Berkeley Talks transcript: U.S. elections 2020 and implications for the Americas

Harley Shaiken: I’d like to welcome everyone to this webinar this afternoon. No one on this webinar I think needs reminding of the importance of the recent election in the U.S. — in fact, its defining character. It is also hardly news that a U.S. election of this scope and importance impacts the entire world. In a way, no area is more impacted than Latin America. What we’re going to do in this webinar is a little different than many of the analysis that have taken place about the election. There has been no shortage of discussion and we are in the midst of very uncharted territory. But this afternoon, we’re going to examine two intertwine themes: the forces that shaped the outcome of the U.S. elections in November, the issues but, in particular, the influence of Latino voters on the election. We’re going to take that analysis and weave it together with the implications of the elections for the U.S. to be sure but also for the countries of Latin America.

I’m very pleased at the group of people that we have today. All of them have a long relationship with the Center for Latin American Studies at Berkeley. Let me introduce them and then I’ll briefly go over our format. Maria Echaveste has built a very distinguished career as a public policy consultant, a lecturer at Berkeley, a longtime community leader, and the former White House Deputy Chief of Staff during the second Clinton administration. She is currently the president and CEO of the Opportunity Institute. She has been an important voice on issues related to immigration to the Latino vote, and to a whole host of other critical issues. She is a senior scholar at the Center for Latin American Studies.

Daniel Coronell is an award-winning Colombian investigative journalist. He has been a courageous writer and television producer in Colombia. Is now the president for news Univision in the United States. He has been editor in chief of the Colombian national newscast Noticias Uno and NTC Noticias and Noticias RCN. He has been a visiting professor for two years at the Center for Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley, and very much a part of this community.

Finally, my colleague, Paul Pierson, who is the John Gross professor of political science at UC Berkeley. His teaching and research include American politics, public policy, comparative political economy, and social theory. His most recent book, Let Them Eat Tweets, could not have be a better backdrop for this period now between the election and the inauguration that we are going through today. Paul has also been a very important part of the CLAS community. I’m sorry to report that the fourth person who very much wanted to be with us tonight, Denise Dresser, was taken ill at the last moment in Mexico. We will miss her presence this afternoon but look forward to her appearing in future webinars that we do.

Our format will be straightforward. We are first going to have each of the presenters give a brief introduction about a dimension of the election. Then we will have a conversation about some of the issues raised and then go to the questions that you have sent in, in advance, and those that come in over the question and answer during the webinar. Finally, we will have a brief summation of each of our three participants in the opening right at the end of the webinar.

So with that, before we do that, there’s one other thing that has become a bit of a tradition for us. We welcome the international participants of this webinar from Mexico, Prague, Hungary, Colombia, Canada, London, Germany, and The Hague. We also welcome people from across the United States, including Wisconsin, Nevada, Texas, Atlanta, Seattle, Washington DC, Illinois, New Orleans, and Florida. So with that, let me turn it over to Maria Echaveste.

Maria Echaveste: Well, thank you, Harley. It’s wonderful to be on this panel on a Friday afternoon. That yet again, as we read the newspapers or watch the news feeds, reflects continuing drama in the United States. The question of when is President Trump going to concede when is the transition going to start? As someone who has participated in the Clinton transition from Bush senior in 92-93. But also the handoff in 2001, from Clinton to Bush junior, this is an incredibly stressful time, on top of everything else. So I wanted actually to make three points and then talk a little bit about what I think it means for the Americas.

First off, as many have noted, the expected blue wave of Democrats winning in the United States, gaining seats in the House, perhaps taking control of the Senate did not materialize. Indeed, by the most recent counts, 73 million people voted for President Trump. Almost 80 million people voted for Biden. But the fact that this election was much closer than pollsters and experts anticipated and it wasn’t just Democrats who were wishing there was candid expectations on the Republican side. That they were going to lose seats in the House, that they could lose the Senate. This divide, the fact that this is so close, it’s something that we really I think as speaking as an American, really have to understand.

Now, I think when you look a little closer for Biden to win Michigan so decisively, 150,000 votes, to win Pennsylvania, not by that large margin but still significant. But still lose Ohio, which was always going to be hard, always going to be hard but still. To me reveals that the anxieties of the working middle-class, especially in the Rust Belt, continues to be a motivating factor. I say to my colleagues and friends who are shall we say center-left? That not all of the 73 million people who voted for Trump are white supremacists or racists. I don’t know what percentage of that base of Trump supporters subscribe to that kind of ideology but I do not believe that all 73 million do.

