Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Latino 'Brand' Is Alive and Well at the DNC, As It Should Be

By Stephen A. Nuno

PHILADELPHIA — Democratic National Committee operatives came under fire this week on social media and in posts for leaked emails in which Latinos were labeled as a "brand." 

Yet at the Latino Leaders Luncheon on Tuesday, part of the Democratic convention's activities, the event was a clear display of Latino branding and business generation based on the image of Hispanics as an emerging political and cultural force in Washington and throughout our nation. 

With almost half of Latinos born in the millennial generation, Latino pop culture will become as valuable as their votes. And their votes matter: More than 40 percent of the eligible Hispanic electorate in 2016 is millennial.

 There are about 55 million Hispanics in the U.S., and their purchasing power has been estimated at over one and a half trillion dollars. Corporate America know this; the function was sponsored by companies such as Geico, Anheuser­Busch and Southwest Airlines.

All of this "branding" power allows us to flex our political muscle through our numbers and our growing political presence. And politicians take notice. 

At the luncheon, the senior senator from New York, Chuck Schumer said to those assembled, "If I become [Senate] Majority Leader, we will pass comprehensive immigration reform." 

This statement was immediately followed by a remark from Mickey Ibarra, a longtime Washington lobbyist and Beltway insider, who was the honoree of the luncheon. "And we will hold you accountable," said Ibarra in a friendly but pointed tone. Democratic legislators know they cannot discount the Hispanic vote.

At the event, Latino elected officials rubbed shoulders with consultants vying to expand their network to capitalize on the growing Hispanic image within the Democratic Party and around the country. The long list of elected officials included Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, the Chairwoman of the Hispanic Caucus, former Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, former Governor of New Mexico, Bill. Richardson, and Julian Castro, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

While some may scoff at the notion of Latinos as a brand, any political or social movement must be keenly aware of how they are viewed by society in general and broad acceptance brings power, money, and the ability to change policy. Latinos at the overflowing room of leaders and government officials have spent years honing the Latino brand, and its effectiveness was evident in the room. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Opinion: The Party of Lincoln is Dead, But Don't Just Blame Donald Trump


by Stephen A. Nuno - NBC.com

CLEVELAND -- Make no mistake, the party of Lincoln is dead, but don't blame Donald Trump. The real Republican Party signed its death warrant the day it embraced the land of Dixie and the kinds of politics whom the Party of Lincoln spilled vast sums of American blood and treasure to cripple.

A party who sends Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who once came under scrutiny for his checkered racial past, to speak at their convention about his concern over Hispanic and black unemployment can only be seen as a gross attempt at ridicule.

Senator Jeff Sessions Speech at the RNC Convention    

Party platforms are important statements about the principles that bind political parties together and the recent release of the 2016 GOP solidifies the Republican Party as the most anti-immigrant force in American politics today. The policy proposals are standard Republican fare, but the hostile tone of the platform towards immigrants is reflective of the GOP's descent.

The platform mentions "aliens" seven times, and the section on Immigration and The Rule of Law is a deliberate affront to immigrants. The platform encourages the implementation of a new internet-based verification system, called S.A.V.E., which stands for Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements. It supports building a border "wall along the entirety of the southern border", even though experts agree it's a pretty ludicrous - and ridiculously expensive - proposition. But much of this language was already in the Party platform, as was its hostility. For instance, the word "alien" was in the 2012 platform ten times, while it is in the 2016 document seven times. The SAVE program is a retread of 2012, as well.

The entire document reaffirms the anxiety that propelled Donald Trump to the nomination, mentioning a derivative of the word "terror" 25 times (the 2012 Platform used the word 29 times), and comforts whomever supports it by clearly communicating its disdain for immigrants, foreigners, and people generally seen as incapable of becoming American.

This would be a profound disappointment to our Founding Fathers, and frankly, the originators of the Republican Party itself.

Days before the Republican convention and having just celebrated the birth of our Nation on the Fourth of July, it is useful to revisit the principles of our country. Among those ideals of liberty, equality, and justice, this country has struggled to rectify these honorable endeavors with the ugliness of racism and the very real American belief in the supremacy of whiteness. However, to say racism is an American ideal is not a radical statement.

