As a scholar and proud Latino of Mexican descent, I’m appalled, but not surprised, by Donald Trump’s disparagement of Mexican immigrants.
In announcing his bid for the White House, Trump didn’t mince his words: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems. … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
I will not try to counter these baseless remarks. In doing so, I will fall into the trap that Trump sets up, like provocateur extraordinaire Ann Coulter. It’s not about logic or reason. It’s about branding and self-marketing.
Trump and Coulter are very intelligent. By dismissing them, critics ignore one simple point: When they make ridiculous or bombastic comments, Trump and Coulter know exactly what they’re doing. They’re grabbing national headlines. Free of cost.
Since he’s entered the crowded Republican presidential race, Trump has become a major liability for his party. Due to his remarks and his feuding with the influential Spanish-language network Univision, among other Latino groups and individuals, Trump has taken the spotlight from his Republican opponents. Instead of attacking the likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the GOP contenders have been relegated to spectators on “The Trump Show.”
Trump’s comments will not only tarnish his image among the more than 54 million Latinos, the majority of Mexican ancestry, but his hurtful words will also continue to sully the already damaged Republican brand among this country’s largest minority group. This is a lesson that 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney learned the hard way when his advice to undocumented immigrants to “self-deport” didn’t go down too well. Given that Republican leaders haven’t adequately condemned Trump’s statements, the party’s weak response speaks volumes to Latinos.
If Democrats want to win the White House in 2016, they should not only denounce Trump’s remarks, but secretly hope that he secures the Republican nomination. Then Democrats can cross their fingers that Trump selects Ann Coulter as his running mate.
Alvaro Huerta is an assistant professor of urban and regional planning and ethnic and women’s studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
©2015 Alvaro Huerta
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