But some percentage, I think whether it’s 25, 30 million people who voted for Trump, I believe voted for Trump because of that anxiety. They saw downward mobility for themselves or for their children. Those anxieties, in the same way that Tip O’Neill, a former Speaker of the House once said that all politics are local. In some ways, all politics ultimately are about me and my family. There’s some sense I think I am looking forward to all the political sciences analyzing the votes and interviewing voters. To help explain what motivated, especially Trump voters to vote for Trump? How their economic anxieties and their anxieties about the future played in just one data point?

I recently heard that some initial analysis is that many Trump voters voted for him because the economy was number one issue on their mind. Some of that explains why Latino voters in places like the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and elsewhere in Nevada, might have voted for Trump. Is this concern about the economy. Whereas the majority of Democratic voters who voted for Biden voted because of the pandemic and their concerns about the lack of a national effort to counter the pandemic. So I want to just… The closeness of this election means we have a lot of work to understanding and unpacking what motivated, especially that high number of voters for Trump.

That leads me to the increase lots of stories immediately after the election about the increase in Latino voters, especially Latino males. As well as African-American males voting for Trump. I have to say that it was amusing to me that finally, columnists across and commentators across TV and newspapers were going Latinos are diverse. They are not a monolith. I’ve only spent 25 years personally, trying to educate political actors, candidates, and operatives about the diversity in our community. That the majority of Hispanics in the United States do not speak Spanish. The dispensa, Daniel, they do not watch Univision for their news. So the fact that for even this campaign, Biden’s campaign gauged its investment or measured its investment in the Latino community by the amount of money it spent in Spanish language advertising, notwithstanding what I just said. Tells you that there still is a tremendous amount of shall I say, expertise in campaigns about the diversity of Hispanics, Latinos? We can’t even decide what to call ourselves here in the United States.

But I do think that understanding the vote in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, is important. For those of us who have been working on Hispanic voting, trying to increase Latino voting, who had been waiting for decades for Texas to turn blue. I was born in Texas but I grew up in California. So I feel I can say with some authority that the Mexican Americans in Texas is different from the Mexican Americans in California. Unless you understand those differences, you see the numbers that came out of the Rio Grande Valley. I think for so many of the advisers… This was true in the 2016 campaign. One of the reasons I had issues with Hillary Clinton’s campaign outreach to Latinos, the issue isn’t just immigration. We are so diverse because we’re generationally diverse, linguistically, racially, ethnically. I totally understand why a message focused on immigration in South Texas would not resonate. They are dealing with the in your face issues of immigration and illegal immigration. But also, it’s a very poor area of the country and the economy is not at all promising.

Then you also have the growth of evangelicals in the Hispanic community. So understanding the politics and the issues of each community, each shall we say, city, town, county? That requires a level of sophistication that shall I say, national presidential campaigns or senatorial campaigns? They are willing to spend the resources to try to understand the white swing voter and have not spent made the investment understand the complexity of the Hispanic voter. I will simply say that one lesson that needs to be taken from this election is that Hispanics are the new swing voter, that demography is not destiny. If Democrats think simply because Latinos are increasing the number in the United States in places like Georgia, which by the way, Latinos voted in Georgia and probably helped get Biden get across the finish line. I’ll let Daniel talk about Florida. But I think that this lesson about the complexity of the Latino voter is really if Democrats don’t learn it, we will lose elections.

Lastly, let me say, and I hope we can have this conversation about what does it mean for the Americas, again, going to the Rust Belt. What Biden does in terms of trade and manufacturing and really focusing on the economy that will have impact what happens in the 2022 midterm elections, especially in that Midwest area. I will say that Biden has to be ready for a surge in illegal immigration. Not just because of the expectation that he will reverse some of Trump’s policies. But look at the continuing impact of climate change and the hurricanes that continue to batter Central America. Having been in the White House when Hurricane Mitch hit Central America and anticipating that there would be an increase immigration. This administration, incoming administration has to be ready to show both control of the borders but also more humanitarian and humanistic approaches to this ever-challenging problem.

Then lastly and I’ve heard President Biden speak about this is that part of the answer to dealing with immigration has to do with real investment in building the institutions in the sending countries. I will stop by saying that it may be hard for us to tell other countries to obey and build institutions that focus on the rule of law when our current president refuses to accept the results of a properly conducted election. So I’m anxious to think about what happens when we try to build institutions of law and elections and anti-corruption, given the last four years of the Trump administration. So let me stop there and I really look forward to the discussion from panelists and from you as well.

Harley Shaiken: Thank you. Daniel, why don’t you continue?

