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.