The education of Hillary Clinton and the mal-education of Donald Trump
Hillary Clinton has scheduled a question and answer session with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for October 15, two days after the upcoming Democratic debate on CNN. The choice reflects the fundamental importance of Latino voters to her presidential ambitions.
It also deftly underscores the differences between Clinton and the current GOP front-runner. You see, this is the same Hispanic organization that Donald Trump conspicuously avoided talking with — the Hispanic Chamber claims that he cancelled at the last minute — in order to clear the air about his views on Latinos and and his controversial proposal on immigration. Instead, Trump went to a casino in Las Vegas and put on a show, at one point brining a Hispanic supporter on-stage to trumpet, as it were, her support: “I am Hispanic, and I vote for Trump.” Unfortunately, for Trump, she may be one of very few. A Washington Post/ABC poll shows that 82 percent of Hispanics view him unfavorably, 62 percent very unfavorably. Among Latinos, it seems, rudeness and insults, and then refusing to explain or apologize (in Spanish it would be described as "maleducado") does not work as a vote-getting strategy. Who would have thunk?
Very much unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has long-standing ties to Latino communities across the country. She is both known and respected. During her long, bitter political fight against Barack Obama for the Democratic party nomination six years ago, Latino voters were among her most reliable supporters. This support remained strong despite a few policy "adjustments" in Clinton’s positions regarding immigration and undocumented immigrants. Before the primary campaign began, she toughened her stance on the border wall. As the primary battle came to a showdown with Obama in Ohio, she walked-back, as the political expression has it, her support for allowing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
In her life as a candidate, Hillary has always been pragmatic in her political stances. Her husband, Bill, is, after all, the great “triangulate-tor” — elected as a moderate, he lead the effort for “ending welfare as we know it.” Both Hillary and Bill have always seemed to believe that, to paraphrase political scientist Samuel Huntington: The first duty of a political leader is to be elected.
So it is doubly interesting to see Hillary Clinton "re-adjust" her political positions on immigration, and drivers licenses once again, as she enters another run for the presidency. Whereas in 2003, Clinton was declaring herself “adamantly against illegal immigrants,” (although always in favor of a comprehensive plan which included a path toward normalization), Hillary now proposes to go further than Obama on reducing deportations. She strongly reiterated her support for a path to citizenship for those in the country, and even favors, once more, allowing drivers licenses to law-abiding undocumented residents.
Clinton’s current positions on immigration are more fully in accord with her long-standing commitment to civil and human rights than the previous “tough” ones. There is something more genuine feeling about them. Perhaps that was one of the lessons she learned in her loss to Obama.
But more importantly for Latinos who care about immigration and immigrants, these positions indicate that Hillary sees the road to White House passing through the Hispanic vote. Amongst Latinos, all of the above positions are highly popular. It also signals that Hillary, should she win the nomination, is willing to pick a fight with the GOP specifically on immigration. In other words, that a reasoned, pro-family approach on immigration, she calculates, is a political winner.