Daniel Coronell: Well, thank you, Harley. These panels are usually about the tremendous consequence of the presidential election in the United States for Latin America. Today, I would like to propose an exercise in reverse. It’s hard to imagine how negatively Latin American political issues, or politicalia, as we say in Latin America, influenced the presidential campaign here in the United States. Donald Trump’s government has been a blessing for several so-called Latin American installment of questionable reputation. In Honduras, for instance, President Juan Orlando Hernandez identify as a co-conspirator in a drug trafficking trial against his brother. The president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, who has put an end to their already weak system of checks and balance of his country. He’s characterized by his attacks to the independence of the judicial branch and to be a predator of the freedom of press. Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, who received Trump’s support and help in order to expel [inaudible] the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. Which was the only source of independent information during many years of corruption in that country.

In addition, Trump has support, strong support for the former president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe. I’m going to talk to you about that next because Uribe, paradoxically was a key person for the election in Florida. Much of the dirty propaganda against President-elect Joe Biden came from South America and specifically from Colombia. These propaganda identify without any vices, Biden and vice president Harris with the so-called Castro-Chavez. It was promoted in Florida by politicians of the Colombian rightist-left. There are also indications that Colombian top diplomatic officials participated in this campaign. That dirty propaganda was aimed at influencing the decision of Cuban, Venezuelan, and Colombian voters, who could and did keep up the balance in the crucial State of Florida.

In particular, Miami Dade County gave an additional 200,000 Hispanic votes to President Trump, which is half or was what needed to win Florida. If Trump had lost Florida, it would have been clear on that night that he had lost the election. Winning Florida had definitive value for Trump. Without it, his chances for winning were close to none.

The dirty propaganda that identify Biden with Maduro and the late Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez is part of old-fashioned political strategy using Colombia against judges, political opponents, and journalists. This strategy is so effective that it has been reproduced by the right-wing of every Latin American country in the last campaigns. Even traveled to Spain and was present during the last election. Castro-Chavez [inaudible], a main character in the Espana last election. It consists of promoting fear of the so-called 21st Century socialist. Anyone is not a member of the right-wing is according to this propaganda, a promoter of communism.

So now, I want to tell you who is the creator of that dirty strategy that is so successful in several countries in. Which made a strong debut in the American presidential campaign. Is the former Colombian President, Alvaro Uribe. Who was also leaving very distressing personal circumstances during this election. Uribe who was the president of Colombia between 2002 and 2010 and without question is still being the most influential and powerful politician in the South American country. Face many judicial process for his alleges links with paramilitary deadly squads. But one, in particular, got him in trouble recently. This is a case for alleged bribery of witness and obstruction of justice. Uribe who was senator until a few weeks ago was subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Colombia. The court filed criminal charges against him and under house arrest all while the presidential campaign was unfolding in the United States. Soon, Uribe and his party began a national and international campaign to try to discredit the Supreme Court that accused him.

Uribe who is a sort of tropical Trump soon asked the United States government for help. Although, Uribe, was serving time his ranch, which is 200 times bigger than the White House, with his annexes and gardens, just keep present itself as subject ambiguous of imprisonment in a terrible jail. When Uribe resigned his status as senator, the Supreme Court lost his jurisdiction to prosecute him. He was therefore released and although the investigation continues, he was under the orders of the Colombian Attorney General, who is a member of his political party.

Trump celebrated Uribe’s release in tweet message, which I read as follows. “Congratulations to former President Alvaro Uribe, a hero. Former recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and ally of our country in the fight against Castro and Chavez. I will always stand with our Colombian friends.” The government of Colombia, along with the powerful politician related to Uribe, dedicated themselves to support and to make campaign for Trump, especially in the State of Florida. Colombia, therefore, broke with 40 years of diplomatic tradition that maintain a clear and balanced relationship with both Democrats and Republicans. To interfere for the first time in the U.S. presidential campaign in favor of Trump. This is, of course, shameful for my country, and is unhappily, it will have consequences in the relationship with the United States.

This is the issue I would like to put on the table for discussion. The paradoxical influence of cheap propaganda from the Colombian right trend of the election of the world’s largest democracy. Thank you so much.

Harley Shaiken: Thank you, Daniel. Now, we’ll conclude with Paul Pierson.

Paul Pierson: Well, those are tough acts to follow. It made more challenging by the fact that I when I looked at the title for this session, focusing on the implications for the Americas of the election. I thought, well, I’m a completely amateur when it comes to thinking about foreign policy and Latin America, in particular. So I kind of wondered what my contribution to this would be. I decided that what might be most helpful would be for me to focus on the following question. Which is what kind of government is Latin America likely to be dealing with in the aftermath of the election? Of course, there are immediate question marks about that because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the Senate. I think we do know that Donald Trump won’t be president on Jan. 20. But exactly how this quite unsettling, quite disturbing dynamic that’s setting after the election will play out. There is uncertainty about that.

