Latinos have had plenty of cause for concern regarding Republican front-runner Donald Trump's bid for the presidency. Trump has a long track record of hate-speech directed at Latinos, including blanketly calling Mexican immigrants drug dealers and rapist and blaming "Hispanics" for violent crimes across the country. Given that just this weekend the New York billionaire refused to disavow former KKK leader David Duke's support, it shouldn't surprise anyone that a growing number of racist hate-groups throughout the nation are working to put Trump in the White House.
A new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) found that hate groups in America are on the rise, a primary reason being their use of Republican anti-immigrant rhetoric in their recruitment efforts. According to one of the study's authors, these "people are very, very excited about Trump. They call him the 'Glorious Leader' and it's all about the immigration issue."
Latinos are all too familiar with the dangers of racist extremists. From the lynching of thousands of Mexicans throughout the Southwest in the late-1800s, to the KKK's "border watch" patrols of the late-1970s, to the Neo-Nazi Minutemen militia members who "hunted" immigrants and shot and killed U.S.-born Latinos just a few years ago, racist hate-groups in America have a history of targeting the Latino community. Consequently, their increasing participation in Republican presidential politics should be a red flag for all of us.
According to Heidi Beirich of the SPLC, "White supremacists love Donald Trump... and they're mobilizing politically" for him. Racist activists are promoting Trump on their radio shows, making robo-calls on his behalf, volunteering for his campaign, and even carrying pro-Trump signs while wearing hooded KKK garbs at GOP caucuses.
Trump's anti-Latino rhetoric has had dangerous consequences extending far beyond electoral politics. For example, just a few weeks after Trump announced his presidential campaign, police arrested two white males for beating a 58-year old homeless Latino man with a metal pole and then urinated on him. The attackers were partly inspired by the likely GOP nominee, stating, "Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported." Far from merely an isolated incident, government data suggests that this act was part of a larger rising wave of hate-crimes committed against Latinos because of their perceived "foreignness."
But while Donald Trump has used the issue of immigration to gain his lead in the Republican primaries, recent polls show that out of all GOP candidates, Trump's hate-filled rhetoric has "earned him the highest negative ratings" among Latino voters. Not only do 8 out of 10 of them express having negative views of Trump, but even among Republican-leaning Latinos Trump scores below the other two top GOP candidates.
This is bad news for Republicans given that a recent analysis shows that even if 60% of the white electorate votes for the GOP (which hasn't happen since 1988), Trump would still have to get between 42-47% of the Latino vote to win (Mitt Romney received only 27%).
So what does all this mean for the 2016 Presidential Elections? It means that if Trump becomes the Republican candidate for president, Latinos have the potential to stop him from entering the White House. But the possibility of this becoming a reality depends on the degree to which Latinos electorally mobilize and what Democrats have to offer them.
Unfortunately, Obama's record on deportations has significantly alienated many young U.S.-born Latinos from the party. Whether the Democratic nominee--be it "Tio Bernie" or "La Hilary"--can repair their party's relationship with Latinos enough to make them show up to the ballot box at high rates this November remains to be seen.