SAN DIEGO – Those who voted for Donald Trump are eager to spin his victory as a defeat for political correctness.
Fortunately for me, I don’t work for Trump or those who got suckered into voting for the political equivalent of P.T. Barnum.
So here’s a politically correct criticism of the emerging Trump administration: The Cabinet looks like a Latino-free zone.
The new normal for the last three presidents over the past 24 years – both Republican and Democrat – has been that there are at least two Latinos serving on the Cabinet at any given time. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush each had three Latinos in their Cabinets. Barack Obama outdid them both by naming four. In each case, this was over the course of both terms.
Only 12 Latinos belong to this exclusive club, having served in the Cabinet of one president or another. They tend to wind up at Energy, Labor or Housing and Urban Development. And only Alberto Gonzales has held one of the top four posts, which are attorney general, defense secretary, treasury secretary and secretary of state.
Trump will be lucky to have one Latino in his Cabinet.
Let’s make America 1988 again. That’s when Ronald Reagan named Lauro Cavazos, a Democrat, as the first Latino to serve in the Cabinet.
Trump’s Cabinet could wind up with one Asian-American (Elaine Chao at Transportation), one African-American (Ben Carson at Housing) and perhaps one Latino (at Interior, Agriculture, Energy, Labor or Veterans Affairs).
That will leave 12 white people, nearly all of them men! That’s nice. White males never catch a break. And, this being the year of the angry white American, it’s only right that we cheer up 10 or so white men by giving them jobs.
This is not a good look, given that Trump antagonized Latinos for nearly a year and a half on the campaign trail. So we’re qualified enough to be his foil, but not to be in the Cabinet?
I know what you’re thinking – that race or ethnicity shouldn’t matter, that Trump should just pick the “best” or “most qualified” person.
Good news. In 2016, you can have both. Sometimes the best person for the job is someone of a different race or ethnicity. You don’t have to sacrifice quality to get diversity.
This isn’t about quotas or affirmative action. Nor is it based on an assumption that people are better served by government when they see others who look like them at the top.
Obama killed that theory. America’s first black president did little in eight years to help African-Americans plagued by inadequate schools, urban violence or youth unemployment. He took care of big business by pushing through bailouts, and organized labor by pushing out immigrants. But he forgot about the one community that gave him his strongest level of support.
Trump should see this as a valuable opportunity to fire off some curveballs at his critics, and not play into the media’s lazy caricature of him as someone who would be totally at ease in an all-white country club.
Besides, numbers matter. The president-elect told us so himself. Trump is proud that he received nearly three out of every 10 Latino votes. He brags about it all the time. And as you may recall, during the campaign, he declared: “The Hispanics love me.”
Now, Hispanics have the right to look at Trump’s Cabinet nominations and ask if he loves them back.
And if in fact we end up with one Latino in the Cabinet, that’ll mean America’s largest minority still accounts for only about 6 percent of the total number of department heads. For someone who got 29 percent of the Latino vote, that’s embarrassing.
Trump built a reputation in the construction field for finding good talent when others overlooked it. To his credit, he put women in charge of major projects at a time when that sort of thing was largely unheard of in the industry.
So what’s happening now? Here we have supposedly one of the world’s greatest talent scouts and he looks all around the country and, for the most part, the only talented people he can find to head up government departments are white men? Worse, he seems to be having difficulty finding any Latinos who are qualified to run anything? Seriously, Mr. Wizard?
When it comes to recruiting good people, Trump considers himself the master. But when it comes to hiring Latinos, he’s still an apprentice.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.