Itxu Diaz, DCNF
Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
There is a big difference between emphasizing and being possessed by anger. The former is what John Wayne does when he offers an ultimatum to an outlaw before breaking his teeth. Being possessed by anger is what happens to Coyote at the end of each episode of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner.
Emphasizing is what President Donald Trump does when he points a finger at a Democratic opponent. Being possessed by anger is what happens when Ukrainians come to blows in parliament. And if you think Hispanic politicians have a bad temper, it’s because you haven’t seen the YouTube video of the pitched battle of the Parliament of Taiwan a couple of years ago. There were no guys screaming or making a fuss. There were slaps, judo kicks, and a bunch of lunatics throwing chairs at the head of their political opponents. In comparison, Trump and Hispanic political leaders are an example of restraint, subtlety and shyness.
Trump likes Spain. That is what he confessed to the president of the Government of Spain — which is Pedro Sánchez, for our sins — a few months ago. And it doesn’t surprise me. Trump is like the Hispanic prototype discussing international politics sitting at the bar. He speaks loudly, gives his opinion with passion about anything that is wrong in the world, and his neck veins swell when he talks about politics. Spain has a parliament in which politicians tend to hit their seats with their hands or objects or point their finger. They do it to protest, but also to emphasize when they are angry. And often they are angry. It is not a matter of rudeness but of temperament. The same could be said of Trump. It’s just an emphatic way of speaking, the same one that he shares with most of the Hispanosphere. But do you think his policies are as gauche as the way he talks?
It seems obvious that Trump is anti-immigration. The purpose of the wall between Mexico and the United States isn’t to play volleyball with the Mexicans. The president of the United States does not hate Hispanics, but he hates criminals, drug traffickers and the guys who wear tracksuits. That’s why he hates Maduro. And yet there is something genuinely Hispanic in his temper that matches him — perhaps despite himself — with Maduro. Both shout, curse, threaten and point their enemies with their finger. The difference is that Maduro slaughters his people and Trump does not.
Trump’s Hispanic temperament extends beyond the way he talks with others, to the way he exercises government. Sometimes it seems like testosterone is Trump’s only real adviser. He makes decisions abruptly, announces them to everyone and finally does what he pleases at that moment. In a way it reminds me of Shakespeare, who said that of “Men of few words are the best men” and later wrote Hamlet, which contains more than 30,000 words. They are unpredictable. That’s why everyone expects Trump to start a war but ends up laughing them off. That is another characteristic of Hispanic politicians: they laugh a lot. The exception is the Caribbean revolutionaries, who have no sense of humor. They and also Evo Morales, who never understands the joke. Morales is like the man Wodehouse said had just enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wanted to eat, but certainly no more.
Take the example of Trump’s border wall, one of the main planks of his political program. Almost everyone has criticized it. He has announced hundreds of times its construction, although saying so could make him lose popularity. “We are building a beautiful wall. A big one that really work, ” he said. And yet, it is not yet built. At the moment, it mostly exists in the vaporous sphere of rhetoric. And yet, Democrats are deranged over the wall. It seems that there is nothing else going on in the whole country.
Left-wingers find it unacceptable that Hispanic voters do not hate Trump. In fact, the current president of the United States maintains the support of Hispanics at almost the same level as Romney. It must lead Democrats to wonder some crazy things: do Hispanics want a wall? Are Hispanics xenophobic? Is it possible that they are auto-xenophobic?
If the left hates anything it’s the idea that there are voters who have different values. And many do: lots of people think that the imposition of equality harms their notion of freedom. As the great Colombian thinker Nicolás Gómez Dávila wrote, “Freedom is the right to be different; equality is the prohibition of being different.”
But if we strip the thick words of the wall proposal and focus on the most technical and dispassionate part, it may not be so abominable. Its magnitude is exacerbated by the rage of political debate. For example: If Trump were president of Spain and his nation adjoined jihadi-exporting countries, I am convinced that he would not build a wall but a large moat. And fill it with hungry crocodiles. And no one would see it as aberrant; the whole country would agree. So perhaps we have excluded the desire to protect our own borders from polite political conversation. If no country had protected its land, there would be no nations at all, and we would live under the dictatorship of some despotic country that did defend its territorial autonomy. In all likelihood, that country would be the fourth-generation Soviet Union or its Caribbean version, Castro’s Cuba.
Take a moment to examine what Houellebecq wrote about Trump in Harpers to broaden this analysis on borders: “When free trade favors American interests, President Trump is in favor of free trade; in the contrary case, he finds old-fashioned protectionist measures entirely appropriate. President Trump was elected to safeguard the interests of American workers; he’s safeguarding the interests of American workers. During the past fifty years in France, one would have wished to come upon this sort of attitude more often.” In reality, all countries would benefit from leaders who have this attitude.
