Hispanic/Latino leaders at all levels of the community now need to ponder a future few of us imagined only weeks ago:  The election of Donald J. Trump and his ascension to the Presidency and the harrowing horror that awaits.

The summer of 2016 augurs morass for the fall – in more ways than one.  Events in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas and now Baton Rouge again – and by extension Nice – make November fraught with portent, with more terrorist or mass shootings between now and then in the offing.

The crushing victory by Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump that I expected is now in uncharted waters.  Swift currents of hate and anger and reaction are moving Trump’s candidacy, once moored upon the beach of unviability, into larger streams of possibility.  The worst fears of many in the Hispanic/Latino community no longer loom only as nightmare.

Only last week, I assured a group of Hispanic/Latino professionals in Boston at an event hosted by El Planeta and Conexión near MIT that Trump would not win and that Hillary Clinton would be elected unless unforeseen events spilled out of control.  Almost suddenly, with each passing day, civil strife invokes the specter of reaction and disunion.  An increasing number of voters will find in Trump the candidate who intensifies their fears, feeds their hate or stokes their anger – or all three.

I remember the flush of voters in 1972 sweeping Richard Nixon to victory over George McGovern in the wake of violent protests against the war in Vietnam and loud demonstrations on behalf of civil and human rights.  The unrest scared the electorate into the arms of a man whom history would reveal as a threat to our very republic.  Trump needs no unveiling.  What we see is what we get, already jeopardizing the First Amendment.  Nixon is Jefferson in comparison to Trump.

I know we live in a changed nation whose new demography should provide ballast for the Democratic Party.  I also know, however, that floods can inundate and overwhelm.  Still, 1972 is not 2016.  This is not the country of 44 years ago.  I remain confident that Clinton will win but how many more events between now and the election will lift a swell for Trump?  I do not know how to factor into my thinking the specter of police killing citizens and citizens killing police.

But let us assume the worst: that Trump wins.

For the first time, Hispanic/Latinos need to think through – now – how we will react to increased aggressive policing of the streets and whole-scale police operations across the nation seeking to identify individuals not in the country legally.  A Trump Presidency will empower local law enforcement officers to engage – outside of their scope and mission – in actions that will harm the community directly and Hispanic/Latinos individually.  Not to mention that individual non-Hispanic/Latinos will feel encouraged to take matters into their own hands.

When the current Supreme Court started to undercut laws that once protected the civil rights of minorities, it set the stage for re-fighting the battles we thought we had won in the 1970’s and 1980’s – that now could spatter the streets with violence.

It is not out of the question that Trump as President would act against a Supreme Court that might summon the courage to stand up for the Constitution and for America itself if minorities came under direct attack.  Troops in front of the Supreme Court and citizens surging into the streets with easy guns at the ready.

It is no longer unthinkable.

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

The Unrepresentative House of Representatives

As the composition of the new Congress that convenes in January becomes clear as the last of the contested races for seats in the House of Representatives are settled, the complaints by Hispanic/Latinos that they are underrepresented sound quaint — especially with the election of new gay and lesbian, Asian, Muslim and bisexual candidates.  A new set of fresh HispanicLatino faces will go to Capitol Hill, but they are the products of a system that is not working despite the continuing diversification of Congress itself.

The truth is that HispanicLatinos are vastly underrepresented in Congress.  Up until the 1970’s congressional districts were drawn by state legislatures with no equity in mind.  In one district, 50,000 voters would elect a representative compared to 500,000 in another, making the votes of the 50,000 ten times more valuable.   Once the Supreme Court ruled in the 1960’s that each citizen’s vote was equal to another, it was not long before each person, regardless of voting status, was to be represented equally.  Today, congressional districts are roughly equal in population, currently standing at about 715,000 each.  But equal numbers in population do not translate into equality for HispanicLatinos.

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More of a Hologram: Lincoln or the Supreme Court?

In my mind the Supreme Court is at the precipice.  A majority of the court has come to personate Mitt Romney’s lack of understanding of the new world around us.  In deciding to accept a case out of Alabama in order to rule on the constitutionality of critical parts of the Voting Rights Act, the court is placing itself in judgment.  No one with a pip of integrity can believe that changes in election laws leading up to the 2012 presidential election had any other purpose – and their authors any other motivation – than to suppress the constitutional rights of certain American citizens whose ballots were to be denigrated if possible.

