Voters disappointed when their favorite candidate gets creamed in a primary all face tough choices, but many conservative and Republican Latinos in NYC are in a particularly itchy spot with Donald Trump as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
While some have resolved to wave the “Make American Great Again” flag, others have trouble supporting someone who has equated Mexicans to rapists and criminals, wants to force our southern neighbor to pay for a “great, great wall” between the nations and advocates mass deportations of all undocumented workers.
Trump’s recent “I love Hispanics!” tweet while flacking one of his properties (“the best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill!”) has not exactly had a conversion effect, judging from the social media comments decrying his cluelessness.
“I don’t want Donald Trump to succeed in hijacking the Republican party,” sighed Janet Ruiz, 52, a criminal justice student who lives in Long Island City.
Ruiz, who is of Mexican descent, is less troubled by Trump’s tactless comments concerning Mexicans than by what she perceives as Trump’s impulsivity, “flip flopping” and ignorance: “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” she exclaimed.
Among the options Ruiz is now considering are writing in Marco Rubio and possibly even — gulp — casting a vote for Hillary Clinton.
“I don’t want to get into politics right now. I don’t want to comment,” said NYC business owner Fernando Mateo, when asked who he planned to support in November.
Mateo, president of “Hispanics Across America” and former leader of the NY State Federation of Taxi Drivers, is among the area’s most prominent “out” Republicans of Dominican descent, having raised money for President George W. Bush and Gov. George Pataki.
Trump “wasn’t my favorite candidate,” said Steven Alfasi, 50, an attorney raised in the Bronx who remains active in Bronx County Republicans. But “I’m going to be a Trump supporter,” for the sake of the GOP, Alfasi said.
A March Gallup poll found that 77 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. had a negative view of Trump. Even 60 percent of Hispanics who identified as Republican viewed him unfavorably.
Republican Hispanics are a minority within a minority in New York City, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by seven to one and Latinos overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
“The cross-cutting pressures on Latino Republicans when they confront a candidate like (Trump) are extreme,” with voters of Mexican descent particularly alienated by his remarks, said Jeff Ryan, associate professor of political science and Latin American and Latino studies at the University of Arkansas.
Many Mexican-American conservatives “feel betrayed” by Trump’s rhetoric, said Ryan. Ryan predicts “a not insignificant” percentage of Hispanic Republicans “will just sit on their hands and stay home” Nov. 8.
A few will cross party lines to vote for Clinton, some will cast votes for Trump reluctantly and a small percentage “will be quite enthusiastic.”
After researching Trump’s policy positions, Javier Dutan, 23, a tech company owner who lives in Bay Ridge, decided to vote for what he perceives is his own self-interest.
“I get charged less in taxes under his tax plan!” said Dutan, who is of Ecuadorian descent and believes that Trump will support the needs of entrepreneurs and small business owners. A member of his own family overstayed her visa for years before finally obtaining a green card.
“It’s definitely hypocritical,” to support a candidate who would deport others like her, Dutan conceded, but he appreciates Trump’s bluntness and finds his impolitic remarks refreshing.
“There are Mexican gangs and Latino gangs! . . . There are criminals coming in and doing bad stuff and making our community look bad,” Dutan said. He tends not to discuss his support for Trump with friends or family: When Dutan wore a “Make America Great Again” cap, “my friends thought I was pranking them.”
Nor is Joe Cruz, 69, a retired construction project manager from TriBecCa, troubled by Trump’s tough talk.
“A lot of liberals, they use that word ‘racist,’ to shut people up,” Cruz said. Cruz, who identifies as independent, begrudges Bill Clinton signing legislation that took tax credits away from Puerto Rico, which meant the island of his ancestors “lost all those jobs” contributing to the island’s current crisis. Therefore, he is disinclined to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Cristino Melendez, 43 of Middle Village, switched his party affiliation from independent to Republican so he could vote for Trump in the primary.
Melendez likes Trump’s “loud, rude and obnoxious” rhetoric. Far from being tortured as to the choices available to him, Melendez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, is jazzed.
“This is the first time in a long time I won’t be holding my nose in the ballot booth,” Melendez said. But his mother, he admitted, will be voting for Hillary Clinton. His family, he said, “is very, very split.”