A recent study reports that 37% of Hispanics have a positive opinion of Trump, compared to Clinton’s 41%. Given that Trump makes inflammatory statements against Hispanics on a regular basis, many are wondering how this number could be so high.
Survey conducted on affinity by cultural groups for presidential candidates
Trump Courts Legal Immigrants
For many of Trump’s Hispanic supporters, it comes down to his stance on immigration. They feel that his slanderous comments about Hispanics are only directed towards those who have immigrated illegally into America, and do not apply to those who are rightfully in the country. Even Trump himself acknowledges this. At a rally in Anaheim in May, he said: “They’re going to vote for me like crazy, the ones that are legally in this country. Look, all these Mexicans, they’re voting for Trump.”
Shawn Bombaro, the 39-year-old founder of the Latinos Support Trump page on Facebook, echoes the comments of many Trump-loving Latinos. “We know the struggles of coming here and getting the visas and doing it legally,” says Bombaro. “When people come here illegally and just set up shop, it’s not fair to the ones who did it the right way.”
Trump’s campaign famously started with him saying that immigrants are drug dealers, criminals and rapists, but his comments have not solely been against illegal immigrants. Trump’s attacks on American-born Indiana judge Gonzalo Curiel and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, both children of legal immigrants, are other examples of the overtly racist comments towards Hispanics in general.
Trump also resonates with Hispanics for the same reason he hits home with the broader public: he is not a product of the political machine. As Tony Castaneda, grandson of Mexican immigrants and former chief of police explains, “He’s very blunt. I’m blunt too. Maybe that’s why I like some of his positions, because he’s not a side shooter. […] We’re tired of politically correct people occupying the White House and occupying positions of government that represent us. We don’t want to hear the politically correct response. We want to hear the truth.”
A Latino voter on stage with Donald Trump
Neither of Two Evils
All the “truths” he tells may end up helping him in the polls, since his opponent may not be a better option for Hispanics. As Alfonoso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles explains, “On one side, we have a candidate who insults Latinos, on the other we have one who lies to Latinos.” Aguilar is encouraging Latinos to get out and vote “in record numbers”, but to leave the presidential part of the ballot empty. This would significantly reduce the impact of the 27.3 million Hispanics that will make up 12% of the electorate this year.
Trump vs. GOP: Who Works for Who?
Barry Goldwater, the former Arizona senator and the 1964 Republican nominee who famously opposed the Civil Rights Act, is frequently mentioned as a warning of how Trump could damage the party. Senate Majority Leader McConnell, who voted against Goldwater in ’64, explains that his “party has been struggling with African American voters ever since. I don’t want to see that mistake made with Latinos.”
Many Republicans hope that in the final months of the campaign, Trump will choose to focus more on economic and national security issues in his speeches, and will gain popularity for this rather than his passionate racial commentary.
The fact that Trump fired his campaign manager Cory Lewandowski, who remains fully supportive of Trump’s xenophobia, may suggest the candidate is ready to reinvent his image as he prepares to face Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s newest policy adviser, Stephen Miller
Or maybe not, as Trump’s newest communications guru and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller was a “behind-the-scenes architect of the successful effort to kill comprehensive immigration reform in 2014”. Legendary bigot Ann Coulter reacted to Miller’s hire by tweeting “I’M IN HEAVEN!”, which gives some indication of where Trump’s rhetoric is headed.
Whether Trump is “nuestro amigo” or not, the rhetoric of this election cycle is setting a new standard for race in the United States. Hispanic voters have an opportunity to voice their opinion through their ballots on how they want their population to be treated, so in the immortal words of The Donald, “get ’em out” to vote in November.