But we know, I think already we know quite a bit. Even though what we know I think is actually a reason for pretty deep concern for any country hoping to have sort of a stable negotiating partner in the United States. It’s Maria’s comments were suggesting if there’s hope that the United States will be in a position to sort of think long-term. Make some investments that would contribute to prosperity and stability throughout the Western Hemisphere.

I think there’s a lot of reason to be pessimistic about the prospects of that. So let me just say a little bit about why I would say that. I’ll start with a very simple statistic, basic statistic. There are far more Republican senators right now who have tested positive for COVID than who have acknowledged that Joe Biden is the president-elect in the United States. That’s really astonishing that the unwillingness of the folks who were supposed to be the most responsible, elder states-persons in the US are either cheering on or mostly just staying silent. As the sitting president challenges with not a shred of evidence and invoking ridiculous conspiracy theories, the idea that the election has been stolen within. I think we should be very concerned. I don’t think this is just here to soothe his ego. It reflects the nature of the contemporary Republican Party. Some of the kinds of dynamics that Daniel was pointing to in sort of cross-national perspective about what is going on in the kinds of incentives that it creates.

There are three things that I would just emphasize about the structure that we find ourselves in. In the aftermath of the election that Maria I think described really well. The journalist Ron Brownstein had a phrase for this that I liked, he referred to it as the Antietam election. So that’s a famous and bloody American Civil War battle, in which both sides through all their resources at the cost of tens of thousands of lives into a single day battle that ended up in a stalemate that resolved nothing.

Now, of course, the election did resolve some things. It resolved who is going to hold the presidency, it will resolve who is going to be in a majority in the very powerful U.S. Senate. But in terms of the long-term bitter conflict and an increasingly polarized society. At a time when I think some people thought there was going to be a bit of a resolution, there was going to be a blue wave, as Maria said. That was going to mark a repudiation of the Trump administration, that did not happen.

It did not happen because I think the main reason why it did not happen or at least, a simple descriptive way to talk about why it didn’t happen, was because it turned out that Donald Trump could generate a lot of votes. This is the highest turnout election over 100 years in the United States. People came out to vote against him and people came out to vote for him. The polls were wrong because they underestimated how many people were going to come out and vote for him. We could pass, which exactly constituencies that we’re talking about. But I think and they’re interesting things to say about that. But I think actually, what it suggests more than anything else was that the supply of white working-class, non-college-educated, more rural voters, voters away from where prosperity is being generated in the United States. There was still an untapped reservoir of those voters and they came out. They made this election pretty close, even though the Democrats were able to turn out their people, too.

So what does that mean going forward? Well, it means for Republicans that they recognize that the base of the party is now thoroughly Trumpian. No politician who wants to be re-elected is going to look at that turnout and think what I need to do is really confront Donald Trump. That is I think a big reason why you see the kind of silence that you see among political elites, is that they recognize that it would produce civil war within the party to do that or more likely, it would end their political careers.

So the fact that Trump has been able to show that he could really deliver those voters to the polls, not enough to get him over the top but enough to actually give a huge boost to other Republicans all the way down to stay legislative races. That’s a big new fact on the political right.

The second structural reason is because the forces of organized outrage that Jacob Hacker and I tried to describe in our last book. That’s everything from right-wing media, to the leaders of the evangelical movement, to groups like the National Rifle Association, elements of police unions. They have no incentive to turn down the heat. On the contrary, they have every organizational incentive to keep the heat up. It’s profitable. I think that is not to be underestimated. It is enormously profitable for the people who excel in that business of stoking outrage. Organizationally, these groups face their greatest threat from people who are even more extreme than they are. If they show any inclination to moderate compromise, and so on, third structural factor — and we know this from the 2009 election — is that for Republicans facing a new Democratic president, confrontation and obstruction pay. It is beneficial for them in terms of their near-term, short-term, narrowly partisan goals, it is beneficial for them. So when Mitch McConnell said famously or infamously that his top priority was to make Barack Obama a one-term president, that was actually rational from the point of view of maximizing his party’s share of political power. It paid off in 2010 with a sweeping political victory.

So whether he’ll say it in public or not, I have no doubt that Mitch McConnell is currently thinking that his top priority is to make Joe Biden a one-term president. So no cooperation, no bipartisanship, no politics stops at the water’s edge. You’re going to see the same kind of… You’re going to see more Antietam-style politics coming from the conservative movement. The fact that this continues to go on and it’s reached such a level of intensity, is just deeply alarming to anybody who cares about the political stability of the United States. We have step by step gotten to a point where a president clearly defeated in an election can be screaming and millions of people believe it. None of his co-partisans will question it. Screaming that the election has been stolen from them. That is very dangerous stuff and I see no reason to think that it’s likely to stop soon.

