One of the few Hispanic political operatives able to help Republican candidates win large percentages of Latino voters says he will leave the GOP if it nominates Donald Trump for president.
Hispanic anger and opposition to Trump is nothing new and is widespread, but Lionel Sosa’s concerns are notable. Sosa, a Texas-based ad maker and one of the few Hispanic political consultants to help Republican candidates win over large percentages of Latino voters, lay down a marker this week in an op-ed in his hometown newspaper.
If the Republican Party nominates Trump, “I’ll have to bid farewell, hoping that one day soon, it comes to its senses,” he wrote Tuesday in the San Antonio Express-News. “Here’s my thinking. This madness could be temporary because our nominee is not really a Republican. Not a real conservative. He’s just a shark, a self-promoter out to see how far his out-of-control ego can take him.
“Instead of ‘Tear down this wall,’ the party promotes a new and bigger wall,” Sosa added. “A thousand points of light has been replaced by a thousand points of anger. In place of compassionate conservatism, our nominee promotes callousness, extremism and racism. And instead of a unifier, the party now cheers the ultimate ‘us against them’ proponent. Divisiveness incarnate.”
Sosa is a leading expert on how to win over Hispanic voters. Drawn to the Republican Party as a child by Dwight D. Eisenhower, he helped Texas Republican Sen. John Tower win reelection in 1978 with 37 percent of the Hispanic vote – an unheard-of sum at the time. In 1980, he worked on the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan, who coined a phrase still used by GOP candidates eager to win over Hispanics, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush: “Latinos are Republican. They just don’t know it yet.” That’s a way of suggesting that if wooed properly, many Latinos, who by their nature are socially and economically conservative, would gladly vote for GOP candidates.
Sosa’s political success led to work from Barcardi, Coors and other companies eager to reach Latino customers. He’s now mostly retired, but said he’s keeping close tabs on the election. So how would he try to salvage the GOP brand?
“I could try to sell the real Republican Party but that would do no good, because right now, Republicans need Donald Trump and Donald Trump needs Republicans,” he said. “It’s one in the same. So ‘Republican’ is Donald Trump. Can I sell that? No. To Latinos? Absolutely not.”
The only way the Republican Party could hope to restore its image with Latinos is if Trump issues “a blanket apology” for his comments about Mexican immigrants and revokes his call to build a large wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“It has to be an apology that says, ‘I didn’t mean to insult you. … He would have to acknowledge that Latinos are the new generation of American talent. That kind of recognition – a complete turnout – would help,” Sosa said. “But it depends on how forceful his campaign is about it and how many resources he spends trying to reach out.”
And that seems unlikely, given that Trump has doubled down on his wall talk and has refused several times to apologize for his comments about immigrants.
Despite a recent push by Republican convention delegates to unseat Trump, his nomination is looking near-certain. Sosa said that he and many other Republicans he knows in Texas are increasingly listless.
“We’re confused,” he said. “We’re lost, our leader has left us and if it continues like this, I know I’ll have to leave my party.”