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August 27, 2015

Trump v. Univision: A Lesson in Politics

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

The Trump candidacy just keeps redefining traditional presidential politics. The most recent example tells us more about the “Trump for President” movement than anything that has happened to date, and considering how much has happened since Donald J. Trump announced, that’s saying something.

Out of the gate, Donald Trump determined that his signature issue would be illegal immigration. His angle was unique in national politics; he focused on the crime wave associated with immigrants who enter this country illegally. Others have made the issue about jobs or welfare. For Donald Trump, it's the hordes of killers, drug dealers and rapists crossing the Rio Grande.

His evidence was a bit shaky at first. He spoke passionately about how Mexico (his generic reference to any country south of the border) sends us their rapists and criminals. He pointedly remarked that they weren’t sending their best, but concentrating on shipping out the dregs of Mexican society and penal institutions.

He didn’t have a lot of evidence to offer when he first made his claims. It was more intuitive, ill-defined references to crime rates among immigrant populations. Then, as if scripted by a Hollywood writer, a few very high profile murders and assaults occurred, the suspects being illegal immigrants from…wait for it… Mexico!

Two of these crimes struck a particular chord with Americans. First, a beautiful, vibrant young woman was shot and killed while walking with her father along the San Francisco waterfront. Her killer, an illegal immigrant, used a handgun that had been stolen from a federal law enforcement officer. To make the horrible even worse, her killer had been released by local San Francisco authorities in spite of a federal warrant to detain the suspect until the feds could take custody of him.

San Francisco, a “safe harbor” city, refused to acknowledge or comply with these detainer orders. Both the city and county governments felt that once these known criminals served their local sentence, they should be released outright, not turned over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

In this case, the blood of young Kate Steinle is all over their hands.

In the second horror, an illegal immigrant raped and murdered a 64-year-old Air Force retiree, a woman who, by all accounts, had lived an honorable existence deserving of our respect and admiration.

These two incidents, along with the now-refined statistics about how many violent crimes have been committed by illegal immigrants, have added both credibility and fuel to the Trump message.

When you give a polished image manipulator like Mr. Trump some verifiable support for his arguments, he knows how to ramp up the messaging like no other. Throw in an angry base of supporters spread out across the country and you have a powerful political movement. Multiply those things with a 24-hour news cycle that needs to be fed constantly, and you have a true phenomenon.

Univision's news anchor Jorge Ramos has decided that Donald Trump's position on illegal immigration makes this story "personal" for him. Mr. Ramos has made his name and reputation by grilling candidates for public office on issues of importance to the Latino community. No single issue resonates with the Hispanic community like immigration.

Univision is a Spanish-language cable television network. Since its inception, Univision has been the go-to source for mainstream American political candidates to communicate with the Hispanic community. Often, the candidates learn enough Spanish to go on Univision’s airwaves to curry favor with Latino voters. It’s typically painful to watch, as it must be for the candidates themselves to perform.

Since Mr. Ramos takes Mr. Trump’s comments so personally, he believes he has the right to disrupt campaign events, shout questions out of turn, and interrupt other journalists until he's satisfied with his own questioning of the candidate.

Just a few observations about Jorge Ramos and Univision:

1.) Once Jorge Ramos makes the news personal, he surrenders his rights as an independent journalist. Now, he's a part of the story. There is simply no way for a credible news journalist to cover a story once they’ve decided that the issue is about them, and therefore personal.

2.) What Mr. Ramos fails to understand is that this candidate, unlike almost any other, really does not care at all about Mr. Ramos, Univision, or the audience that get their news from that source. In fact, the more Univision isolates Mr. Trump, the more favor Mr. Trump finds from his core constituency. Mr. Ramos and Univision are used to pressuring others to back off on immigration, with Mr. Trump they're just going to strengthen his message and resolve.

3.) Univision shouldn't be surprised that their news anchor is being treated like a pariah by Donald Trump. The network itself set the tone early on, cutting business ties with Mr. Trump over television programming (beauty pageants) and the use of Mr. Trump’s resort properties by the network and their employees. Again, once a news organization takes the personal approach, they yield their credibility.

4.) Somebody needs to tell the TV and print media that the only organized entity the American people trust less than politicians is the news media itself.

Every time a national reporter, whether from Univision or the major media, takes a shot at Donald Trump’s statements or proposals on illegal immigration, they add strength to his message. Not unlike tempering steel, each attack on Mr. Trump hammers in a new layer of resolve and admiration for his positions.

Smart political observers claim that you cannot win a national election without the immigrant vote, particularly the Hispanic immigrant vote. Decades of safe harbor policies and coddling of illegals, like those in San Francisco that led to Kate Steinle’s death, have added millions to the voter rolls. While legitimate questions remain unanswered about whether illegal immigrants are voting or not, when immigrants do achieve legal status, they typically support Democratic Party principles and candidates. Wonder why?

In spite of that, expect Donald Trump to stay on message. Expect his supporters to coalesce around that message, and the rest of the 2016 GOP presidential field to stumble over whether to be strong on illegal immigration or apologetic for the messaging.


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