Harley Shaiken: Thank you, Paul. These I think were three very thoughtful and important presentations. I’d like to begin with a brief comment on each of the three and then ask the presenters if they have any questions for the other members of the panel. Maria, you began with the discussion of diversity, that is the diversity of the Latino electorate. Not simply in seeking to reach them that for sure. But also in the various backgrounds, geographies, and issues that are critical for them. Then you spoke about, you put it very I think directly, that there is a lot of work unpacking and understanding the character of the Trump vote. Positively, it’s not simply white racism, it’s far more complex. That understanding may be key to going forward.

One small example of that in a county that’s pivotal, Macomb County, Michigan, third-most populous county in the swing state, just north of Detroit. Trump carried it by 40,000 votes in 2016 and in this recent election in 2020, he carried it by 40,000 votes. Again, does that mean this is a base of white supremacy? Not by a long shot, white supremacy is certainly there but not necessarily defining. At the same time, voters were voting in Macomb County for Donald Trump, many of them voted for a very progressive, second-term Congressman, Andy Levin, a Democrat, who has been very forthright on a range of issues. That understanding and unpacking is central.

Daniel, as you know, there’s been a lot of attention in this country about the role of Russia in interfering in the U.S. election or the role of China or reportedly the role of Iran. But you are raising something that is critical and has received a lot less attention, the role of Latin American governments. It’s really putting disinformation in a targeted and effective way and in a way that sharply influences the election. I think that is a critical dimension of it. I think Florida is a state that we haven’t begun to understand on a national level. That contribution among the other important points you raised, I think is important and missing.

Paul, you raised the issue right at the beginning, what impact will a Biden government have for Latin America? Then you put that in the context of the nature of this recent election. You brought out points right at the end of that one lesson beginning in 2009, is obstructionism pays. What may appear as a bizarre death-match, in fact, pays politically. Standing up to that, if you’re a Republican, has very high cost. That dilemma I think is also very much worth putting in the mix. So with that said, does any panelist have a question they’d like to ask before we go to the questions from other participants?

Maria Echaveste: I’ll start and it’s actually a question for both Paul and Daniel. Given this very deep divide that we’re recognizing and assuming, as we say, I think Harley’s point about Macomb County — not all of those 40,000 votes that went to Trump were all white supremacists. So the question I have, is there something that the Biden administration should do, intentionally and proactively, to try to rebuild that sense of common purpose? Colombia had the, I can’t remember the full name, but sort of reconciliation, trying to because of the war. That process of understanding and coming to terms and reaching peace. Now, we haven’t had a civil war yet in this country this time. But it feels like we’re on the brink of it. So should we have some sort of effort to bring us together or is that just a pipe dream?

Daniel Coronell: Well, my experience in that, look for the common purpose is a little bit paradoxical. For instance, in my country, we have the clear conclusion that meanwhile, the war is able to unify the country, that peace is a division factor for the country. It’s a paradox, but is true. Probably it’s not an exclusive political phenomenon in Latin America or in Colombia, but in Israel, it looks pretty similar. So Ehud Barak was a war hero in the Six-Day War and he consolidated a candidacy around him because of who he was a hawk for the war against the Arab League and specifically, deliver. But when he arrived and tried to make a peace process with the Palestinian, he looks like a weak figure and the society divide because of that. Same in Colombia.

So just yesterday, we saw Rudy Giuliani pretend that Trump had lost the election because ballots were counted using machines that were made in Venezuela. As we know that is completely false. But in the midst of this propaganda machine and in the field of this social media, there will be many who believe it. So we need to work in order to create a critical thinking in most of the people. In order to differentiate between information and propaganda and between serious statement and that ridiculous theories or conspiracy theories. That is the daily bread for many Americans and for many people in the world. We are living in a very particular situation. We have created a war in social media that pretend to be a human being perfectly connected with the rest of the world. But in the practice, in the daily life is the contrary. We decide who to follow, who to unfollow, who to like, who to dislike. This is a factor of isolation and disinformation. That is completely contrary on the reason.

If you look for information in order to confirm your standpoint or even worse, your prejudice, respect to the rest of the people or the different people. You are living far and far of the reality circumstances but you reinforce your round position. That’s the disgrace of the daily life in this particular times.

Paul Pierson: So I’ll say one thing about the question and then I actually have a question for Maria. So it’s remarkable to me, I spent most of my professional life involved in conversations comparing the United States with the universe of rich democracies. Mostly Western Europe and Canada and Australia and Japan places like that. The kinds of problems, the problems, and challenges of stable, prosperous democracies. Now I find myself talking with people about democratic backsliding and authoritarianism and coups and reconciliation committees — problems that we historically didn’t associate with the United States. But I think we should recognize there’s a reason those conversations are changing. It reveals just how fraught and dangerous our politics has become.

