As the curtan is about to rise on one of the most anticipated Republican national conventions in a long while, one of the questions that begs an answer is, will there be Latino participation and, if so, what will that look like?
The last Republican to win the White House – George W. Bush in 2000 – brought Mariachi music to the convention, held that year in Philadelphia where the Democrats will meet this year. It was a hamhanded, although apparently sincere attempt, at Hispanic outreach that was preceded by a “Change the Tone” whistle stop tour of California during which Bush focused on racial inclusion and even spoke some Spanish.
In truth, there weren’t many prominent Latinos with speaking slots in 2000, except for George P. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose wife Columba is Mexican.
Still, that year, Bush earned 34 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to Pew Hispanic Center. Four years later, he did even better, grabbing a 40 percent-share of the Latino vote – better than even Ronald Reagan‘s 37 percent in 1984, the year Reagan sought re-election. At the 1984 convention, Katherine Ortega, U.S. Treasurer and a Latina originally from New Mexico, was the keynote speaker.
The 2004 Republican National Convention didn’t boast Latino speakers, except for Brian Sandoval, then Nevada attorney general and currently the state’s governor and Central Florida’s own Mel Martínez, elected to the U.S. Senate in that year’s November election.
In a fascinating and now supremely ironic twist, Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat and then Georgia State senator, was the keynote speaker who had lamented earlier,. “I barely recognize my party anymore.”
Mitt Romney, meanwhile, had some prominent Hispanic speakers, including Sandoval, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (who introduce Romney), New Mexico Gov. Susana Martínez, then Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño and wife Luce Vela Fortuño, then U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz.
How things have changed.
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, takes center stage Monday as one of the most polarizing presidential candidates in modern times. He has spent months during the primary campaign alienating Latino voters, stating for instance that Mexicans are rapists and criminals, and that as president he will build a wall along the border with Mexico and make Mexico pay for it, among other things.
Having thus offended not only Mexicans but Hispanics in general as well as others, what Hispanic stands for Trump? What Hispanic is scheduled to speak at the convention or has been asked to speak at the convention? Bear in mind that Trump esentially has ceded the Latino vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton, who polls show has an over 40-point lead among Hispanics versus Trump, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
The Republican National Committee finalized its convention plan today, Sunday. Combing through it, the first Latino and a Monday night prime time speaker is Mary Ann Mendoza, the mother of an Arizona police officer Brandon Mendoza who died in a crash involving a a drunk driver who was undocumented. She is described as an immigration reform advocate.
Mendoza is part of a night entitled “Make America Safe Again,” which includes two other moms whose children were killed in an accident involving an undocumented immigrant or allegedly murdered by an undocumented immigrant. Their pain is real. However, Trump appears to be doubling down on the trope of Mexicans as criminals.
There are no Latino speakers scheduled for Tuesday night whose theme is “Make America Work Again,” which is odd considering that Hispanics make up 16 percent of the U.S. labor pool or about one of every six workers,. The figure is higher in certain industries such as construction. Hispanic labor force participation is expected to rise to about 20 percent or one of every five workers in 2020, just four years from now, according to the Department of Labor.
This night of the Republican convention, or “Make America First Again,” showcases prominent Hispanics and former presidential primary rivals Florida Sen. Marco Rubio via satélite – after he said he wouldn’t appear at all –and Ted Cruz.
The final night of the Republican convention, “Make America One Again,” would seem an ideal night to demonstrate some measure of inclusiveness. There are no Latinos scheduled to speak.
Note: Donald Trump’s children – Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany, Donald Jr., as well as his wife Melania – have primetime speaking slots.
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor