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The Outrage Machine
Opinion: Bang away at the Trump Piñata
By: Juan Hernandez, July 7, 2015

On trips to Panama, I love staying at the Trump hotel. The service is excellent, the rooms are plush (with a bathtub in the center of the bedroom), the ocean view is breathtaking, the espresso machine is incomparable and Trump Jr.’s looped television message tells me I am a VIP. Not bad for around $150 per night.


I think the order in which I began receiving phone calls about Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants is revealing. Friends from Central America were the first to call, asking if I had heard the insulting comments from the owner of the hotel I always raved about. The second callers were my friends from Mexico who know I am a Republican and hoped I would not support Trump if he became the GOP nominee for president in 2016. The third set of calls came from my Democrat friends who are always glad to jab me for supporting the Right. Lastly, my U.S. Latino friends called concerned about the American image abroad. The point is: the story is biggest outside the U.S.A.

Now, my Democrat friends want this to be a big story about U.S. Latinos all getting in line to vote Democrat because of Trump’s insults. It’s not.

As I debated Dan Restrepo (former Obama adviser) on CNN Español’s Directo USA, Latinos know the Republican Party has many (14) presidential hopefuls. This is not only a historic number; it is historic in its variety.

We have two Latino candidates: Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas), (one who supports and one who does not support a path to citizenship for the undocumented). We have one woman: Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO. We have an African American: Dr. Ben Carson, author and popular speaker with a Horatio Alger story. We have an Indian-American, Bobby Jindal, our most pro-melting pot candidate. We have Govs. Rick Perry and George Pataki, who were first and third to pass state Dream Act laws.

We have Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who is more [Sen. John] McCain than McCain in supporting immigration reform. We have Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey who likes to tell-it-like-it-is, the “blue-collar conservative” former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), the Libertarian and tea party coalition builder Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), the fiscal conservative son of a preacher Gov. Scott Walker (Wis.) and the Christian former Baptist preacher and ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Leading the race, right now, is former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, married to a Mexican-American, strongly supportive of immigration reform, almost perfectly bilingual and not afraid to say he will create a new and better relationship with Mexico. Oh, and, I forgot, “tenemos un insultante showman, Donald Trump,” as I said on CNN Español.

Of course, my Democrat friend Restrepo would like for Trump to “represent the values of the GOP.” And if that were the case, we would be in trouble. But Trump only represents Trump. And Latinos know it. Saying that Mexican immigrants are “rapists” and “killers” is of course insulting. It is a shame that these words came from a presidential hopeful who sets himself within our party. It is a disgrace that a U.S. American, a descendant of immigrants, would speak of Mexican immigrants this way. Mexico is our neighbor, our friend, our second most important business partner (buying more goods from us than China) and many, many of us have family members there. The message from all Latinos is clear. Mr. Trump: No te metas con mi familia! Don’t call my family rapists and killers!

Now, how will Trump’s insults affect the Hispanic vote in 2016? Para Nada! Those of us who have worked on campaigns around the world know that to win a campaign, it is important to differentiate yourself from the other contenders. And when there are 14, you must make quite a splash to get attention.

Ross Perot, wealthy like Trump, differentiated himself as an independent candidate showing off all kinds of business graphs and plans to improve the U.S. economy. (But Trump is no Perot.) Our friends in Mexico were shocked last month when, in the industrial state of Nuevo Leon, the first independent in Mexico’s history won the governor’s office. “Bronco” Rodriguez differentiated himself by cursing politicians of the Mexican right and left, riding horses to rallies and using only social media for advertising. (But Trump is no “Bronco.”) In Guatemala today, a wealthy businessman called Juan Gutierrez is running for president calling on the Guatemalans to join a Crusade Against Corruption. Using creative Dick Morris TV spots, Gutierrez is demanding that the current president resign. (But Trump is no Gutierrez.) Trump has definitely differentiated himself as a candidate but by insulting the largest U.S. minority group. Not a good strategy.

Will his insulting manner hurt the Republican nominee in his or her outreach to Hispanics? Not at all. His GOP competitors should be glad that he is committing political suicide. He helps them with the differentiation they desperately need in a 14-way race. Those Republican candidates who can demonstrate they know how to solve the immigration crisis in a truly comprehensive and compassionate manner will win over Latinos.

Let’s not forget that until last week, the Republicans were not the great deporters of the undocumented — President Obama was, according to National Council of La Raza head Janet Murguia, who dubbed him the “Deporter-in-Chief.” No other president has deported more undocumented immigrants, and the last comprehensive immigration reform was passed under Ronald Reagan. And Latinos remember.

Latinos are looking away from the party that has given them eight years of broken promises. There is no GOP pinata. It is only Trump.

Oh, and Mr. Trump, cancel my reservation at your hotel!

Juan Hernandez was the Hispanic outreach director for the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign. He is an adviser to Latin American government leaders, founder of the Center for US-Mexico Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, founder of the Vicente Fox Presidential Series at Texas Christian University and Co-Founder of Hispanic Republicans of Texas and Hispanic Leadership Alliance. 


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CNN español

Juan Hernandez and Maria Cardona debate (Friday, 5pm C.T.) the politics of the week on CNN Español. Give us your opinion! 

Juan Hernandez