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.