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In his pitch to Latino voters this week, Donald Trump attempted to sell a presidential agenda that seems more aligned with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet than past American presidents. In interviews and speeches, Trump has vowed to initiate mass deportations, bring back his administration’s cruel policy of separating families at the border, and target his political foes with prosecutions.
It has been odd hearing Trump take this pitch to this particular audience. I often hear pundits suggest Latino voters are defecting from the Democratic Party over fears that progressivism is a slippery slope to socialist authoritarianism, which some of these voters’ families associate with past regimes in South and Central America. But for all the talk I’ve heard about liberals needing to assuage Latino voters’ concerns about leftists running amok, it’s often Trump who sounds and behaves like a despot, spewing anti-democratic invective and self-aggrandizing propaganda.
For example, at a rally in Hialeah, Florida, on Wednesday, Trump vowed to “begin the largest domestic deportation operation in American history” if he’s elected president. (According to Census data, 95.8% of Hialeah residents are Hispanic and 74% are foreign-born.) Hispanic voters, of course, don’t all vote the same way for the same reasons. Cuban voters, who make up a large portion of Hialeah residents, tend to vote for conservative social policies and politicians. But despite exhibiting a paranoid, megalomaniacal persona resembling that of Fidel Castro, Trump seems to appeal to conservative hard-liners.
The deportation threat is especially troubling, given Trump tried to strip DACA recipients of their protected status and recently said he would revoke student visas of foreign nationals who protest against Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
Trump continued his outreach to Latinos during an interview with Univision on Thursday. In it, he insisted Latino voters like his approach to the border, and he insisted his administration’s cruel policy of separating migrant families at the border was effective. “When you hear that you’re going to be separated from your family, you don’t come,” he claimed.
But data suggests the family separation policy did little to actually deter migrants from seeking entry into the United States. And various polls taken since Trump introduced the policy indicate a majority of Hispanic voters oppose it.
But Trump really showed his dictatorial streak when he addressed the various criminal indictments against him for alleged fraud and election crimes. Trump said the charges are reminiscent of “banana republics” and “Third World countries.” But when asked if he would weaponize the government against his political opponents, he left the door open. He said that if they want to follow through on the prosecutions, “yeah, it could certainly happen in reverse.”
He said: “What they’ve done is they’ve released the genie out of the box.” (I wasn’t aware genies were living in boxes now — rents are going up for everyone, I guess.)
But it seems like we can dispense with the premise that Trump’s Latino supporters are turned off by authoritarian leaders. Given the stated goals of his political agenda, he’s hardly hiding his anti-democratic ambitions.
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