SAN DIEGO – It’s an argument you might have heard from nativist Republicans in the Southwest, as well as from union-friendly Democrats in the Rust Belt: “The Mexicans are coming to take your jobs!”
You had better believe it. I know a hardworking Mexican-American radio host in Texas who has taken three of them.
I don’t always agree with Chris Salcedo, but I’m proud to call him a friend. His followers know him as the “Liberty Loving Latino,” and his voice has never been stronger.
As a Latino conservative who supports Donald Trump and thinks liberalism will ruin America, Salcedo is the stereotype-busting powerhouse of the airwaves. Over the last quarter-century, he has climbed the ladder, thanks to talent, breaks, hustle, networking, perseverance and sweat.
The 45-year-old has a degree in the dramatic arts and initially wanted to be an actor. But he has been performing on a different stage, working in radio and television for most of his life -- in his native Southern California, in Washington, D.C., and most recently, in Texas. And all the dues-paying has finally been rewarded.
Salcedo now has not one, not two, but three daily two-hour radio shows broadcasting from the Lone Star State. That means the married father of three girls -- ages 9, 13 and 15 -- spends 30 hours a week talking on the air, and he still makes it home each night to have dinner with his family.
Even among longtime radio professionals, this kind of workload is virtually unheard of.
Not bad for a guy whose memory of his first radio job, in his early 20s, summons the smell of freshly baked rolls because the tiny radio studio in a small town not far from San Diego was located above a bakery.
Salcedo started out writing the news for others to read, and soon he was reading it himself. Then came a stint as the weatherman for a local TV station, and a move to Dallas to take a job as a reporter. By the time Washington beckoned with an offer to co-anchor a national morning radio show, he was eager to break out of the straitjacket of objective journalism.
Like everyone in broadcast media, Salcedo got jobs and lost jobs, and had his plans turned upside down.
“I was under the illusion that I was in control,” he told me. “It’s not true. It’s great to have a plan, but you have to be ready to change it.”
The change that Salcedo made, just three years ago, was to go from an employee to a brand.
“I got tired of depending on other people, and their idea of what I needed to be,” he said. “So I created the idea of ‘The Chris Salcedo Show.’”
It was a good idea. With a morning show on WBAP-820 AM in Dallas, an afternoon show on KSEV-700 AM in Houston, and a national show on Glenn Beck’s digital creation, TheBlaze Radio Network, Salcedo is talking up a storm.
“I like what I do on radio,” he said. “I have the ability to express my opinions. In a more structured news environment, it wouldn’t be as much fun. Here, I get to do my kind of radio.”
Salcedo’s kind of radio revolves around what he calls “the beer factor.” It’s about making listeners feel as if they want to have a beer with him. And that’s all about being authentic.
“People can tell when you’re being you,” he said.
This being an election year, I asked my friend why he became a conservative.
“Because I recognize why the U.S. has been a success,” he said. “As we lean toward liberalism, we become less successful -- in race relations, foreign policy, domestic policy.”
As for backing Trump -- a position that, according to the polls, is shared by only one in five Latinos -- Salcedo insists the Republican nominee is the most “pro-America” choice on the ballot. And while many Latinos consider Trump’s words offensive, Salcedo doesn’t see it that way. For him, the immigration debate isn’t about race, but border security. He also maintains that Trump is giving voice to the concern shared by many Americans that the country has lost its way
Salcedo is determined to help get us back on track. And whether you agree with him or not, we can expect him to be part of the national discussion for many years to come.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.