After last night, there's little doubt that Donald Trump will be the Republican Party’s presidential candidate in November. Besides being on a primaries winning streak that began in New York, Trump’s major contender removed himself from the ring after his defeat in Indiana. Ted Cruz, the evangelical senator from Texas, announced that his presidential trajectory had “been foreclosed.” With Trump leading one of the U.S.’s two major political parties, it remains to be seen how he will ultimately fare with the nation’s 27.3 million eligible Hispanic voters.
While Trump has said he expects to win the Latino vote, 80 percent of that electorate has an unfavorable view of the man (72 percent a “very unfavorable opinion”). One pollster recently told the Miami Herald that he expects Trump to accelerate an already ongoing progressive political shift among Miami’s Cuban-Americans.
Dario Moreno, the pollster from Florida International University, told the Herald that although 37 percent of his poll’s respondents support Trump, that figure is “the lowest in history that any potential Republican candidate polls among this traditionally loyal demographic.”
Ten percent of respondents plan to abstain from voting if Trump is the Republican candidate. But that can change. And there is an older generation of Latino Trump supporters who want to help usher the shift for their fellow Latinos, including millennials, who are 44 percent of the Hispanic electorate.
Regina, who asked that only her first name be used, is no stranger to controversy. A proud Latina Trump supporter, the 53-year-old Cuban-American shares her political views on her pro-Trump Twitter feed. Her tweets about Black Lives Matter and Latino anti-Trump protesters are sure to ruffle progressive feathers, but Regina is confident in her views.
She doesn’t troll opposing Internet voices, nor does she discuss politics with angry undertones. Regina, who lives in Pennsylvania, calls Trump a “smart, experienced deal maker.” The extreme positions Trump currently espouses, she says, are part of the art of the deal: request more than you expect to receive. “He is the ultimate negotiator.”
Although she was born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico, Regina speaks in the Miami style. Her English is Miami accented and she can shift between languages effortlessly in a single utterance.
“Él exagera mucho a propósito,” she says of Trump, then adds, “for effect.” Trump will ultimately cease calling for the deportation of the estimated 11 million undocumented persons in the U.S., Regina, a business owner, says.
“At the end of the day, will he build a wall? He might build a wall,” she says. “Will he deport 11 million? No he won’t.” Adding some cubaneo, she concludes, “Él va a suavizar en eso.”
From Miami, Vicente Valenzuela, 54 and born in Cuba, explains why he believes Trump is the best candidate for president of the U.S.
“We need someone who knows about business to be in government,” says Valenzuela who arrived in Florida on the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, is a small business owner himself.
“He doesn’t hold back when he speaks,” the Trump supporter continues, in his Cuban accent. “He says things where they need to be said, and to whom they need to be said.”
Like Regina, Valenzuela does not believe Trump will actually attempt to round up and deport 11 million people. Unlike Regina, though, Valenzuela also believes Trump’s wall talk is just rhetoric, and that the way to halt illegal migration into the U.S. is harsher detention penalties.
“The United States is home to all of us,” he says. “We have to take care of it.”
Valenzuela, like Regina, is a registered Republican. But in 2008, he voted for Barack Obama.
“I wanted to see a change,” he explains. “And we’ve already had it.” It’s now time for another change, time for a president “who has made an empire with his money, through work, and negotiations.”
While Trump has already started to tone down his rhetoric — and even share his “New York values,” like allowing transgender persons to use any bathroom they want — Valenzuela is sure his choice for president won’t move too far to the left. “Ese cabello no tiene otra ruta, primo,” he says. “It’s not in his nature.”
Julie, 50, who also asked that her last name not be used, can boast having come from a family that has been in the southwest U.S. since the 1700s. She was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is a real estate agent. The Spanish government gave her family land to develop in the Long Beach area before Mexico won its independence from Iberia and before the United States had reached the Pacific Ocean.
Julie’s parents didn’t teach their daughter their unique brand of Spanish. Julie, who says she feels disenfranchised as a woman and as a member of the middle-class, is generally disenchanted with the status quo of U.S. politics. She offers an example in real estate after the housing bubble popped.
“No one’s looking at what happened on Wall Street, and at the corruption at the secondary market — for example, Fanny Mae,” Julie says. “They regulate us, but they were part of the problem.”
She says that the Republican Party and Hillary Clinton, widely predicted to be the Democratic candidate, haven’t done enough for women. Trump’s capacity to employ women like Katrina Pierson, his national spokesperson, attests to his belief in gender equality, Julie says.
“Trump’s not going to discriminate or look at a woman like she’s less than, that she can’t get the job done,” she continues. “That says something about him in a positive way.” She adds that Trump choosing Pierson also shows that the man is not a racist (Pierson’s father is black).
Julie’s political position transcends Trump to some degree.
The registered Republican speaks about not just Trump’s primary victories, but about those of Bernie Sanders, who arguably talks to a similar demographic by touching on similar themes and advocating for similar policies, like bringing jobs back to the U.S., getting big money out of government, and reassessing the U.S.’s international relationships.
“The political parties should pay attention to Trump and Sanders supporters,” she says. “Stop what you’re doing and pay attention to what’s going on with the people.”
Besides a shared Latino heritage, Regina, Valenzuela, and Julie have something else in common. They all agree that their candidate for president isn’t perfect.
They all find faults with Trump, but conclude that in November, when Trump faces Hillary Clinton, taken for granted as Trump’s inevitable competitor, the Republican is the better candidate.
Because even with his flaws, “he has way to many positives for the things we need today,” Regina says. Then she jokes, “Por más pesado que sea.”