The Constitution chiseled into the soul of this country the notion that black Americans were not equal to whites. The Declaration of Independence began a path to war against King George over, among other things, immigration, but it was white immigration and white citizenship that was of greatest concern to the colonists.

Once the American Revolution was won, among the first acts of Congress was to determine who could become American citizens. The Naturalization Act of 1790 stated "That any Alien being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen…"

The history of American immigration is rife with examples of the country trying to socially engineer whiteness as an ideal. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act sought to erect a great wall between the United States and China as white labor grew increasingly restless with competition from the East. The 1924 Quotas Act (Johnson-Reed Act) sought to turn the clock back on the influx of Eastern European immigrants infecting the country.

During the debates over the passage of the act, Senator Ellison DuRant Smith of South Carolina said, "The time has come when we should shut the door and keep what we have for what we hope our own people to be." What the Senator "hoped" our people should be, was to retain what racial purity the country had lost with the growth of immigration. Only six senators voted against the immigration bill.
D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" had captured the imagination of the country and had capitalized on the anxiety of whites over the inclusion of African Americans into society. President Woodrow Wilson hosted a screening of the film in the White House and worked diligently to resegregate Federal workers. He also justified the presence of the Ku Klux Klan as defenders of their way of life and was illustrative of the racial sentiment of the time.

The Republican Party, however, was borne out of different ideals. Out of the ashes of the struggle between Democrats and Whigs emerged a truly radical party who sought to make good on the promises of the original principles of this country to form a union based on the ideals of liberty, equality, and fairness.

The 1860 party platform fashioned by these radicals sought an expansion of the original Founder's conception of immigration and sought to extend the rights of passage and naturalization to all.
It was the party platform of Lincoln, in 1864, amidst the rubble and anxiety of the Civil War, which stated, "That foreign immigration, which in the past has added so much to the wealth, development of resources and increase of power to the nation, the asylum of the oppressed of all nations, should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy."

And just four years before, these radicals sought to expand the rights to all migrants, stating that the Republicans were "in favor of giving a full and efficient protection to the rights of all classes of citizens, whether native or naturalized, both at home and abroad".

The death of the GOP this country once knew began with the embrace of Southern whites. Decades later, this perversion of the Republican Party can be readily seen throughout.

GOP Senator Steve King Jaw Dropping Statements   

Iowa congressman Steve King said on Monday that "this 'old, white people' business does get a little tired," going on to say that no "subgroups" had contributed as much to society. When asked by MSNBC host Chris Hayes if he was referring to white people, he said "western civilization."

No doubt Rep. King forgot that excluding every place that contributed to society but Western Europe would include the birthplace of Jesus and before that the societies that brought us algebra and other mathematics, medicine and astronomy and the Code of Hammurabi, one of the first forms of law.

By the way, a confederate flag sits on the desk of Rep. King, a duly elected representative of a state that once shed blood fighting to preserve the union against the racist framework of the Confederacy. It's an unconscionable reminder of the values and history of this country's original sin.

The Republican Party chose the Southern Strategy as an explicit attempt to attract southern whites to the GOP. Donald Trump has amplified on this, making Latinos and the southwestern border one of his main targets.

The party platform is following Trump, taking the GOP proposed anti-immigrant stance to new heights, though it is not much different from past platforms in its intent. The first modern GOP platform to make "illegal aliens" a part of its cause was in 1972, and it was the party of Nixon who first organized the GOP to establish a policy infrastructure that appealed to whites throughout the South. The statements against "aliens" have not left the party platform since, and the party of Trump has run with it.

The latest platform reaffirms the GOP's call to change the way we count human beings living in our cities and states. "

"We urge our elected representatives to ensure that citizenship, rather than mere residency, be made the basis for the apportionment of representatives among the states," the platform states.

For anyone trying to convince you this is still the "party of Lincoln", recall that his party once sought "full and efficient protection to the rights of all classes of citizens", not a new twist on separate but equal where Americans are distinguished from one and other by the government.

The Republican platform takes the worst of America's ideals and, once again, attempts to turn the clock back in a time of high anxiety over the future of what it means to be white in America.

