Democratic Hopefuls Speaking Spanish; Why Democrats Learned Nothing From 2016
No, the United States still does not technically have an official language. Yes, English is the de facto official language and you must—with rare exceptions–take the U.S. citizen’s test in English. However, if you came away from the First Round of the Democratic Presidential Debate a little bit confused that it might be Spanish, you could be forgiven. Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, and even Cory Booker broke out Spanish during the debate for unknown reasons.
Well, that is not entirely accurate. The reasoning was simple; pandering. Pandering for the Latino (not Latinx) vote. But beyond eliciting groans from the vast majority of the watching public, the pathetically obvious pandering in Spanish did something else; it betrayed the seismic divide between the Democratic hopefuls and the current President. The sudden turn to Spanish is emblematic of what the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton got so wrong about Trump in 2016 and what they still do not understand heading into 2020.
Trump is the President because of a slogan: Make America Great Again!
The “Again” is the operative word. Trump, for all of his many many many many many many many faults, is great at reading a room. He read the room known as the United States perfectly while campaigning during the Republican primaries. Trump locked on to the idea that a significant portion of Americans were fed up with a president telling them America was not great and those who believed it was great in the past were merely being nostalgic. Then he was given a gift when he squared off against Hillary Clinton.
Hillary took the Barack Obama perspective and turned it up to 11 when she called possible Trump supporters “deplorables.” Remember, these were the people who were turning to Trump because in their heads Trump was saying, “hey, America was a great place to live, I can make that happen again.” By calling those people deplorables, she was attacking the idea of America. Trump ran with that and ended up winning because he was willing to say America was great and we can make it great again.
He won because of a slogan and a slew of $0.99 hats.
What happened in 2016 was a bunch of people in the middle of the country saying, “you are right, America is not this horrible place others make it out to be.” It had nothing to do with racism, xenophobia, homophobia, or any other phobia or “ism” out there. Trump merely made people feel good for being American and loving America. And now the Democratic hopefuls for president are making the same mistakes Hillary did.
You cannot speak Spanish at a presidential debate. This is America, where English reigns supreme. It might sound great to speak Spanish to a packed hall in Florida, but it will fall flat in New Hampshire and the vast majority of the states in the union. Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election by calling more than 45% of the country deplorables. A word they understood. Now imagine what will happen when the Democratic candidates literally start using words a significant amount of American do not understand. You think they were alienated before by Democrats, watch what will happen if this continues.
Right now the Democratic hopefuls are trying to separate from the field of a gazillion candidates. They are doing so at the expense of their eventual run against Trump, which is a huge gamble and a glaring mistake. Every misstep they make right now is ammunition for Trump to use against them later when it is a one-on-one battle. Every word of Spanish that comes out of a presidential hopeful’s mouth will add another candy to the already overflowing platter that is Trump’s dish (being Trump, this platter is probably an eyesore; all gold and gaudy and Trump-like).
With every yo soy Trump is going to gain a voter. Those on the fence about whether or not to vote for Trump and are nervous about the direction of the country are going to fall back to what is comfortable. Spanish for no reason during a presidential debate? It does not get any more uncomfortable than that for your average mid-American voter. Trump will bludgeon anybody that speaks Spanish, and rightfully so. This might reek of xenophobia to you, but it is a call back to what Hillary and Democrats got wrong in 2016; for many Americans, America was/is a great place and they want it to remain that way.
Obama/Hillary did not understand that about Trump and his slogan. They belittled America while Trump put it on a pedestal. But all these Democratic candidates are falling into the same trap when they ditch English. If you were appalled at the reaction to a slogan barking out the greatness of America, wait until swing-voters in the middle of the country start hearing the Democratic candidate against Trump switch to Spanish in a debate. They will camp out at their local voting centers waiting to punch their ticket for the big old “R.”
Maybe you think this is an overreaction to a couple of answers in Spanish (and a closing statement in Spanish). You might even believe change is good for America: looking at you end of slavery, the suffrage movement, and civil rights. But there is a reason incumbent presidents are 15-5 in reelection campaigns; Americans like the status quo. Nothing is more of a shock to the system and a departure from the status quo than American presidential debates conducted in Spanish. In the last 11 years, Americans flocked to the polls and elected change, then they turned around and elected the greatness of America, but now Democratic candidates might already have lost the 2020 election to Donald Trump by forcing Americans to ask the simplest of questions; ¿Qué?