Trump Threatens to Awaken a Sleeping Giant

Closeup of multiethnic men and women raising hands against white background
Closeup of multiethnic men and women raising hands against white background

"If you mess with the bean, you get the whole burrito."

The ongoing controversies created by Donald Trump in his presidential bid are many, but perhaps none tops his polemics against all things Mexican. Even though he has managed to offend wide swaths of Americans, including conservatives, women, Muslims, and other Hispanic/Latino groups, the campaign against Mexicans rings loud and clear. Although Trump's deeply divisive views have failed to diminish his popularity, his racial politics may be the proverbial shot in the foot that also wakes a sleeping giant.

GOP leaders recognize this fact, and have recently admonished Trump for his comments about U.S. District Judge, Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing two cases involving Trump University. In his attacks, Trump has repeatedly referred to the judge as a "Mexican," despite that Curiel is American. Trump has expressed that the judge is biased because of his Mexican ancestry and because, as Trump puts it, "I'm building a wall." In other words, Trump is afraid that this judge, who has been lauded for fighting Mexican drug cartels, is untrustworthy because of his racial heritage.

Obviously, it is nothing new for a litigant to blast a judge's handling of a case, but charging the judge as racist reveals the essence of racism itself. Under Trump's logic, there should be concern whenever a white judge presides over a criminal case that involves defendants of Latino heritage. If this were the rule, every white judge should seek recusal whenever the defendant is not White. Of course, it is unlikely that Trump would support this proposition, one might only ponder what it would imply for the many Black and Latino prisoners currently serving time.

Trump's radical immigration and racial politics may return to haunt him in the main election, and should the giant arise, it would spell doom. This point was not lost on boxing great and promoter, Oscar de la Hoya, who reached out to Trump recently when Mexican boxing star "Canelo" Alvarez fought Amir "King" Khan, a Muslim from England. In an interview, de la Hoya describes that he invited Trump to witness thousands of Muslim and Latino boxing fans come together for a great sports spectacle.

He also wanted Trump to understand how the event contributed to the American economy. The gate alone generated over 7 million dollars, with a reported 900,000 pay per view purchases. Although Trump did not attend, de la Hoya knew that his invitation stood as a challenge. The point was obvious: under Trump's policies, there would have been no fight in the first place since Khan would have been denied entry to the country, and perhaps Canelo too.

Yet even if brown power flexes the vote, it should be remembered that there are limits to what voting can do. For example, aside from the usual voting hurdles, ethnic minorities have been disproportionately subject to felony disenfranchisement laws that reduce political power. These laws have stripped millions of individuals from the right to vote due to a criminal record. Specifically, Latino and Black communities continue to suffer voter-dilution because of such laws.

Even under such political handicaps, the numerical strength of these groups could ensure that Trump never takes the Oval Office. Despite that Latinos and those of Mexican descent tend to vote in lesser numbers than their Black and White counterparts, 2016 may prove the exception. Like the Black vote that turned out in record numbers in 2008 for Obama, if Latinos turn out against Trump in similar fashion, it would shake up the political landscape such that it would be impossible to ignore the Latino vote in the future.

The brown vote may be the most decisive factor in Trump's political downfall. For many of this demographic, election night promises a chance at redemption from Trump's demonizing, potentially taking on sacred status for the many who've been desecrated along the way. Early signs suggest that the giant starting to stir, but only time will tell if the masses can unite to defeat a candidate who only threatens to make their lives worse.