Four years ago, American voters took a big risk. After forty-four consecutive politicians guiding the ship of state, they decided that a businessman might be a better bet for running the country. It didn’t matter that the nation was still in the throes of its largest economic expansion in its history. They wanted change. They got it. The nation got something else.
The country got a chief executive who is unapologetic, unpredictable, controversial, polarizing, brash and the list goes on. And while the voters who put him in office---most of them---like the way he’s run things, polls show another thing altogether. Those polls say he needs to go. But scores of Latino leaders simply rely on their eyes and ears, not polls, to make judgement on President Trump. And they say they’ve seen enough!
Colorado’s homegrown politician, Ken Salazar, who served in the Senate and later as President Obama’s Secretary of the Interior believes replacing Donald Trump is not only imperative for the nation but the planet. The seventh-generation Coloradan serves as Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s co-chair of the National Latino Leadership Committee. Salazar has criss-crossed the country carrying Biden’s message to Latinos in nearly every state underscoring Trump’s unfitness for the office and his disregard for the one thing that unites the world, the environment.
On the environment; Trump, who touts his environmental record and routinely takes credit for policies undertaken by previous administrations, is perhaps the least environmentally thoughtful president in recent history, said Salazar. “Our existence as humans is dependent on how we take care of the planet,” he said. The threat of climate change has been ridiculed in this White House. “The administration has turned its back on this existential threat,” he said. The President, said Salazar, “has promoted the view that climate change is a hoax.”
Trump has signed off on weakening environmental protection on storage of dangerous chemicals, repealed Obama-era clean water standards, green-lit plans for oil and gas drilling in national parks, including sacred Native American lands, and reversed nearly 100 environmental rules and regulations. “The Trump administration has time and again failed to do what President Obama and I tried to do---to serve as custodians of America’s natural and cultural heritage,” said Salazar.
On racism; a majority of Latinos, in every American time zone, have also been shaded by the President who regularly calls himself ‘the least racist person in this room.’ His detractors, including former Denver Mayor and Cabinet Secretary Federico Peña, differ and point to the Trump track record. “When I called on citizens four years ago to reject Trump’s racism,” he said, “I did not fully appreciate how truly dangerous, immoral and wicked Trump would be as President.” Peña, along with a host of national Latino leaders and politicians, is a member of The National Latino Advisory Council.
When Trump began his run for President, he put his feelings on race on full display. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said. He further amplified his feelings. “They bring crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Trump also vilified a Mexican-American federal judge presiding over a case in which he was named. “He’s a hater,” he said of Mexican-American Judge Gonzalo Curiel, and couldn’t be impartial. Trump believed that his bullishness for a border wall would influence Curiel’s judgement. “He’s Mexican,” said Trump, justifying his call for removal of Judge Curiel. Curiel was presiding over a case involving Trump and his fraudulent ‘Trump University.’
Denver’s first-ever Latino Mayor said Trump’s mixture of clarion calls and dog whistles aimed at Latinos is unacceptable and a nod-and-wink to that part of his base that indulges in racial violence. “It was not long. ago that Latinos were being lynched in the Southwest,” said Peña.
When given a chance to denounce racism, Trump’s fallback, instead, often sounds like a whispered ‘OK.’ When he has the chance to condemn neo-Nazis and skinheads, he demurs. At the first Presidential debate, instead of an unambiguous condemnation of the terrorist group, Proud Boys he simply asked them to “stand back and stand by.” Peña decried Trump’s reluctance to squarely condemn these growing movements.
On immigration; Trump isn’t the first president challenged by the country’s immigration policies. But he may be the first to publicly endorse the draconian measures that include taking children from their parents and literally locking them up---indefinitely. Some children have been in ICE detention for more than a year, but Trump sees no problem.
“They’re so well taken care of,” he said in defense of this action in a recent debate with Democratic challenger for President, Joe Biden. He believes they will serve to discourage those escaping violence and poverty in their native countries from coming here.
“Donald Trump falsely asserts that these children were brought by the cartels and coyotes, ineffective lies in defense of his evil, heartless and illegal position on asylum seekers,” said former Denver television executive, Cindy Peña. “We need courageous leaders who are willing to sacrifice re-election,” she said, along with immigration policies that are humane. “Who will step up?” At last count, the parents of more than 500 children now in immigration detention were deported and cannot be found to be reunited with their children.
On COVID-19; Katherine Archuleta, former Director of the Office of U.S. Personnel and Management, said the coronavirus has also shined a light on another troubling aspect of the President. He has upended long standing policies at the CDC and EPA, openly and forcefully criticizing his own team, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, leading the fight against COVID-19 and, most recently, begun a move to upend and reorganize the federal workforce, which includes more than 170,000 Latinos.
“This administration has very little value for federal employees,” said Archuleta. The long-time Denverite, now New Mexican, said the Administration’s interference with governmental departments creates upheaval, low morale, and departures. “A number of federal employees have left of their own volition,” she said. But when they leave, they also take with them institutional knowledge. “I was always grateful that employees were there on behalf of the interests of the American public. They become experts to guide the practices of the country’s government.”
In 2016, Trump won one out of every four Latino votes. He remains a solid choice among Cuban-Americans and Latino evangelicals. But, said Salazar, before casting their vote---32 million Latinos are eligible---he hopes these two groups take a pause and reconsider their vote. “My father used to say to me,” said the former Senator and Cabinet member, “tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are.”