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Will Trump’s Racism Rescue the Democrats?

As a scholar and proud Latino of Mexican descent, I’m appalled, but not surprised, by Donald Trump’s racist comments against Mexican immigrants. In announcing his bid for the White House, as has been widely reported, Trump didn’t mince his words when he vulgarly uttered: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you… They’re 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. And some, I assume, are good people.”

I will not try to counter these baseless comments. To do so, I will fall into the trap that Trump sets up, like provocateur extraordinaire and racist commentator Ann Coulter, to purposely make outrageous comments for free publicity to promote his self-interest. It’s not about logic or reason. It’s about branding and self-marketing.

While one can easily view Trump’s or Coulter’s xenophobic comments as simple-minded or idiotic, let’s not forget that we’re not talking about ignorant individuals. They both have Ivy League degrees. Trump and Coulter are very intelligent. By dismissing them as dimwits, critics ignore one simple point: When they make
huertaridiculous or bombastic comments, Trump and Coulter know exactly what they’re doing. They’re grabbing national headlines. Free of cost.

By reaching millions of Americans via online sources, media outlets and televised shows, Trump and Coulter, similar to the Kardashians, posses an uncanny ability to monopolize what Americans talk and think about. They say and do things that some Americans would only utter in the privacy of their homes. Also, many Americans pay attention to them for one simple fact: the shock value.

Since he’s entered the crowded Republican nomination race for president, Trump has become a major liability for his own party. By making racist comments and feuding with the influential Spanish-language network Univision, among other Latino groups and individuals, Trump has taken the spotlight from his fellow Republican candidates. Instead of attacking presidential candidate Hilary Clinton on her liberal policies, Republican candidates, including Jeb Bush, Chris Christy, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker and Rand Paul, along with the growing list of Republicans, have been relegated to spectators of “The Trump Show.” Given that a major television network like NBC recently joined Univision in pulling the plug on Trump’s Miss Universe pageant, it’s only a matter of time when Trump feels additional financial consequences from his racist comments, such as loss of business from Macy’s and Serta, along with other companies who have and will cut business ties with Trump.

Politically, Trump’s racist comments will not only tarnish his image among the over 54 million Latinos, the majority being of Mexican descent, but these hurtful words will also continue to hurt the already damaged Republican brand among this country’s largest and fast-growing minority group. This is a lesson that former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney learned the hard way in the last presidential election when asked about his plan for America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows. Romney’s ingenious plan: self-deport.

Apart from Latinos, Republicans will continue to alienate other important voting blocs, like Asians, given that immigration also represents an important issue to the nation’s fastest growing ethic group. Also, given that Republican leaders haven’t adequately condemned Trump’s racist comments, the GOP’s weak response speaks volumes to Latinos. In addition, since Mexico represents a friendly neighbor and huge trading with the U.S., Trump’s derogatory comments towards the Mexican government will only cement “anti-Yankee” or “Ugly-American” sentiments in Mexico and throughout Latin America.

On a popular level, Mexicans quickly responded with their humor and creativity: a Trump piñata!

In the case of the Democrats, if they want to win the White House in 2016, they should not only condemn Trump’s racist comments, especially Hilary Clinton and President Obama, but also hope that Trump secures the Republican nomination. Democrats should also cross their fingers that Trump, should he become the GOP’s nominee, selects Ann Coulter as his vice-president running mate.

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Dr. Alvaro Huerta is an assistant professor of urban and regional planning and ethnic and women’s studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He is the author of “Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm,” published by San Diego State University Press (2013).

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