It’s a little hard for me to imagine Biden being able to really effectively lead such a conversation at the moment, I’m sure he will try. But I feel like we are in that conflict. That those kinds of efforts often come when we know one side has triumphed. They’re looking back, maybe with some attempt at repair and bringing people back in. But we’re just not… Maybe such a thing could have happened if there had been a blue wave election, if there had been a really clear repudiation. But I just don’t think that’s where the country is, unfortunately.

So my question was about the Latino vote and your comments about the Latino vote, which I thought were super interesting. It seems clearly right both of your comments that it just does not make sense to lump all these voters and potential voters together and think there’s like one frame for that. So that seems totally right and it clearly seems like Democrats who were disappointed by the results need to do a lot of serious rethinking.

So here’s the question part. Is there a danger that we bend the stick too far the other way? So if I see a group that is growing in the electorate, in leaps and bounds, I would rather be on the side that is getting something like 65% of that vote than the side that is getting 35% of that vote. So there’s a big story to be told, there’s a huge story to be told about the Southwest. There are now eight senators elected from the Southwest in the United States, they are all Democrats. I’m not counting Texas as part of the Southwest here, they are all Democrats. That is astonishing. So I guess I just wonder if there’s a danger here of over-interpreting these results and not recognizing clearly demography is not destiny and you got to fight for every vote. But I think on this issue, I certainly would rather be on the Democrat side than the Republican side.

Maria Echaveste: Yeah. Well, I would say two things. One is there was a question in the Q&A about sort of, well, how can you sort of tailor approaches given the diversity when the U.S. government lumps Hispanic? So I think that yes, it’s easier to lump a group together. But if anybody digs a little deeper, we know that Caribbean immigrants, Black Caribbean immigrants to the U.S. have a different approach to a number of issues than native-born African Americans. It has something to do with the immigrant mentality, et cetera. My point is simply that if we’re willing to invest in trying to understand that swing voter, that suburban mom, that soccer mom kind of, which usually, by the way, as a former soccer mom but usually, they were not trying to talk to me, they were talking to white soccer moms. That candidates and parties, especially the Democratic party, should make an effort to invest. We spend so much money in this cycle. I would like to ask, where’s the infrastructure? What are we building for 2022?

But I think you’re right about maybe the reconciliation idea is too early because there was not a definitive victory. But because of my campaign experience over the years, people want the same things, they really do, they really, really do. This is true in Latin America, it is true. Most people, they want good jobs, they want safe neighborhoods, they want good schools, they want a decent retirement, they want health care. So the thing I would say about this election and maybe I’m just Pollyanna-ish and optimist, which is unlike other countries where the divisions are deep. These did not break wholly on racial, ethnic, religious lines. This is not Northern Ireland, Protestant versus Catholic. This is not Rwanda, Tutsi versus Hutu or Muslim versus Hindu.

So I think if there were… I guess, I really believe that there should be an effort to try to find that common ground. But maybe in Harris’s first term because right now, you’re right. McConnell is just going to dig in his heels and we have to be… We Democrats have to stop trying to always be the moderate, nice person. We’ve got to fight, too.

Harley Shaiken: Any other questions, Daniel?

Daniel Coronell: Yes, I would like to share a comment with a question for both Maria and Paul. So there is a very interesting county in Texas — Zapata County. Ninety-five percent of the population is Hispanics. They have voted Democrat for the last 100 years. But Zapata County, this time, vote for Trump. Most of them are very liberal people if you consider from the level of rights and for their claims. At the same time, the evolution that they have had in the perception of the different gender is very special. But they vote for Trump. Why? Probably because the main source of employment in the area is the oil industry. So they probably decide because of the statement of candidate Biden in the second debate.

It reinforced Maria’s theory that there is not a simple reality. We Hispanics are not a homogeneous group, we are very diverse, with a lot of layers of decision. We bring our own prejudice from our countries. There are a lot of racist factors in our countries. There is a terrible discrimination in our countries. We are the reflections of that. So I believe strongly that each generation is a little bit better than the previous one. But we live, we have the baggage of our education and our society problems and prejudice and thus emerge in all the election. But particular, Zapata County voted for Trump. What is your interpretation? I would like to hear both of you, but Maria is very interesting because it’s your hometown in a sense.

