Two years ago, the Republican Party was salivating over a secret plan to win the presidency with a strategy based on two states and two candidates.
The states were Ohio with 18 electoral votes and Florida with 29, represented respectively by Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Marco Rubio. Since 1944, the United States has not elected a president who did not win Ohio. The Republican focus in the always-controversial state of Florida involved the “complete package” — a young Cuban American named Rubio sure to attract not only young voters of all races but most importantly the “Latino vote,” which had been completely neglected by Republicans since George Bush won his second term with 43 percent of the Latino vote. The Republican National Committee seemingly had the perfect combination plan.
And then Donald Trump showed up!
The whole plan melted down like a Mister Softie ice cream cone entering the gravity of the sun. Never before in modern U.S. political history had an opening campaign speech included such venom and flames of terror, with Trump calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “criminals.”
The Republican establishment did not initially react with alarm since they had paved the way for Trump with a decades-long history of more subtle and less aggressive anti-immigrant rhetoric. Many thought that Trump’s candidacy would be fleeting. Today, he is their presumptive nominee.
Republican leaders would love to push Rubio on Trump as a running mate to soften the image of the ticket and increase the likelihood of winning Florida. However, this makes no sense for a couple of reasons.
First, the damage is done with Latinos. There is nothing that Trump can do to remedy the harm already created, even if he named Simon Bolivar vice president.
Secondly, Rubio demonstrated during the primaries that he is still too crude and tender to run for either president or vice president. His campaign was such a failure that today he is not even a front-runner to keep his Senate seat if he chooses to try.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, will make a huge mistake if she passes on the opportunity to name the first ever Latino running mate in a presidential ticket. The question is whom should she choose?
First, the candidate cannot be associated with Wall Street, or Clinton will run the risk of offending a large part of her left-leaning party. Second, he or she should have record as a progressive, with less hawkish positions that are to the left of Hillary on domestic, international and social issues.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro was at one point in the mix, but is too young and lacks experience in many important areas. Having another woman, like Elizabeth Warren, on the ticket would be fantastic, but will not significantly affect turn out in most purple states, since those states include a substantial Latino vote.
The name that is currently floating heavily in Democratic corridors is California Rep. Xavier Becerra, a 20-year congressional veteran who has a good relationship with labor, a clean record and is somewhat progressive. The vice presidential candidate must be able to bring out the Latino vote with the highest turnout ever. Of course, this might not be difficult since Trump has been in charge of the turnout operation for the last six months.
A Latino candidate will further increase turn out in purple-leaning states such as Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and even Texas. With 87 electoral college votes in play, the Democrats do not necessarily need to win Ohio, due to the Trump effect throughout the nation.
Democrats need to make a strategic and historic statement in winning the Presidency by selecting a progressive Latino or Latina as vice president. The Democratic presidential ticket will pay off significantly in many elections to come. And it will take Republicans a long time to learn their lesson and recuperate from their failed theatrical production: the Donald Trump Circus of Hate.
Estades is a lecturer on social policy at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Social Work and is founder and president of the Latino Leadership Institute Inc.
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