Trump has not emerged out of nowhere. He has emerged from the soul of this country, which Lincoln gave his life to changing. Going into the convention, the platform reinforces this stance. The Republican Party will endure, but make no mistake, it is no longer the Party of Lincoln, and it has not been for a very long time.

Monday, July 18, 2016

With Markedly Fewer Latinos at Republican Convention, Meet 3 Delegates

With Markedly Fewer Latinos at Republican Convention,Meet 3 Delegates


CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Donald Trump will come to the 2016 Republican National Convention to find a shrunken Latino presence, but it will not be absent.

Even though Trump started his campaign bashing Mexicans, promising to build a wall on the border, saying those here illegally "have to go" and calling a U.S.-born federal judge Mexican while questioning the judge's competence, there are Latinos who say Trump is this election's better candidate and that they will cast their vote for him to be the party nominee.

Not all have been Trump supporters throughout. Some are part of a thus far unsuccessful movement to allow delegates to vote for the candidate they choose, an attempt to keep Trump from being the nominee. Others have switched to Trump after their first choice bowed out. Some just want to beat Hillary Clinton.

The convention begins Monday, after a week in which Trump named Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate and scored a victory in preventing a rules change in the Republican platform committee that threatened his nomination.

In marked contrast to 2012, when rising Hispanic Republican stars like New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio rallied the convention delegates and put a more diverse face on the party, what is remarkable about 2016 is the few Latinos who will be there. The initial roster of speakers for this convention only included Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

A group of Latino conservatives who have been harsh and vocal critics of Trump said Monday that they are backing the presumptive GOP nominee to get a Republican administration in the White House after recent terror events and shootings. But many Hispanic elected officials and other prominent Latinos who served in previous administrations are not attending.

The convention also comes after the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal Marist poll shows the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton ahead of Trump in four of the most diverse presidential battleground states, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.
Nonetheless, there are several Latinos excited to be at the convention and among them those who are enthusiastically supporting Trump. They recognize the diminished Latino presence but are optimistic about their party's chances for the White House and Congress.

Here are summaries of conversations from three of the delegates who talked to NBC News before arriving in Cleveland:

JESSICA FERNANDEZ, Florida delegate

Jessica Fernandez, a Donald Trump delegate from Florida to the 2016 Republican National Conveniton Florida Federation of Young Republicans

Believed to be the youngest delegate from the state of Florida, 31-year-old Jessica Fernandez comes to the convention with a sense of duty.

A Miami-Dade County resident, she is from the one county of Florida's 67 counties that Trump did not win. She had been a Marco Rubio supporter in the primary, but because she represents the state, she feels obligated to the other 66 Florida counties' preference.

"I feel as a Republican delegate I have a duty to fulfill and I want to do the correct thing and that means supporting Trump," Fernandez said. "I want to do the correct thing. I don't want to add to chaos."

The Miami-born daughter of Cuban exiles, Fernandez's parents arrived to the U.S. at a young age in the late '60s and early '70s. Fernandez said her mother told her stories of life under the Castro regime and the attempt to brainwash her as a little girl into loyalty to the communist government.

"They would tell her to put her head down and pray for candy and they would open their eyes and there would be candy. Then they would say pray to the father Fidel (Castro) and pray for candy and there would be candy or a penny," she said. He mother and her mother's family arrived on one of the last Freedom Flights from Cuba.

One of her grandfathers was forced to leave the country after being told that because of his political work, if he did not, he would face a firing squad, she said.

The political activism has remained with Fernandez, who leads the Miami Young Republicans as its president and is the executive director of the Florida Federation of Young Republicans.
She worked on the Mitt Romney campaign and has worked to helped recruit Hispanics to the GOP and build Hispanic leaders in the party.

She said she expects she'll be one of the few Hispanics at the convention, but was looking forward to it nonetheless, despite the opposition among the ranks of delegates to keep Trump from getting the nomination.
"I respect that there are people who say don't want to vote for Trump," she said. "He got the nomination by the process. There will be delegates like myself who are bound to play their part to deliver the vote of their district," she said.

