LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Donald Duck had an old, rich, avaricious, cold-hearted uncle whose name was Scrooge McDuck. This character lived obsessed with accumulating money, bathed in a pool full of dollars and had his own TV series.
Recently, a different Donald announced he is running for president of the United States. Like Scrooge McDuck, he is rich, loves money, flaunts his wealth and had his own TV series. He is also a world-class narcissist and an abhorrent racist.
When he launched his campaign, Trump managed to accomplish quite a feat -- never has anyone with so few words and so little knowledge offended so many people, so profoundly, by claiming that Mexico is "...sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."
"It's coming from more than Mexico," he continued. "It's coming from all over South and Latin America."
He finished his campaign launch with a flourish: "I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall." And, he added, "I will immediately terminate President Obama's illegal executive order on immigration." The irony of an American proposing to build a Mexican wall to keep people IN that country, replicating the Berlin Wall on the Rio Grande, never seemed to perturb Trump, as he took a page from Khrushchev's playbook without hesitation.
"Trump has as much of a chance of being elected president as he has of personally winning his own Miss Universe contest."
Donald Trump is an ultra-right-wing bigot who has repeated and stood by his despicable comments. It is almost impossible with just a few quotes to display such an astonishing mixture of bias, racism, bigotry, arrogance, ignorance and factual inaccuracy. There are so many more examples I could use. Hate mongers are always able to find cases to stigmatize millions of people. That is what Trump has been effectively doing, using the despicable murder of a young woman in San Francisco at the hands of a Mexican felon. But this criminal is no more representative of immigrants than the shooter in Charleston is of young white men, or Mr. Trump himself of American businessmen.
Latin Americans should not be very concerned. Trump has as much of a chance of being elected president as he has of personally winning his own Miss Universe contest.
Every four years, Latin Americans get asked if we prefer the Republican or Democratic nominee. We should always reply that we prefer the blender. Democrats, generally, like to welcome and treat our people with dignity, but do not want to buy our products, as was clearly demonstrated in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade legislation eagerly sought by Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Chile. Republicans, generally, support trade integration to buy our products and open markets, but do not favor immigration reform to treat Latinos humanely and help the U.S. economy. So, Latin America needs that blender: Democrat immigration programs and Republican trade policies. Incredibly, Trump has managed to be harmfully bipartisan, taking the wrong side of each of these two issues: he advocates against our people and against our products.
Lest Latin Americans feel singled out, it is clear that Trump believes in a masochist voter campaign strategy: offend as many as possible to maximize the attention bestowed on him and pretend these insults are "straight talk." A few days ago, in 25 minutes in Iowa, he managed to offend an American hero (McCain) and prisoners of war; he then proceeded to mock communion and claimed he has no need to apologize to God. Latin Americans, McCain, POWs, media outlets, many of his competitors and others to come should all feel relieved. If this "perfect" man does not need to apologize to God, the rest of us should never expect apologies from Trump when he comes down to earth.
The Huffington Post is close to the mark: Trump should be covered not in the news section, but in the entertainment area, although the Cartoon Network would be more apropos.
Unfortunately, Trump's rantings will have collateral effects in internal domestic politics and the USA brand in Latin America.
"Maybe if Trump gets the Republicans locked out of the White House for years, they can persuade Shakira to be their standard bearer and savior in 2028."
The poison Trump is spewing against Latinos could produce a nation-wide Pete-Wilson-California syndrome. Mr. Wilson was the Republican governor of California in the '90s who got reelected by pushing anti-immigrant referendums against Latinos. This proved to be a short-term gain that yielded long-term pain for his party: the state that produced Ronald Reagan turned into a Democrat bastion partly because Republicans alienated an ever-growing and highly mobilized block of voters. Oh, wait! Schwarzenegger was later elected Governor of California. He doesn't count; he was a celebrity. Maybe if Trump gets the Republicans locked out of the White House for years, they can persuade Shakira to be their standard bearer and savior in 2028.
Clearly Trump is stuck in the 1960-70s time warp. Back then Latinos were better off hiding our ancestry, forgetting our language and anglicizing our names. That is what happened to the young daughter of a Bolivian named Armando Tejada. She had to fight to keep her first name Raquel, was forbidden to speak Spanish and had to adopt her husband's last name to become a global movie icon known as Raquel Welch. Those days are gone (yes, Ted Cruz, they really are; it is OK to be Latin). Trump knows this now because he has to deal with the wrath, opprobrium and rejection of Latin American businesses, media, celebrities and activists. He could go down in history as the most effective catalyst to mobilize the Hispanic vote in the history of the USA.
