Cinco de Mayo is an insult wrapped in red, white and green crepe paper. It’s a faux holiday created by white people who run marketing firms and have no qualms telling Latinos what to celebrate as long as it gets people into bars and restaurants to eat chimichangas and drink margaritas.
So I guess it’s appropriate that, in the lead-up to this day, Mr. Insult brought his vitriolic campaign to California – which is home to many of the people he has spent the last 11 months slamming to score political points elsewhere.
Up to now, many of the attacks have taken place in states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, where few Latinos live. The population of California is 39 percent Latino.
Where Donald Trump goes, trouble follows. And often, violence, division and mayhem are not far behind. And so it was last week in Costa Mesa, about an hour south of Los Angeles, when the snake-oil salesman brought his anti-Mexican carnival show to the nation’s most populous state.
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California isn’t Iowa. There, crowds of white people cheer when Trump vows to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Here, protesters shouted expletives, held placards and waved Mexican flags.
The flag stunt was dumb and counterproductive, and I could have done without it. More on that in a second.
But first, you need to look at the big picture. At this point, many Latinos don’t just dislike Trump. We’re way past that. They outright loathe him.
Ground zero for this animosity is California, where voters go to the polls on June 7. As a native Californian, I think the anti-Trump hatred among Latinos is strongest in the Golden State because those of us who live here have seen this movie before.
One of the most memorable showings was in the mid-1990s, when Republican Gov. Pete Wilson exploited xenophobic fears to win re-election and blew up his own party in the process. This resulted in dark days for Latinos, who wound up neglected, abused and taken for granted by the Democratic Party.
Still, given that Latinos in California have such a distaste for Trump, why would some of the more thickheaded members of my community play into his hands?
His supporters say that Mexicans – and, by extension, Mexican Americans – are lawbreakers who don’t respect private property, create chaos and remain loyal to Mexico.
So how do the protesters respond? They break the law, destroy property, create chaos and display their loyalty to Mexico.
I understand why a lot of people would be furious that this opportunist has scored cheap political points on the backs of Mexican immigrants. As if those immigrants didn’t do enough work in this country.
And I understand why people feel strongly enough about taking a stand that they go out into the streets and voice their disapproval over a presidential candidate’s words and deeds.
This is, after all, the quintessentially American thing to do. Nativists always call on immigrants, and their children, to assimilate. Well, this is what assimilation looks like.
What I don’t understand is why any of these protesters would wave a Mexican flag. Let alone vandalize police cars and terrorize Trump supporters, who may be wrong but have every right to be wrong without being bullied or berated. These people need to grow up. Demanding to be respected by the people of one country while waving the colors of another is illogical. It’s also bad manners.
It also happened outside the state Republican convention in Burlingame, where Trump joked to the audience that, in climbing over barriers and side-stepping protesters to get into the auditorium, he felt like he was “crossing the border.”
Cracks like this left Joe Scarborough perplexed. During a recent segment of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the host suggested that Trump’s advisers must know they need to tone it down.
“They understand that Trump cannot win the general election without 35 percent of Hispanics voting for him,” Scarborough said. “This seems awfully late in the calendar to be doing things that made sense in January.”
Wake up, Joe.
What Trump is peddling is anti-Mexican demagoguery, which is intended to scare white Americans into believing that Mexicans are criminals and takers and the ruin of civilization. Then he hopes they flock to him for protection. These cultural scare tactics are always wrong. They never make sense. They only make enemies.
And Trump has plenty of those in California.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.