"The alternative is not pleasant. We have someone running on the other side who has been testifying in front of Congress, the FBI, who's been a liar," said Fernandez. "Those problems supersede a comment that would have insulted people."

"When we have someone on the other side who has behaved very questionably," she said, "I'm all Trump."

GUSTAVO PORTELA, Michigan delegate

Gustavo "Gus" Portela, a Donald Trump delegate from Michigan to the 2016 Republican National Convention. Gustavo Portela

While in high school, Gustavo "Gus" Portela would go to his local county party's meetings in Grand Rapids, Mich. He liked George W. Bush and helped in his 2004 re-election campaign by going door-to-door to drum up votes.

He went on to join the College Republicans in Grand Valley State University and today is in Washington, D.C. serving as the executive director of the College Republican National Committee.
Despite the years of history in party politics, Portela, 27, says what he likes about Trump is that he is an outsider.

Trump's success in the primaries is a continuation of elections of outsiders to Congress in previous elections, Portela said.

"I just think that he [Trump] brings a fresh perspective to the process I don't think we've ever had. I don't think we've had a Republican nominee who is an outsider," he said.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Portela and his family moved to the mainland when he was 11 because his parents "essentially were looking for a better life" and to get better educations for their children. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and those born on the island are American citizens.

In Michigan, his father worked in the Sara Lee factory and his mother, who had been a receptionist in a hair salon in Puerto Rico, was a stay-at-home mom while he was growing up.
Portela said Trump has said "controversial things" but said his statements have been taken out of context by the media, such as Trump's pledges to build a wall, which he said became declarations that Trump wants to deport everyone.

At an Iowa rally in November 2015, Trump said: "I'm tougher on illegal immigration than anybody. That's what I'm saying we have to take people that are here illegally and we have to move them out and you know what, it's going to be done, it's going to be done."

Trump has also said families would have to go but some could return through the legal process. Although he was thought to have backed off from some of that, Trump has not been clear about whether mass deportation was still a policy.

Portela said he sees Trump as wanting to establish law and order in the U.S. "He has said he wants people to come here legally," Portela said.
As far as Trump's comments on the wall, Portela said the policy is not unlike the policies of other politicians who have called for border security.

ADRYANA BOYNE, Texas delegate 

Adryana Boyne, a Ted Cruz delegate from Texas to the 2016 Republican National Convention Adryana Boyne

Texas delegate Adryana Boyne agrees with Trump that immigration is a serious problem that has to be addressed head on. And she does not believe that he is a racist or a nativist. However his lack of consideration for the tone of his immigration comments is what gets under her skin.

Boyne, a prominent political voice in the Texas GOP and the Hispanic Republicans of Texas, has had to struggle with Trump's comments. She likes his business sense but has been troubled by his Latino related rhetoric.

Shortly after Trump announced his candidacy, Boyne penned an opinion piece for the TexasGOPVote site where she enumerated in detail her grievances with the soon-to-be Republican candidate.
What most bothered (and still bothers) Boyne is the generalization Trump made out of the gate that Mexico was sending people that "have lots of problems…They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."

For Boyne "the focus on the minority of criminal elements overshadows the tremendous contributions that Mexicans have made."

The Texas delegate's struggle with fully embracing Trump is personal. She was born and raised in the Mexican state of Puebla and became a naturalized American citizen in 1994.

"I am a first-generation immigrant and I take Mr. Trump's comments to heart - he does not differentiate," she said.

Boyne said that if she were further removed from the immigration experience she would likely not be as affected by Trump's comments. But for her, the anti-Mexican rhetoric rings too close to home.
Donald Trump is not Boyne's first choice. She is a Ted Cruz delegate because of his performance in the Texas primaries.

An attempt to stop Trump from securing the nomination by changing rules and allowing delegates to "vote their conscience" failed, so efforts to build more support for Cruz or any other candidate aren't likely.

But Boyne's distaste for Hillary Clinton is so strong that it has moved her toward supporting Trump.
In Cleveland, Boyne will be looking to see a change in tone from Trump, but ultimately, she is committed to helping her party stop Clinton from reaching the White House.