Republicans have never had one viable presidential contender who speaks Spanish. Their current field has three bilingual top contenders: Bush, Cruz and Rubio. Trump's diatribes and continuous invective has obliterated that language advantage. It was disappointing to witness the tame initial reaction of Republican leaders against this racist candidate, which became more glaringly painful when everyone animatedly denounced Trump for his attack on McCain and POWs.
Many Republicans have clearly forgotten that a young Bill Clinton, in the summer of 1992, publicly repudiated an African-American rapper in a Jesse Jackson gathering, positioned himself as a centrist candidate, went on to win the presidency and created the legendary "Sister Souljah moment" that entered the political lexicon. Only a Republican candidate that pulls a forceful "Brother Donald, YOU did NOT pay for this microphone" moment, can seriously compete for the presidency of the United States in the general election. Otherwise, the Romney "Mexicans will self deport" statement that led to a landslide loss of the Hispanic vote will be replayed and amplified in 2016.
Whether it is trade, anti-narcotics, immigration, energy, Venezuela or any other issue, Latinos should support candidates that propose solutions to issues and not merely vote for the party that hates us less than the other. Unfortunately, Trump's continuous attacks will end up proving an old adage true once again: we do not care how much a party knows until we know how much the party cares about us. Trump is providing an unambiguous answer on behalf of his party that, if it continues to go unchallenged, will have an effect that will last a very long time.
"Trump is damaging the U.S. brand worldwide."
Beyond domestic politics, Trump is damaging the U.S. brand worldwide. He fits the negative stereotype of the "U.S. bully" that a foreign, authoritarian, corrupt ruler likes to bash and use as a shield to keep a hold on power, clamp down on free press and persecute the opposition, all while destroying the economy and enriching cronies. All these abuses can be swept under the rug on behalf of invoking the "David against Goliath" mythical struggle, and Trump is a tailor-made Goliath for many thuggish strongmen around the world disguised as David.
The current ruler of Venezuela, the hapless but ruthless Nicolas Maduro, is a prime exhibit of these kind of leaders. Maduro immediately denounced Trump's comments, coming to the defense of Latin pride so he could disguise the fact that he espouses similar positions. Maduro deports large number of Colombians because he claims they flow across the border and ruin his economy. He also rabidly opposes free trade, like Trump.
It is simple: if Trump can blame U.S. problems on small neighbors like Mexico, ascribing conspiracy plots to their "devious" government and agitate American voters to hate Mexicans (this is Goliath blaming David), then the Maduros of the world can more credibly blame the economic catastrophe they have caused in their countries on "the U.S. empire" and justify a cruel domestic political crackdown.
That is why if Trump continues to go unchallenged and unchecked, he could have a national Pete Wilson effect on the political preference of America's second-largest voting bloc. That is a domestic problem. But it would be very damaging if he comes to symbolize the "ugly American bully" to people outside the USA, and ends up with his despised image being manipulated by hate-mongers who always blame someone else, leaders like Maduro who actually use the same Trump chauvinistic and hateful campaign rhetoric while agreeing with his misguided protectionist position. Speaking of blenders, it is becoming clear that Trump is what you get by mixing Pete Wilson's xenophobia with Maduro's demagoguery and nativist policies.
This narcissistic self-promoter and his racist wall do not represent the U.S.: they embarrass it and will end up in the ash bin of politics. The U.S. that the world admires is represented by the two great political icons of the last 70 years: one a Democrat, the other a Republican. They both gave unforgettable speeches standing by the symbol of oppression that was the Berlin Wall. The first, John Kennedy in 1963, addressed 120,000 Germans: "Ich bin ein Berliner" -- "I am a Berliner." The second, Ronald Reagan in 1987, addressing the USSR: "Tear down this wall."
When unhinged xenophobes parrot this tycoon's insults against Latinos, we should give them a poster with the picture of Kennedy and Reagan stomping on one of those now famous Trump piñatas with a simple caption that reads: "Ich bin ein Americano, México-Americano, Norte-Americano, Sud-Americano, Centro-Americano ... Tear down this wall."