back the reality of the night, horror began to grip their faces.  Barack Obama would be President until 2017, and the billions of dollars that the Supreme Court had sanctioned for corporations to buy the election started going down the drain as each race for the Senate was called.  Their only consolation was losing a handful of seats in House of Representatives – and that only because state legislatures throughout the country have so gerrymandered congressional districts that Democrats cannot mount competitive races in most states.

And so before the night was out, the discussion turned to how Republicans “reach out” to HispanicLatinos, who generated supermajorities of as much as 80 percent in some states for the Democratic ticket.  Continue reading

Before Legacy, Think Opportunity

With the election over, there is no question we have entered the age of the new demography in which the changing internal populations of countries are remaking their politics.  HispanicLatinos, millennials, African Americans, independent women, gays and lesbians and a host of fair-minded voters not blinded by religious fervor or abject racism came together and delivered a good win for President Barack Obama.  The uncertainty is whether the United States will give itself the chance to take advantage of its demographic transformation to secure its future.   In that sense, we have entered a new age of opportunity.  But it is also clear we have entered the age of climate change.  The assertion of the new demography came simultaneously with Hurricane Sandy that should have blasted smugness for all time.

If I may, a personal, self-serving note: If Florida, as expected, is finally given to Obama, it will confirm the call I made on October 29 that nailed the election’s outcome on the button in the Electoral College.  On the popular vote, I was also very close.  I said the spread between Obama and Mitt Romney would be three million votes.  The spread currently stands at about 2.7 million.  You can read that blog at:

http://www.hispaniclatino.com/2012/10/29/channeling-harry-truman-an-obama-win/

Now, after the election, what?  The first few days are important for President Obama and will determine if the nation does push forward.

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Navarrette Denies Himself — and the Rest of Us (Again)

It is almost impossible to understand Ruben Navarrette.  On the heels of trying to take down Olympic hero Leo Manzano a couple months ago, Navarrette in a column published by CNN on its website is trying, in effect, to keep HispanicLatinos from voting for President Obama.  It is no longer important to understand what makes Navarrette tick, though his point is well taken:  HispanicLatinos are not yet respected fully by the political system.  But his answer to the problem is particularly atrocious.  Navarrette wants HispanicLatinos to vote for neither Mitt Romney nor Obama — a half no-vote for each.

Navarrette when he votes today thereby would deny a full vote to Obama, the one of the two candidates more likely to nominate a member of the Supreme Court likely to defend the constitutional rights that HispanicLatinos need to…become respected fully by the political system.

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