Why Trump now?

Article Category: Blog, Politics

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I realize I’ve been living in a dream world by thinking that everything’s fine between mainstream Americans and Mexican-Americans. Last summer I felt blindsided by the response of many people to Donald Trump’s statement about Mexican immigrants being criminals, drug dealers and rapists. I expected them to be shocked and offended and many were, but apparently a lot of people either approved of what he’d said, were indifferent to it or actually agreed with it. Maybe they’d even been saying the same thing for years. When he vowed to send all Mexicans back to Mexico and advocated locking all Muslims out of the country, I waited for his polling numbers to go down. I felt hurt as well as disappointed when they didn’t.

But as he emerges as the Republican presidential candidate, I’m realizing how naive I’ve been, how naive we’ve all been, including the Republicans who are panicked at the idea of nominating Trump in July. Of course many Americans are ready for someone who calls a spic a spic. It’s absolutely consistent with the growing numbers of Latinos in the U.S.

I remember when I was growing up, there were just a few people of color at Las Lomas high school. We were Latinos with names names like Kendall and Mark (and Regina) who no one really saw as Hispanic. At moments I would become Hispanic, for instance when I got an A on a Spanish test or when I would pronounce “enchilada” correctly. But most the time my presence, along with Kendall’s and Mark’s, made no difference and, if asked, the families of our friends would have certainly said they had no problem with Hispanic people and liked us very much.

That’s how it goes when there are only a few people who are different from the rest: the majority accepts them. But when the numbers of Mexicans or Blacks or Asians grow, we become a presence that can’t be ignored. In larger numbers we become a presence with our own identity that doesn’t just sit quietly and blend in with the dominant culture. And that’s when the problems start.

This is what’s happening in the United States. Immigrants of color and their descendants have reached numbers that scare many mainstream, English-dominant, white Americans. In recent years we’ve been startled by the news that by 2040 white, non-Hispanic Americans will be a minority group in this country. It’s a prospect that panics a lot of people, so of course Donald Trump’s demands for shipping out Mexicans and locking out Muslims has strong appeal. He’s just getting started.

There are also a lot of people of color who like Trump. He won the Latino vote in the Nevada caucuses yesterday (44% of all Latino voters), and the phenomenon of immigrants and their descendants who want to close the door behind them isn’t new. In a country that feels like it’s losing it’s traditional identity and a shared set of definitions for things like “American,” “marriage,” “family” and “authority,” Trump looks like he has the answers. He’ll roll back the march of social progress by force, with ever more massive deportations, restrictive laws and the vilification of non-white people and immigrants.

Trump’s rise is disturbing and emotionally shocking, but it shouldn’t be historically surprising. It’s actually a completely predictable backlash to the progress the U.S. has made in becoming a more diverse, pluralistic society. The American people elected a Black man as our president in 2008. What was I thinking to expect we would continue that trend in 2016? Of course it’s time for the backlash, and its name is Donald Trump.

But because Trump is playing on the fears of a decreasing demographic, Americans can defeat him no matter who the Democratic nominee is. All they need to do is mobilize the voting power of people of color and other marginalized populations, and what better motivation than a man who offers no apologies for the marginalized populations he has already alienated? Any backlash is inevitable, but not permanent.

16 thoughts on “Why Trump now?

  1. Tump is a demagogue, and very artfully pulling on emotional strings of hate, fear and anger. It is natural for the unwashed masses to project their problems on outsiders and immigrations. It is not our fault, it is their fault. Combine that with anti-establishment message which also a populist theme and we have the next Hitler rising to power. Are Americans wise enough to select another candidate. Only time will tell and I’m really scared they are not.

  2. I find it fairly amazing that he got 44% of Latino voters but then again he also had more support from women than the other candidates and I don’t find him particularly pro-woman. The support he receives definitely says a lot more about the voters than it does about him.

  3. I am also stunned by the fact that he got 44% of the Latino vote in Nevada. I just can’t fathom ANYONE supporting him. But I do acknowledge that I operate in a primarily liberal, urban, artistic sphere any my perspective is as limited as anyone else’s.

  4. Trump is a troubling trend and he must be stopped. But I think it’s too early to predict that he will be the Republican nominee and even more plausibly, the next president. I am curious about your assessment that when a minority starts to become more “visible” and demands recognition than assimilation then there’s the backlash from the majority. Maybe there’s a grain of truth in that. But about Trump getting 44% Latino votes in Nevada, it is not a representative estimate. The truth is that data is based on an entrance poll where the sample size was 100-200 people. Also, it’s estimated that only 1% of Nevada’s total Latino population voted in this caucus. That means the majority could be democrats. My source? This article: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/nevada-caucus-results-donald-trump-2016-republican-primary/

  5. Trump shows “leadership”. It might be towards bad ends, but we’re so sorely lacking in politicians who actually say what they mean that even he looks refreshing. Sure will be interesting to see how the Republican convention handles him.

  6. Nice article! I’ve been travelling abroad this week and US voters are seen as the foolish/racist/etc. ones, not Trump. If he actually gets elected it will not make America great again, as he claims. We will be a laughing stock, and it will be our fault, the voters’ fault.

  7. I like to think he serves to bring to light the dark side of our shamelessly ignorant society. When my daughter was abroad last month she was approached by another American among a group of travelers curious about her opinion of Trump. She said “Of course I don’t care for him. I’m part Mexican and he considers me and my people criminals, drug dealers and rapists. This American replied “Come on, you don’t believe he ever really said that do you?” She told him ” You have a smart phone. Google the transcript.” So he did. Then quietly slunk away from the group. So much technology at all their fingertips yet these Trumpeters lie back and swallow his lies like pigs in a trough.

  8. There are several issues with this presendential race.

    Only in America could a racist even be considered for president in 2016
    Only in America would a racist be leading in the poles
    Only in America would the people actually vote for a racist

    This is more than a Latino issue it is a people issue

  9. Steve – you’re not the first person I’ve heard comparing Trump’s paranoia and desire to build walls with Hitler’s similar messages.
    CS and MK – I guess we have to look at the stats on Trump’s supporters closely since the media will publish anything.
    SM – thanks for the link. It looks like it’s a smaller percentage of Colorado Hispanics who back Trump than I thought, but still, they’re there.
    Andria – we ARE hungry for anyone who seems like he still knows what our core values should be.
    DCA – I know. I know.

  10. I totally agree with you. It’s scary. People need to wake up and think what can happen with someone so hateful as Trump representing the US.

  11. Well said, Regina! DCA– I thnk that’s the point that needs to be emphasized. Whenever people react/respond based solely on fear nothing good comes of it

  12. It is indeed shocking to me that he is being taken seriously by so many people. At the same time, as you stated in your conclusion, this guy is extreme enough to motivate the actual majority of voters to show up to the polls and defeat him. Great post Regina.

  13. Thanks for your comments, Lili, Rhonda, Judy, Lenny, Sandy and James. But did anyone notice the main point of my post: that we SHOULDN’T be surprised by Trump’s success because this is what happens when there are too many “foreigners” around? Does anyone agree or disagree that when a certain percentage of “others” enter a population people get scared, so it makes sense that Trump is polling strong?

  14. I think American-born folks worry when “there are too many ‘foreigners’ around” AND they themselves feel insecure. Xenophobia is most rampant when you need someone to blame for stagnant wages, a confusing economy, increased gun violence, etc. None of these huge cultural challenges have been created by recent immigrants, but it’s really easy to scapegoat. Trump is in the business of scapegoating.

  15. Your perspective is needed now. I’d like to hear more about how he won the Latino vote in light of his prior disparaging comments.

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