Jorge Ramos, the immensely respected Mexican-American journalist, has single-handedly taken on Donald Trump’s outlandish attacks on immigrants. Ramos is the most trusted source of information for millions of Latinos who make up a large part of US society, hosting the most-viewed Spanish-language news program “Noticiero Univision” and the English-language program “America with Jorge Ramos.”
Trump evicted Ramos from his press conference for attempting to ask specifics about his proposals to deport 11 million people from the country, build a 1,900-mile border wall, and deny citizenship to children born in the US. Trump told Ramos to “go back to Univision,” echoing anti-immigrant threats, and branding the journalist a foreigner (he is actually a US citizen). Afterward, Ramos said: “This is personal, and that’s the big difference between Spanish-language and mainstream media, because he’s talking about our parents, our friends, our kids and our babies.”
He later told Megyn Kelly: “the problem is that he’s not used to being questioned, he doesn’t like uncomfortable questions … I think as journalists we have to take a stand when it comes to racism, discrimination, corruption, public lies, dictatorship, and human rights. And when he’s expressing those really dangerous words, we have to confront him.”
In this, however, Trump mirrors the political establishment that discourages and criminalizes challenges to authority – Bush and Cheney’s war on terrorism codified arbitrary abuses of power and the demonization of opposition. Even under Obama, prosecution of whistleblowers has reached an all-time high.
Ramos pointed out that to do what Trump actually promises, “he would need to use the army, use stadiums, public places. The only way to do that would be to use trains and buses and airports to deport millions of people. It’s in a scale never seen before in the world.”
Since the US economy cannot function without immigrant labor, Trump’s proposals are not intended to be realistic. They are part of a demagogic rhetoric that incites attacks on immigrants. When a homeless Latino man was beaten up in Boston, Trump took days to repudiate it; his initial response was to say that his supporters were “passionate.” Ramos told Anderson Cooper on CNN that Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous: “What many Americans say in their homes, with their friends, in their kitchens, now many of them feel that it is OK to say that to minorities, to Latinos and this is really creating a terrible backlash.”
[WATCH: A white woman tells another woman speaking Spanish to learn English or get out of the country. ]
Not a single Republican politician has challenged Trump’s agenda, because he voices the resentful anger of their base better than they can. Josh Marshall commented: “Not caring about those contradictions, not caring about racist provocations is rooted in the nature of Trump’s campaign. … He’s dominating the field … by owning the part of the GOP base (the lion’s share of it) who feel aggrieved and threatened and crave and respect dominance. … Tossing Jorge Ramos isn’t a problem with these folks, it’s a fantasy.”
English-language journalists did little to support him, some in fact criticizing him for speaking up without being called. Glenn Greenwald showed his disgust with their subservient opinions, defending Ramos as being part of the tradition of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite in speaking truth to power: “What is more noble for a journalist to do: confront a dangerous, powerful billionaire-demagogue spouting hatemongering nonsense about mass deportation, or sit by quietly and pretend to have no opinions on any of it and that ‘both sides’ are equally deserving of respect and have equal claims to validity?”
But the Spanish-language press has been forthright in condemning Trump, echoing Ramos’ earlier description of him as “the loudest voice of intolerance, hatred and division in the United States.” The Latin pop star Ricky Martin published an op-ed in Univision News last week, saying the fact that Trump “has the guts to continue to gratuitously harass the Latino community makes my blood boil. … What surprises me is that as Hispanics we continue to accept the aggressions and accusations of individuals like him who attack our dignity. Enough is enough!”
“Xenophobia as a political strategy is the lowest level you can sink to in search of power,” Martin continued. “This is an issue that unites us and we need to fight together, not only for ourselves but for the evolution of humanity and those who come later.”
Brittney Cooper writes in Salon: “The explanations that suggest that Trump’s ‘refreshing honesty’ and ‘lack of political corruption’ make him popular are surface-level truths that point to a deeper set of lies. Trump legitimizes the most irrational and base impulses of those on the right. He makes it seem OK to have views that are politically retrograde and fundamentally at odds with a democratic project. He makes white discomfort with progressive discourse and policy feel like a legitimate anxiety.”
The English-language press has become neutered by its corporate connections to the political system and is mesmerized by Trump’s apparent support to the exclusion of opposing voices. So we have to thank Spanish-speaking Americans for exposing this would-be emperor’s lack of clothing. The traditionally conservative Latino community is being motivated to get involved in US politics by Trump’s appeals to a dwindling base of right-wing bigots.