Fabiola Santiago

Memo to Republicans: ‘I’m with Hillary’ is not enough

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event during the American Legion National Convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati on Wednesday
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event during the American Legion National Convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati on Wednesday Bloomberg

At first glance, Mike Fernandez seems to be a needed Republican voice of reason in the political fight to save the nation from a future under the worst presidency imaginable.

The billionaire from Miami is urging voters to do the right thing and vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton to save the country from rogue Donald Trump, who Fernandez feels doesn’t represent American values or is qualified for the job.

“I harbor no illusion that Hillary Clinton is perfect; none of us is,” Fernandez wrote Thursday in a Miami Herald Op-Ed. “I do not see eye to eye on some issues with the former senator from New York. However, Clinton is, without a doubt, a superior choice to Donald Trump. Balancing any of her shortcomings are intelligence, experience, as well as the humanity to accept that she does not have all the answers.”

Coming from a big Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney donor and a life-long Republican who has supported some of the most conservative candidates in Florida, that’s a significant resounding endorsement, although it’s not the first time Fernandez has stood up to prejudice in politics. As finance co-chair of the Rick Scott reelection campaign in 2014, Fernandez hosted a $25,000 per-couple dinner at his Coral Gables estate, then three days later quit the campaign over what he called a “homogenous” team so inept at Hispanic outreach that it thought it was OK to mimic a Mexican accent during a car ride to Chipotle.

You can say Fernandez is a refreshing breakaway from the “por el partido, todo” — for the party, everything — crowd that has for far too long dominated Miami politics at the local, state and federal levels. But read the fine print at the end of Fernandez’s “I’m a Republican and I’m with Hillary Clinton” piece.

Once he has made his case against Trump, he urges fellow Republicans to vote Clinton “and then for every single Republican on the ticket.

“Do that, and rest assured that you will have served your country well.”

That’s not very good advice in the Florida that Fernandez knows all too well. This state’s GOP is a microcosm of the national.

Republicans — including Fernandez who despite his misgivings supported Scott — voted in the tea party ultra conservatives who brought harsh, anti-immigrant measures and rhetoric to states like Florida, Arizona and Texas. Florida’s governor, as well as Attorney General Pam Bondi, who can’t find an anti-immigrant lawsuit she doesn’t want to join, are Trump devotees. Party leaders cater to a sector susceptible to race and ethnic baiting, using immigrants as scapegoats for problems. Many Republicans — not just Trump — have been spreading falsehoods about immigrants and using veiled language to pander to a white supremacist base that feels validated and empowered now.

Trump is only bolder, speaking in blatant, plain, ugly language, but it was the mainstreaming of bigotry in the GOP that led to his candidacy. Why reward the ticket?

Miami’s Marco Rubio called Trump “a con man” during the primary, but endorses him. Rubio’s excuse: He pledged to support whichever Republican won the nomination. Right. Just like he said he wouldn’t run for the Senate again.

To vote for Rubio, as Fernandez advises, is to vote for one of the obstructionists who didn’t accomplish much in Congress but helped pave the way for Trump’s hijacking of the GOP. Rubio opposes change, like the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba that Republicans such as Fernandez support. Rubio hasn’t softened his position on immigration any more than Trump has; he just delivers the hard line with oratory know-how.

I’m not one to argue in favor of single-party politics, but Rubio’s role won’t be just that of a check-and-balance senator to the presidency, as he now claims, downplaying his role as panderer to the kind of people who embrace Trump.

If Republicans vote for Hillary Clinton and then for every other Republican on the ticket, we’ll have more of what we’ve had for the last eight years: a do-nothing Congress, a state government neglectful of our most precious resources and most vulnerable populations, and the same local GOP machine churning out candidates like Rubio.

It’s bad advice, brought to you by members of the party whose divisive racial and ethnic politics created Donald Trump.

The Republican Party needs to suffer a big political blow — one bigger than the loss of a presidency for another four years — if it’s ever going to find its way back to being the honorable party of Lincoln and the demographics of the 21st century.