We can’t really know what Donald Trump is thinking, but we do know what he’s saying. And recently he said something that was the “textbook definition of a racist comment,” as Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan put it.
First, let’s be clear about the definition of “racist.” It’s racist to discriminate against or disqualify someone because he belongs to a certain ethnic group. Period. Trump, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, did exactly this recently when he declared that federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s “Mexican heritage” would prevent Curiel from being impartial in a case involving Trump University. According to Trump’s rhetoric, Curiel—who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents—has a conflict of interest due to his heritage. Trump simply can’t understand how a Latino judge, even one with years of experience in the courts, could be fair toward him after his announcement that he wanted to build a wall between Mexico and the United States.
Biased claims like these remind me of an interview I did in 2013 with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “There are many people who think Latinos don’t have the ability to achieve great things,” she told me in Spanish. And then she shared how she’s dealt with racists in the past: “I didn’t let them discriminate against me.”
In politics, nothing is coincidental. In the course of a few days, Trump publicly criticized four prominent Hispanics: Curiel; Susana Martinez, the Republican governor of New Mexico; and journalists Tom Llamas, from ABC, and Jim Acosta of CNN. But Trump’s attacks have not been limited to Hispanics. In an interview with CBS, he said, “it is possible” that a Muslim judge would be prejudiced against him as well, since he proposed a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Meanwhile, the more declarations Trump makes about race, the more isolated he becomes on this issue. Ryan said his comments were “absolutely unacceptable,” and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told NBC that he “couldn’t disagree more” with Trump’s words. Nevertheless, McConnell and Ryan still intend to vote for Trump.
I can’t help but be amazed by politicians who condemn Trump’s racism, yet stay committed to him. The truth is that Trump’s racist comments should be creating a real moral dilemma not just among Republicans, but among all voters: If you vote for or support a candidate who often makes racist comments, what does that say about you?
Trump, of course, has gotten himself into trouble in the past for making controversial claims, yet he has always managed to move forward. I don’t doubt that he will move past his remarks about Curiel as well. If things get too heated, Trump will simply say, as he always does, that he didn’t say what he said, or that the media misinterpreted his comments. But eventually, on Nov. 8, Election Day, he will have to pay for everything he has said.
On that day, Trump expects that he’ll do well among Hispanics. “I love Mexican people,” Trump has said in his speeches. However, only 20% of Latino voters would vote for him, according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. That’s less than the 27% of Hispanic voters who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, and the 31% who voted for John McCain in 2008. And both candidates lost their bids for the presidency. The 27 million Hispanics who are eligible to vote are key to this year’s election, and, simply put, nobody can win the White House without the Hispanic vote. Not even Trump.
What Trump fails to understand is that Hispanic voters haven’t bought into his narrative, and will not buy into it. He naively thinks Hispanics will vote for him despite the fact that he wants to deport millions of immigrants. He thinks Hispanics will vote for him after he referred to Mexican immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists.” That’s not how things work in our community. Trump thinks that Hispanics will support him because he says he wants to bring jobs to the U.S. But would you believe someone who insults you first and then promises you a job? In the end, the very same attacks against Hispanics that boosted Trump’s candidacy will put an end to his presidential ambitions.
In times like these, a very wise Mexican proverb often comes to mind: He who laughs last, laughs best.
Jorge Ramos, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, is the host of Fusion’s weekly television news show, “America With Jorge Ramos,” and is a news anchor on the Univision Network. Originally from Mexico and now based in Florida, Ramos is the author of several best-selling books. His latest book is: “Take a Stand: Lessons From Rebels.”