Some Latinos in the GOP have been hoping for Trump to pivot but they might as well be in Casablanca, where they wait, and wait, and wait...
The RNC's Director of Latino Outreach, 27-year-old Ruth Guerra, got tired of waiting and left to join a super-PAC. She was replaced by Helen Aguirre Ferré, a Jeb Bush stalwart, who once tweeted that Trump's behavior was "beyond the pale."
Apparently, Ferré has reconsidered, like former candidate Marco Rubio, who once got Trump's goat by saying he had small appendages, and called him a "con man." Last week, Rubio pulled a Christie by pledging his self-interested support, telling Jake Tapper on CNN, "I want to be helpful."
Without Latino voters in battleground states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado, the GOP will wait even longer to reach the Casa Blanca than leave Casablanca. Just a month ago, Republicanos were waiting for a new tune, but instead got Trump scarfing down a taco bowl and tweeting, "I love Hispanics!"
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But that wasn't true, it was a mentira. At a recent rally in Albuquerque, while rioters clashed with police, Trump accused Governor Susana Martinez of taking a siesta on the job, and threatened to run for governor himself. “We have to get your governor to get going," said Trump, not only blaming her for letting in Syrian refugees but also high unemployment and more New Mexicans on food stamps.
The feisty Martinez had skipped the rally, claiming she was too busy, and pointedly failed to endorse Trump. She's the most high-profile Latina in the GOP (the only Latina governor ever) and leads the Republican Governors Association. This was a Trump trifecta, gratuitously offending Hispanics, women, and fence-sitting Republicans, the three constituencies with which he needs to mend fences.
Trump's Latino outreach continued when he addressed the annual conference of the conservative National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Its president, Samuel Rodriguez, Jr. had called on him to change his draconian immigration policy and apologize for his previous insults. Trump sent a tone-deaf video which appeared to have been filmed on a cellphone in his private plane, saying, "You're going to like President Trump."
A few days later, Trump was on a roll and couldn't resist a cheap shot when the PGA decided to move a golf tournament from Trump's course in Miami to (of all places) Mexico City. "I hope they have kidnapping insurance," he said.
As if that weren't enough, Trump next took aim at U.S. District Judge Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over two of the lawsuits against Trump U., calling him a "hater" and even worse, a "Mexican."
Judge Curiel is a tough, well-respected jurist who helped take down the drug cartel before being appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who by the way was a Republican. Yet Trump claims Curiel has an "inherent conflict of interest" because of the proposed border wall. Even Megan Kelly (herself a lawyer) thought this was nonsense, saying Trump was "out of line."
Born in Indiana to hard-working immigrant parents, Curiel is no more a Mexican than Trump is a German. But we know what he meant.
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Now that he's won the GOP nomination, why hasn't Trump made nice with Latinos? He's walked back many of his more extreme positions (such as punishing women for abortions) so why not say, "Hey, just kidding, I'm not really going to deport 11 million of you."
It might work. Latinos are a proud people, but we can also suck it up when convenient, like Rubio. This seems to be the wistful hope of the usually contrarian columnist Ruben Navarrette, who wrote,"It’s not too late for Trump to do the right thing — which is also the smart thing — with Hispanic Americans."
Trump gave a clue why that won't happen at the raucous press conference over his donations to veterans when he insulted two Latino-surnamed reporters, CNN's Jim Acosta and ABC's Tom Llamas.
Trump once had his goons throw Univision anchor Jorge Ramos out of a press conference (that seems so long ago!) but now restricted himself to mocking Acosta's looks and calling Llamas a "sleaze."
When Acosta brought up Judge Curiel and asked why he would antagonize a federal judge over his ethnicity, Trump replied, "Because I don't care."
That's another lie. Taco bowls aside, it's no wonder that Trump has doubled down. Each insult is as calculating and transparent as a sales pitch for Trump U.
Deep down, does he really hate Latinos? We'll probably never know and who cares, anyway? But when Trump launched his presidential campaign a year ago by calling Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "drug dealers," he realized he had struck gold with an angry, disaffected base, who agreed with him.
Trump may not know Brexit from burritos, but as a casino owner he understands the odds. A Washington Post-ABC News poll in May found that 84 percent of Latinos view him unfavorably, and that was before much of the above. Trump knows he'll never win the Latino vote and will get much more mileage and media attention (and fewer questions about his tax returns) from bashing the Latino piñata, again and again, all the way to Election Day.
So keep waiting, amigos.
Born in Cuba, journalist and attorney Alfredo Estrada is the editor of LATINO Magazine and the author of the novel, "Welcome to Havana, Señor Hemingway." Alfredo is a graduate of Harvard University.
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