The willingness on the part of many citizens – and state attorneys general – to engage and use anti-Constitutional means to limit the rights of voters persists, and it can be found in almost any part of the Union.  The most blatant example this year occurred not in the southern states and other localities specifically covered by the Act but in Pennsylvania, which is barely included in provisions related to Spanish-speaking citizens.  The law that sought to thwart better the rights of voters was enacted in Harrisburg, 100 miles from Philadelphia, the cradle of this country’s liberties, and 40 miles from Gettysburg, where the most anti-democratic force ever organized on American soil was defeated, marking a turning point in the civil war between North and South.  To that same Gettysburg did Abraham Lincoln lumber to dedicate a shrine to the fallen of that battle but where, in fact, he rededicated America to the justness of the war and to itself.

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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:

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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Channeling Harry: An Obama Win

Before President Obama’s self-admitted off-night in Denver, when he allowed Mitt Romney during the first presidential debate to conjure himself into someone he is not, some writers were hinting at and others were outright using the ‘L’ word.  So sloppy had been Romney’s campaign and so error-free was Obama’s leading up to that night in Colorado that a burgeoning Democratic lead in the polls was building the narrative of an inevitable Obama win, perhaps by a landslide.  But that seems to have changed. Now what?

Romney supporters and some knowledgeable observers use the 1980 Carter-Reagan election – when the bottom fell out from under incumbent Jimmy Carter in the closing two weeks of the campaign – as the model to project a Republican win next week.  Other pundits think the 2000 Bush-Gore model will predominate.  In that scenario, George Bush lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote, a result that could retain Obama in office.  Other observers influenced by a Romney surge are proposing a Romney landslide.  Hmmm.  For my part, I am thinking 1948, when incumbent President Harry Truman came from behind and walked away with a hard-earned victory over Tom Dewey.  I think this for several reasons.

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Comes Before the Court the Future

Over the weekend, the following letter to Justice Kennedy regarding Fisher v. Texas made its way to Washington, where I hope it is of some benefit.

Justice Anthony Kennedy

The Supreme Court of the United States
One First Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20543

Dear Justice Kennedy:

With all due respect, I hope you are not offended that I am bowing to public reports that you are the possibly deciding vote on Fisher v. Texas.  I hope the clerk who screens your mail is not similarly offended.  I am not a lawyer but I write in the hope that I can help you see Fisher from a different point of view.

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Apple and America: Don’t Look Back

A friend mentioned a recent column by Joe Nocera of The New York Times analyzing the “unmitigated disaster” of the iPhone5’s new map application.  I am not into technology so it took me a week or so to get around to Nocera’s column – which was not about the iPhone5 as much as about the moment when companies reach an inflection point in their history that causes them to decline.  The same thing happens to the human mind as it ages and, of course, to whole nations.

I am going to abbreviate much of Nocera’s column verbatim and ask readers to consider whether his analysis of Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Blackberry applies to the cases the Supreme Court is deciding badly on voting rights, affirmative action, political redistricting and anti-immigrant laws.  Jumping from the map app disaster, Nocera wrote: “Though Apple will remain a highly profitable company for years to come, I would be surprised if it ever gives us another product as transformative as the iPhone or the iPad.   Part of the reason is obvious: (Steve) Jobs isn’t there anymore… Apple’s current executive team is no doubt trying to maintain the same demanding, innovative culture, but…there is also a less obvious — yet possibly more important — reason that Apple’s best days may soon be behind it…

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The Supreme Court: Cracking Open the Future

The presidential campaign soon will reach its fever pitch.  October is its apogee.  Amid the din and noise and building craziness of the next five weeks, the Supreme Court holds its opening conference today, ahead of the full term that convenes next Monday.  The Court fittingly will begin its work ahead of the voters’ judgment on Nov. 6 –appropriate because its impending term could overshadow the presidential election of 2012 in the long run of history.

I wonder if the Justices in their cloistered reflections ever consider the fate of their families, their grandchildren in particular.  Historians one day almost certainly could look back and see this Court’s term as the decisive moment when the United States positioned itself for another great century or began to drift inexorably into irrelevancy if not periods of outright civil strife.  In the next few months, the Court will consider critical cases that will determine how the country manages changes in its new demography that will bump up against the basic civil rights of its citizens and of destiny itself.

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