Maria Echaveste: I was born down in Harlingen but let me… Yeah. But so I did a quick search on Google to look at Zapata County. I think it’s really interesting because you alluded to Hispanics’ own sort of issues with race and color, et cetera. Well, Zapata County is a small county in terms of people, it’s 15,000 to 20,000 people. What’s interesting is that the racial makeup of the county is 85% white. Eighty-five percent of the population is Hispanic, which can be of any race. Therein lies something that I have always tried to educate my fellow political operatives, is that above 50% of Hispanics also check the box white. So, as my colleague at the UC Berkeley School of Law, Ian Haney Lopez has said, you can’t just use race or ethnic identity as a motivating factor when there’s such diversity in a group. I think and especially if it’s an oil county, the economy and talking about climate change and reducing dependence on fossil fuels, those are jobs.

So that goes back to the question I think to the importance of the motivating factor of what will be good for me and my family? That seems to be the first thing that people vote on. If they don’t have other information or have other understanding about, well, actually, you care about immigration. Well, then you need to care about climate change. If you think you have immigration issues now, you haven’t seen nothing yet. You just wait as this climate crisis gets worse.

Harley Shaiken: Paul, do you want to comment?

Paul Pierson: It’s super interesting, I know nothing about Zapata County. But I will just say this. Look, if you got a county where there’s overwhelmingly economically dependent on oil production, they’re going to vote for Republicans. They just are, for the reasons that Maria was just describing and I think that’s to be expected. There are problems with the electoral college that show up here, right, where we have to care about ethanol production in Iowa for stupid reasons. People were worried about fracking in Pennsylvania. But I think climate change is clearly evolving in a… There’s just a clear divide between the parties. So if your local economy is dependent upon the extraction of fossil fuels, it’s pretty clear what party you should vote for. But that’s not true for most people in the country. So I think climate change, as I was saying before, I’d rather be on the Democrat side on that issue, even if it hurts them in that county.

Harley Shaiken: One brief comment on this, Maria on what you said: race, obviously, is important, ethnicity is critical. But it comes down in so many ways to how it affects you and your family. To understand that, that was brought home to me from Michigan, who’s a former president at United Auto Workers. He said, “Race is important but you have to have class involved in the mix, too.” What class means, is how are you and your family impacted by many of these economic changes?

With that said, we’re going to go to the questions that we’ve received. This one just came in and it starts with climate change. Not as something in the future, right now. This is from [inaudible] and it is climate change is going to be one of the main triggers of migration from Central America. It is going to increase exponentially in the next years. The traditional Mexican solidarity for refugees from this area, political and or environmental, has been painfully reduced. How do you see the federal response of the Biden administration and also the ones of border states, California, in particular, to mitigate so much suffering of this humanitarian crisis?

Maria Echaveste: Do you want me to take that?

Harley Shaiken: Sure.

Maria Echaveste: I want to first to like really stress look, I was joking when I said you haven’t seen anything yet on migration. But what I really want to say is like migration is an issue to be managed, you are never going to eliminate the movement of people. That is the human spirit. There’ll be a group of people who will stay in a war-torn country in an area and just accept their lot. But there will be a chunk of people who will say, “I’m not going to start here, I’m hiding, I’m moving.”

So our job is I think, as civilized countries, civilized society, is to develop standards and implement standards that allow us to manage our borders, every country has a right to determine who comes in and on what terms and for how long. But how do we manage the movement of people that is grounded in basic human rights? I think the initial thing would be to really work with the Mexican government. To provide assistance and resources so that people seeking asylum are not treated in the way they’re being treated and treated without any rights. That just offends all basic sense, values of how you treat another human being.

Now, does that mean that you don’t have ICE detention centers? Everybody talks about defund the police but originally, it was get rid of ICE. That also, those of us in the immigration world, well, that’s not going to be very helpful to win votes. So finding, I think there is a way for the Biden administration to thread that needle about managing the border. It starts very simply, something that everyone was upset about was you do not take children away from their parents. That has to stop.

Okay, but then it happens, what are you going to do with that family? Where are you going to house them? But we have technology. Would you rather be in a ICE detention center, where your child… No, you can have ankle bracelets and my civil liberties friends may object to that. But that is a much more humanitarian response than having you be in a detention center. So I think there are things we can do but it’s going to be met with a lot of criticism from the left and from the right. But you know what? That’s the challenge of governing.

Harley Shaiken: Unfortunately, we’re running tight on time. So I’m going to combine three questions for Daniel and then we will do concluding remarks beginning with Paul. So, Daniel, these are the three questions. The first is from Beatrice. Can you describe the Hispanic population in Florida? What are some of the key differences? Then Bonnie asks and this is quite related. How many Colombians live in Florida? Think in terms of thinking about how much a factor they were in having Florida go for Trump. The final part of the question for Daniel is from anonymous. If Latin American politicians have been supporting Trump, do you think they are now going to turn their back to Biden’s policies regarding Latinos in the U.S.?

