The Republican Party lost the 2016 presidential election a few days ago, Aug. 25, when Donald Trump at his press conference had Univision anchorman and journalist Jorge Ramos thrown out of the room.
Ramos, long-time journalist for the leading Spanish-language television network in the United States, is a respected and even beloved figure among Latinos in the United States, both immigrants and U.S. born. He has often been called the Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language television. Cronkite, who was the anchor for CBS News for many years, was also sometimes referred to as the “most trusted man in the United States.” When he criticized the direction of U.S. policy in Vietnam in 1968, some historians believe that it helped shape public opinion against the war.
So too is Ramos the most respected and influential figure in Latino media. He has been a strong advocate for immigration reform and for the humane treatment of Latino undocumented people in the country. Indeed, Latino mass media, both television and radio, have served to inform and to protect the undocumented against unjust treatment. But it is not just Ramos’ defense of Latino immigrants that is the issue here; it is also that U.S.-born Latinos see the immigration issue as one of respect for Latinos.
Immigrant-bashing, as Trump and his followers do, is seen also as Latino bashing. The large percentage of Latino Americans support Latino immigrants, including the undocumented, not only for perhaps familial and ethnic reasons, but also because they demand respect in this country. Most Latinos are hard-working and lawful citizens, and they expect to be respected as such. What Trump did to Ramos was disrespectful. It would be like President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 throwing Walter Cronkite out of a press conference.
How would most Americans react to that?
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To add insult to injury, when Ramos was thrown out another white male, called a Trump supporter by CNN and other outlets, told him, “Get out of my country!”
Get out of my country? My country? I want my country back! Is this only a white man’s country? Ramos responded to this racial insult: “I’m a U.S. citizen.” At that moment many Latinos also said, “I’m a U.S. citizen, and I won’t be treated this way!” All this has been shown on both English-language and Spanish-language television, and it is not going down well with Latinos. It doesn’t matter that Trump had a change of mind (perhaps someone whispered in his ear —“Latinos do vote”) and allowed Ramos back in the room.
By then the damage had been done. The Ramos affair, I predict, will be seen as a pivotal moment in this election. It will assure that few Latinos will vote for whoever the Republican candidate will be. As far as I know, none of the other Republican candidates admonished Trump for throwing Ramos out. All Republicans will pay the price for what Trump did. Some 70 percent of Latinos voted for the re-election of President Obama in 2012. No Republican can win the White House with such numbers favoring the Democratic candidate. Latino votes kept President Obama in the White House, and they will elect again a Democratic candidate in 2012. The Ramos incident has now assured that.
[Mario T. García is Professor of History and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and author of many books on Chicano history.]