For several months, we’ve seen Republican Party leaders distance themselves from Donald Trump because of his outrageous and offensive comments. Video recordings of Trump rally supporters have shown the world the darkest side of America and of the Republican Party. White supremacist groups have become more emboldened with each offensive statement their candidate spews.
Notably, we’ve heard Hillary Clinton talk about Trump giving rise to “alt- right extremism.” But she stopped short of labeling Trump a racist. That seems appropriate because Trump’s comments should be weighed by the very communities he has ceaselessly attacked.
We will call it like it is from the perspective of the Colorado Latina/o community: Donald Trump is a racist, plain and simple. And his violent, hateful followers are racists, too. We’re hardly surprised by this “alt-right extremism.” The fact is, some in the Republican Party have been going down this path for decades.
We’ve long seen the hate unfold in Colorado. Let’s not forget that former Congressman Tom Tancredo and current Congressman Mike Coffman were on the same anti-immigrant, anti-communities-of-color bandwagon for the first decade of the 21st century. Tancredo knows a tiger cannot change its stripes and still spouts the same demagoguery (at least he’s true to himself – if only to himself). But Coffman wants everyone to believe that he has changed his birther, anti-communities-of-color stripes – his perspective seemed to change just as his congressional district happened to be redrawn to include more black and brown voters. Learning a bit of Spanish doesn’t erase Coffman’s well-known anti-immigrant history.
Also, let’s not forget the 2010-2012 era of the Republican-controlled Colorado House of Representatives. During those two years, Colorado experienced a level of hateful, racist, anti- LGBTQ, anti-women Republican behavior not seen since the Civil Rights Movement.
Even today, Colorado’s Republican elected officials attempt to bring legislation that would allow for voter suppression in communities of color, strip women of their reproductive rights, discriminate against the LGBTQ community and otherwise disenfranchises Coloradans who aren’t straight, male and white. This summer, we saw the chair of the Delta County Republican Party removed because she posted an image comparing President Obama to a monkey.
Some Republican leaders rightly express disdain for Trump and his supporters, voicing utter concern about the direction of their party. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is one such Republican leader who won’t support the cruelty evident in Trump’s “alt-right extremism.” We sympathize with those Republicans because they didn’t sign up for this ugliness. At the same time, we refuse to believe that they didn’t know this type of heartlessness was percolating within their party.
Because we believe in leading from a position of humanity, we supported Bernie Sanders from the beginning. We believed, and still do, that Bernie Sanders’ movement is the antithesis of GOP hate mongering. And while we were heartbroken when he ultimately asked us to support Hillary Clinton for President, Bernie rightly argued that stopping Trump makes it easier for our movement to move forward. It’s easier to work for change when you’re not battling a dictator.
We know some Bernie supporters are reticent to support Clinton. We respect their position, but we’d like to offer a different perspective.
As leaders in the Chicana/o community and in Colorado as a whole, we’ve long had to battle the Colorado GOP’s “alt-right extremism.” We don’t have the luxury of picking up our marbles and going home because our guy didn’t win. Trump’s agenda negatively targets the Latina/o community, women’s reproductive choices, low- and middle-income families, small businesses, the Muslim community, civil rights, American Indian sovereignty, etc. We — and our predecessors — have fought too hard and too long for the little rights we do have. Our children, grandchildren, family, friends, neighbors are all at risk with a Trump presidency and “alt-right extremist” rule.
As progressives, we know that our first job is to protect the disenfranchised and the disadvantaged. We leave no one behind. We know the only wall that must be built, the only wall that matters at all, is the one we form to stop the waves of the Trump Hate Machine from disenfranchising, criminalizing and deporting our communities.
Our vote won’t come easy for Clinton. She must recognize that ours will be a vote of accountability for the next four years, and that a second-term reward depends on first-term results (we will understand, however, that her results might be muted by the same kind of Republican obstructionism that President Obama has faced). Clinton talks about unifying her supporters with Bernie supporters. Her talk must be sincerely demonstrated through administration appointments and policy adjustments that reflect our collective progressive values.
We commit to marshaling our resources and massive energies to help with voter turnout in Colorado. We commit to fighting like hell for Hillary Clinton and against “alt-right extremism.” After all, our vote isn’t just a vote for her, but a vote to protect our communities.
Photo credit: Jamelle Bouie, Creative Commons, Flickr