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As the Latino Community Unites Against Donald Trump, GOP is Failing a Very Basic Threshold Test

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The controversy and outrage over Donald Trump’s racist anti-immigrant comments is moving quickly.  While Trump’s comments have generated outrage and solidarity among Latinos and demonstrated the Latino community’s growing clout in corporate America, the Republican Party seems headed in the opposite and wrong direction.  Until today, the GOP’s presidential contenders have remained silent on Trump’s comments.  Unfortunately for Republicans, the first response came from Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who actually defendedTrump.  Appearing on Fox News this morning, Senator Cruz said, “I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific, I think he’s brash, I think he speaks the truth.”

In a must-read new opinion piece in The Atlantic titled, “GOP Fails Its Empathy Test,” Peter Beinart captureshow the GOP field’s silence – with the exception of Cruz – regarding Trump’s racist remarks is indicative of the Party’s failure to adapt to a changing America.  Beinart writes:

“After Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012, the Republican National Committee published an ‘autopsy.’  ‘When it comes to social issues,’ the autopsy declared, ‘the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming.  If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people.’  The autopsy also added that, ‘we need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case.  We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too.’

The last two weeks, more than any since Romney’s defeat, illustrate how miserably the GOP has failed.

…June 16, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination.  In recent years, Trump has obsessively questioned whether President Obama was born in the United States and suggested he only gained admission to Columbia and Harvard because he’s black.  In his presidential announcement speech, Trump declared that, ‘When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us.  They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime.  They’re rapists.’

For Trump’s GOP opponents, his comments created a perfect ‘Sister Souljah’ moment, an opportunity to confront the offensive comments of someone on your own ideological side and thus win the respect of those they offend.  No one took it.

…In its autopsy, the RNC called on Republicans to embrace comprehensive immigration reform in an effort to win more Latino votes.  More than two years later, not only does every major GOP candidate except Jeb Bush oppose it, but none will even condemn a fellow candidate who slurs Mexican immigrants in the crudest of ways.

…Winning presidential candidates are smart enough to sense the country’s mood at a given moment in time and bold enough to channel it, even when that entails risk.  The last two weeks offered GOP candidates a crucial opportunity to do that.  And they blew it, every one.”

Raul Reyes makes similar points in USA Today, noting:

“The sad thing here is that the GOP has missed another opportunity to show the Hispanic community that it respects them.  For all the Republican talk about being an inclusive party, their tolerance of Trump speaks volumes.

…Trump’s anti-Hispanic comments have no place in civil discourse. His words were shameful — and so is the silence that followed them.”

Other observers note that the Trump controversy is becoming a watershed moment for Latino solidarity and a demonstration of Latino community’s growing clout.  Rick Sanchez writes a Fox News Latino column titled, “Donald Trump Has Single-Handedly United Latinos from Coast to Coast”:

“If you listen carefully, you can hear a collective ‘¡No más!’ screamed all over America.  Enough is enough.  Hell hath no fury like 54 million people scorned.  East coast Latinos like Dominicans and Puerto Ricans in New York; Cubans in South Florida and Mexicans in California have always blended, but never mixed.  That is until now.  Trump words have catalyzed some sense of solidarity and ‘I got your back mentality’ among Hispanics.

… In Los Angeles, much of the talk is about Trump’s unwillingness to apologize and his apparent declaration of war against Univision and its anchorman Jorge Ramos.  (Trump’s lowest blow may have been releasing Ramos’ personal cell phone to the public as a way of punishing the network that has chosen to cancel his Miss USA pageant.)  By the way, Trump’s attacks on Ramos are the equivalent of LBJ attacking Cronkite.  It’s a losing battle.

…Politically, Trump’s slurs can do one of two things.  Because he’s running as a Republican and is now coming in second in some New Hampshire polls, he may set even further back the GOP’s chances of winning Latino voters, which are crucial to the upcoming 2016 general election.

But it could go the other way, Trump may be providing a huge opportunity for a Republican candidate who dares to take him on and call him out, thereby increasing his or her chances of carrying the Latino vote.  It’s a softball right down the middle.  All Bush, Walker, Rubio, Cruz, Fiorina or any other candidate has to do is swing, but will they have the nerve?  Their electability may depend on it.”

And Janell Ross writes in a new Washington Post article titled, “Donald Trump’s big mouth just taught us a valuable lesson about the power of Latinos” that, “Power — cultural and political — is moving in another direction” and away from the Republican Party’s worldview.  As Ross writes, “Trump’s comments likely feel quite personal [to Latinos in America].  And these families can vote at either the ballot box or with their pocket books.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “The lowest possible bar for the Party to clear should be standing up to bigotry and sticking up for the Latino community by denouncing the abjectly racist remarks from Donald Trump.  Unfortunately, the GOP’s silence and, in Ted Cruz’s case, defense of Trump, is a disturbing indication that they just don’t get it.  Republicans are failing in spectacular fashion to meet a very basic threshold of dignity and respect.”