An Empty Piñata in 2016?

by Geraldo Rivera | Jan 04, 2016

A couple of weeks ago, I repeated on air and with gusto my long-standing conviction that Donald Trump was going to be the Republican nominee. Teflon Don’s political resilience has defied political convention and made fools of the Washington media establishment and pundit class. His pollperformance is unprecedented, as is his ability to deflect criticism and make it work for him. Every outrageous thing Trump says, whether about Mexican and Muslim immigrants, menstruating anchors or even mocking President Bill Clinton as a monstrous pervert is apparently resonating among the community of GOP primary voters.

My second big picture pronouncement during that television appearance before the holidays was that Hillary Clinton would soundly beat Trump in November. Moreover, I said that the defeat would be so devastating that there would not be another Republican president in my lifetime.

My reasoning was simple. Trump thrives among angry white voters. (What they are angry about and whether it is partially because President Obama is a black man is the subject of another column, another day). Trump has the air of a winner, confident and capable, even if inexperienced in formal governance. Most refreshingly, he is self-funding and promises to cripple the lobbyists and special interests.

But for all his success among whites, Trump is getting crushed in surveys of minority voters, deeply unpopular among blacks, Asians, Muslims,Millennials and Pro-Choice women. For all his charm, there is special loathing for The Donald among Latinos.

Hence, I postulated, Hillary will rout Trump. There are just not enough angry white guys including those knucklehead militiamen in Burns Oregon for Trump to win a national election. Now comes self-doubt about my confident proclamation. It came to me over the holidays in Puerto Rico when I pondered el Año Nuevo.

Most experts agree that in swing states like Colorado, Nevada and especially Florida, the Latino vote is large enough to be decisive in November’s presidential election. But there is a grinding IF, and this is a big if.

Will eligible Latinos actually register and show up to vote?

In the last election, the 2014 midterms, 3 out of 4 eligible Latinos choose not to bother. While whites and blacks voted at roughly the same rate, 46% and 41%respectively, Latino participation was a woeful 26%.

That enthusiasm gap is also apparent today across the nation. Why hasn’t there been more Latino reaction, particularly in the Mexican and Central American communities to the harsh, sometimes-racist tone of the current immigration debate?

Donald “The Wall” Trump has laid out a scary proposal of mass, forced deportations that has now been parroted by virtually every viable GOP candidate. Yet, as the New York Times pointed out this weekend, there is no organized anger, no vibrant voter registration crusade. Nor has a new Cesar Chavez emerged to lead “Brown Lives Matter.”

Is day-to-day life of the typical Latino so stressed that people are too distracted to vote? Is immigration overblown as an issue among citizen Hispanics? Has President Obama’s reputation as ‘Deporter-in-Chief’ given prospective Latino American voters the ambivalent feeling that both political parties hold the bloc in such low regard, why bother?

The big question in Florida specifically, will be the Puerto Rican vote. Hundreds of thousands have fled the collapsing economy of the beautiful, but broke and corrupt Commonwealth. They have mostly settled along the I-4 corridor in Central Florida. They now outnumber the Cuban Americans who proved decisive in George W. Bush’s 2000 ‘Hanging Chad’ victory.

Unlike those Cubans, who historically voted Republican, most stateside Puerto Ricans vote Democrat. Will those new Puerto Ricans voters support either Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, who are Cuban-American Republican senators opposed to federal legislation to bailout Puerto Rico? Can Hillary and Bill infuse sufficient enthusiasm in those newly arrived PuertoRican Floridians to keep them Democrat and stoke registration and turnout?

When Mitt Romney won just 27% of Hispanic voters in 2012, it seemed like the demographic realities of America left the GOP with a stark choice: court the Latino vote or be shut out of the White House forever. When Trump dumped on immigrants it seemed to seal the deal.

But if Latinos don’t show up to vote in 2016 we’ll be an empty piñata.

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