The Trump Card: or Dumping Donald J.

Pete Wilson.  Donald Trump.  Just two examples of people in very important positions in our society who have misjudged what the “Hispanic Market” is and isn’t. Their big mistake was not understanding the differences among Hispanics and lumping Latinos into one group as a single, monolithic constituency.  In my opinion, this is a very myopic view convenient to political expediency.

They may have gotten this idea from early attempts to reach Hispanics with Spanish-language translations of commercials aimed at awakening the “sleeping giant” for commercial purposes.  “Sleeping giant” was how the nascent Hispanic community was referred to in the early 1980s.
In the political arena, Viva Kennedy!Viva Nixon!, Viva this or viva that, was all that seemed to be needed to improve your showing among Hispanics.

The sleeping giant seemed to complacently lumber along, never really getting too excited about anything. At the time, Hispanics were dismissed as a niche market and political handlers were happy with any movement or momentum from Hispanics in their favor.

The big Latino electoral prizes came from California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. The majority of Hispanics reside in the West and Southwest. The “Hispanic market” could be referred to as the Mexican community, but for the presence of Hispanics in other big states like, Florida, New York and Illinois. These states are home to relatively significant Hispanic constituencies that play a vital role in aligning the US Hispanic narrative to the mainstream US culture.

They are predominantly Cuban Americans, concentrated in Florida, and Puerto Ricans, dominant in New York and Illinois, although Chicago has since moved into the Mexican column surpassing Puerto Ricans as the dominant Hispanic group.

Cubans and—to a large extent—Puerto Ricans understand political power and how to leverage it.  They have used this power to advocate not only for what they needed for their communities but to advocate for a unified voice among all Hispanics in the US. This resulted in the creation and development of a significant Spanish-language marketing and media industry, controlled primarily by the players and heavy hitters in Miami. Though they contributed to the progress of all Hispanics, some Hispanic groups emerged faster than others on economic and political playing fields.

There were reasons for that. Among them was the fact that Cubans and Puerto Ricansm, for the most part, never had to clear the hurdle of indeterminate immigration status.  These two groups arrived in the US with fully legal immigration status.  Of course, Puerto Ricans are US citizens.
So if you are Pete Wilson or Donald Trump you could think to yourself that by jumping on the anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, narrative concocted by the extreme right wing you could aggressively “scapegoat” what could be perceived to be the weakest link in the Hispanic food chain.

Mexicans are generally miscast in media portrayals as complacent and marginalized due to issues based on immigration, language barriers and historical resistance to assimilation. These factors have fueled the anti-immigrant—read anti-Mexican, fervor of right wing hate groups whose flames are fanned by media outlets such as Fox Nation and talk radio.

Politicians like Wilson and Trump tried to leverage this anti-Mexican sentiment to placate the growing Tea Party wing of the Republican party. Candidates have to get through them in the primaries if they expect to make it to the general election against the Democrat. They also need to raise super pac money, while minimizing damage to their mainstream brand.  They both fell easily into the trap of believing that if you mess with Mexicans, nothing will happen to you.
Pete Wilson found out the hard way that it doesn’t work like that.

The “sleeping giant” awoke in the aftermath of Prop 187 and rendered Wilson and the Republican Party virtually powerless in California.  They unwittingly grabbed a tiger by the tail and have not been able to shake it loose.

Trump should have done a little homework or taken Hispanic 101 by calling his friendly reps at Univision or Telemundo. But he didn’t. If he had, he would have learned that Mexicans and Mexican Americans comprise over two-thirds of US Hispanics to the tune of some 38 million souls. They are young and lean heavily to social media.  They pursue higher education at astonishing rates, know their worth as consumers and have money to spend.

They represent the single largest block of Hispanic voters, which grows in number of voters registered and political clout with every election in the 21st century. Obama would not be president today without the Mexican American vote.  Ask him, he’ll tell you.

So there Trump sits looking at the numbers which by now are starting to look like the oncoming lights of a runaway freight train. It is a story where business and politics collide rather than coincide.  He stands to lose a lot more than what is left of his self-respect and dignity. Worse, he is also going to lose money over this. Univision and NBC have already cancelled plans to air his beauty pageants, and NBC has stipulated that Trump will no longer appear on the popular reality show he starred in.  What lit the fire? $1.5 trillion dollars in measurable buying power that was getting up to take its business elsewhere.

To mess with Hispanics is one thing.  With Hispanics, you are talking about different cultures, nationalities, traditions and tastes. When you mess with Mexicans, you are talking about scale.
It is a scale that can not only hurt you politically but effect your bottom line as well. This is a group that lays deep roots in communities where they settle and has ties to those communities dating back generations. You are talking about community builders who are raising families, who are hard-working and entrepreneurial and who are as vested in the future of America as anyone.
Mexicans in the US have always been underestimated, but when there is a direct threat, they have responded accordingly to attacks from those who misjudge their complacency and lack of fervor for political engagement.

Pete Wilson and Donald Trump share one thing for sure. They never again have to wonder where they stand with Mexican American voters.

Richard Vasquez is a freelance Hispanic Marketing Consultant based in Los Angeles.  You can reach him at:


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