The list of national Republicans choosing principle over Donald Trump continues to grow nationally. The latest was Florida Republican Party spokesman Wadi Gaitan, who resigned this week. He is in good company: Conservative compass George Will; former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin; Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford; and strategist Sally Bradshaw, to name a few.
However, some Miami Republicans, once respected across the political spectrum, have tossed principles and embraced Trump’s Dark Ages candidacy. The latest was U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and before that was Helen Aguirre Ferre, now Trump’s de facto Hispanic spokeswoman. Diaz-Balart worked on an immigration bill that the GOP’s Trump wing nixed, but which earned Diaz-Balart bipartisan cred. Aguirre was a champion of DREAMers and education at Miami Dade College, where she chaired the board of trustees. Last month that board elected another chair, after weeks of community pressure asking Aguirre to resign either as GOP spokeswoman or her board position.
And no, I did not forget Marco Rubio. His chameleon-like character — four diametrically opposed immigration positions, calls for state legislation on climate change policy before denying science and his reelection bid after saying for the 10,000th time he wouldn’t, etc. — anesthetized me to his endorsement of the guy he called a “con man” and who belittled the senator.
If Diaz-Balart and Aguirre were young operatives, I would not have been disappointed. They support a man who launched his campaign calling Hispanics “rapists” and “drug dealers;” who vulgarly attacked Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly referring, to parts of her anatomy; who mocks the disabled. They support a man who has incited violence against African-American protesters at his rallies; a man who used in campaign literature an insulting graphic of the Star of David lifted from a White supremacist website; and attacked an American-born judge based on his Hispanic heritage. His latest was a verbal shelling against the Muslim parents of a U.S. Marine killed in combat. This is the man these two South Florida leaders chose.
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Maybe Diaz-Balart was worried about a nonexistent primary. Maybe Aguirre wanted to be inside to influence the process. But influence Trump? Ask Paul Manafort how that is going. Also, there are other entities whose job is not to defend the nominee, as is the RNC’s, but still promote conservative ideas. That’s what Ruth Guerra, Aguirre’s predecessor, did when she quit the RNC unable to stomach Trump. Given the example of Guerra and Gaitan example, party loyalty rings hollow.
Last year, when party loyalty was a strong reason to back a candidate, I ran into Aguirre at a restaurant. I have debated her on Spanish media countless times. We disagreed on many policy areas, and agreed on some. It was always a healthy and civil competition of ideas. I had a high degree of respect for her intellect and her conviction.
When I approached her to say hello, she said: “I have some news, but you’re not going to like it,” and handed me her Jeb Bush for president business card. I smiled and told her we’d continue to disagree and predicted some tough debates, but congratulated her. She was working for a qualified candidate, who respects diversity — and lives it — and who reaches across the aisle to find common ground.
As Google readily tells us, Aguirre did not spare Trump in the next few months. She compared him to a “street dog,” blamed him for inciting violence in his rallies and criticized his crude, personal attacks. As Bush sank, I thought Aguirre would emerge after November as one of those Republicans who would take back the party from Trump and restore Reagan’s positive outlook.
Instead, she has been telling Hispanics Trump is not a racist and is a “leader” with a steady hand. Really?
In November, both Aguirre and Diaz-Balart will be seen either as enablers who sold the future of a diverse America to a fascist — as defined by conservative Robert Kagan — or as co-opted individuals who joined Marco Rubio and helped destroy the Republican Party of inclusive conservatism.
José Dante Parra is a Democratic strategist and head of ProsperoLatino, LLC. He is a former senior adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.