We live passionate times, with heated debates. Every day it seems that the world is going to end because something terrible has happened. The press contributes to this hysteria. But the world keeps spinning. Today’s revolutions will fail as they always have. After our May of ’68 the crisis will come, the reaction will follow, and a new period of calm and prosperity will follow that. But in the meantime, this screaming confuses old school politicians. British lords, Brussels bureaucrats or white-glove American politicians move with difficulty in an environment dominated by howls and immediate action-reaction policies.
Trump was the first to rule from the social media chicken coop. Threatening to declare a war via Twitter is something that only a Hispanic politician could do. We have many examples. The president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, lashes Nicolás Maduro daily on social networks for the enjoyment of his followers. In his spare time, Bukele appoints or dismisses ministers through Twitter. We don’t even find it eccentric at this point. Similarly, Santiago Abascal, leader of the Vox right-wing party in Spain, uses Twitter with ease to mark his actions and broadcast his speeches. When his former friend, the ultra-rightist Salvini, decided to support the Catalan independence workers in the coup against Spain, Abascal reacted quickly on Twitter, breaking his ties of friendship through a single tweet dedicated to the Italian politician: “Stick your nose in Italian affairs and leave off behaving like a globalist bureaucrat interfering in the national sovereignty of Spain.” Later they became friends again. For not too long. Last month they broke off relations again. Salvini has once again said nonsense about Catalan independence and Abascal has grown tired of having a friend who is more false than Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s good intentions.
If Trump had bombed all the countries he attacked on Twitter, he would need to multiply defense spending a hundredfold. And yet, except for killing al-Baghdadi, Trump is not proving to be a warmongering president. For a long time in Venezuela they would like to see the U.S. Marines walking through Caracas, but there is no way. Once again, a Republican president has been caricatured by the left, and the reality has been shown to be quite different.
One of the great paradoxes of today’s politics is that Trump’s temperament is more familiar to Hispanic immigrants than to Americans. Hispanics are used to that kind of politician. The anglophone world is more familiar with polite parliamentary procedure and constitutional subtleties. Obama was unable to raise his voice above his principles. Bush used to be hieratic, as if he had mercury in his blood. And the only wall that Bill Clinton could imagine was the wall that Hillary should have built around her husband. None of them dared to say openly what he thinks in front of a microphone. Trump’s advisers strive to write elaborate speeches. I know that some are extraordinary. But it is a losing battle. Trump almost never follows the script. He likes the risk. This also does not seem to turn off voters: perhaps they prefer sincerity even if it is painful?
For the first time in recent years, right-wing people are saying what they really think about the great contemporary debates. Do not shy away. It’s happening with Trump in the United States. It’s happening in France, in Austria, in Poland, in Germany and in Spain. This causes some social tension in the short term but will make politics and living together in peace better in the long term. The artificial imposition of the politically correct was opening dangerous cracks in societies, and buried truth in the fear of thinking differently. And in the end people like freedom. Too bad for the left.
The future seems bright for Republicans. They have all of America’s most loathed institutions against them. That is a good sign. “The other thing Trump has going for him is the people who hate him,” wrote PJ O’Rourke in American Consequences. “If Trump cured cancer, the headline on the New York Times would be ‘Heart Disease Kills More People.’ Trump should be thankful for that. Know-it-alls hate Trump. … And Americans hate know-it-alls.” It is freedom and not the sectarianism of know-it-alls that strengthens democracy.
Trump’s Hispanic style a magnificent example:
Democrats want to give Hispanics an identity. Republicans want Hispanics to earn money.
Left-wingers want to put Latinos into a ghetto, enhance their peculiarity and recognize their status as an oppressed group. Right-wings want them to be equal to other Americans, to be mixed, and to magnify their nation.
The left wants to make them slaves of the socialist cause in exchange for a subsidy. The right wants to make them free and for them to survive like everyone else.
After all, Hispanics are not doing badly with Trump. In recent years, the rate of Latinos who own a home has risen to 47.1%. The unemployment rate of Hispanics has dropped to 4.7%. With Obama in the White House, unemployment of Hispanics reached 12.1%. There are now twice as many Hispanic families earning $200,000 a year than there were in 2011. In 2017 alone, 350,000 Hispanics rose out of poverty. And the number of small and medium-sized American Latino businesses has risen 13%.
Most Latinos will continue to vote for Democrats. But Hispanics do not maintain a visceral rejection of Trump. This is one of the many really funny situations that postmodern politics gives us: little by little, the thousand oppressed groups that the left-wing has artificially invented begin to feel really oppressed … but oppressed by left-wing policies. After Marxism, the left-wing has no choice but to be increasingly dogmatic. That could end up being worse than a bit of rough tweeting.
Itxu Díaz is a Spanish journalist, political satirist and author. He has written nine books on topics as diverse as politics, music, or smart appliances. He is a contributor to The Daily Beast and Diario Las Américas, in the United States, and columnist several Spanish magazines and newspapers. He was also an advisor to the Ministry for Education, Culture and Sports in Spain.
Follow him on Twitter at @itxudiaz or visit his website www.itxudiaz.com