Daniel Coronell: First, the Hispanic population in Florida is very diverse. It’s completely different in South Florida than Central Florida, for instance. In Central Florida, there is a big nucleus of population from Puerto Rico. They are very political active and very involved in the campaigns. Four years ago, they decide that they didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Apparently, they have some reservations about the Clinton’s administration in respect to the Puerto Rico bankruptcy. They didn’t vote for Trump, but they simply didn’t vote.

In the South Florida, there is a mix of population that are predominant of Cuban population. The second group is a little bit complex because it’s Central America, Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans and Colombians. But the Cuban nucleus is the efficient cause of most of the political local activity. So they are very active in the local radio, in the local TV. Most of them, most of the people that is in control of the local communication is a very active in the anti-Castro. They think sincerely that Fidel Castro is still being the axis of the war. No matter he passed away a few years ago, they consider that from somewhere up and down, he’s all the time on control of everything in politics.

This is the perfect circumstance for the propaganda against Castro-Chavez. A couple of groups, Venezuelans, who they didn’t have a long tradition for immigrants. Why? Venezuela was the rich guy in the poor neighborhood. So on the contrary, they received a lot of immigration, including Colombians or most of Colombians. The experience to be immigrants is new for most of Venezuelans here. The domestic discussion and the domestic issues about the Maduro’s regime, about the [inaudible] reactions of Maduro against the population, transfer to the Florida. In order to support Cuban major access of the politics.

At the same time, Colombians. Colombians, there are less than 200,000 Colombians in Miami. Probably half or 120,000 are citizens and vote in the election. The number is not clear, we are waiting for the results of the census. But basically, the Colombian political field is very polarized, very divided between Uribe and against Uribe. For most of these Cuban and Venezuelan guys in Florida, Uribe has been the Paladin against Chavez. So they perceived and completely uni-dimensional analysis about the changing politics. As Uribe is the champion against Chavez and against Maduro, Uribe is our guy. In spite of everything related with human rights, corruption that involves Uribe.

So that has been the axis of some discussion, that in this uni-dimensional understanding of the Latin American policy is the same lens that they appreciate the American politics. This elimination of the complexity is the cause of that kind of decision. President Trump took advantage of that, in order to present as the friend of the people who is fighting against Castro-Chavez in Latin America. This does not represent the internal political opinion in Colombia that represents a very powerful group that is something that Trump but there.

So probably there was not a president as informed about Latin American issues as Joe Biden. Why? Since Biden was a member of the Judiciary Committee of the International Committee in the Senate, he was involved in many things related with Latin America and South America. He knows with details about Plan Colombia, which has been the term for Colombia in the last 20 years. He was involved as senator and then as vice president in the negotiation of the application. He participated as senator in many discreet and public levels in order to protect people who defend the human rights in Colombia. I know that.

In a few months before you and the CLAS at UC Berkeley received me with generosity in order to protect my family and myself of the threats in Colombia because of my journalism, we received a support letter signed by a few American legislators. Between them, among them, Barack Obama and Joe Biden. So I know that he has a more sophisticated perception of Colombia than Trump’s, for instance. I believe that he will be able to understand in a multi-dimension standpoint our reality, which is very complex.

Harley Shaiken: Thank you very much, Daniel. Now, we will go just beginning the discussion, we will nonetheless go to our very brief concluding remarks. Beginning with Paul, then Danielle, then Maria.

Paul Pierson: Okay, I’m going to be really quick because I realize we’re running over time. So I just want to make one point in closing about American politics, it draws on what Daniel was just saying in a way. It relates to same Maria was saying earlier, which was we are not Northern Ireland. We are not Hutus and Tutsis at this point. I think it’s very important to realize that and to realize that yes, broadly, most Americans want a lot of the same things. I think that is a very important message to underscore. But we are traveling down a road of being transformed into us versus them. Donald Trump has excelled at that. It is a project that really I think the political right has been engaged in, in the United States for the last, at least since Newt Gingrich. But probably before even that. That is very, very dangerous.

When you get to the point where you sand off all the other things, where there are possibilities for different connections among people. You’re left with which team are you on? Are you for Trump or against him? As being the only question, that’s a dangerous society to live in. So we all need to be doing whatever we can to try to unwind that a little bit. To try to while standing up for the things that we believe in, to try to reach across the lines that are getting hardened. To try to figure out how to explore those commonalities and bring them more to the fore? Even if you can only reach a few people that way, those people can reach other people, which is very important. People actually hear much better when they’re hearing people who they think are from their own community. So at this really dangerous time, we need to be doing whatever we can to try to soften some of those edges and play up the commonalities.

Harley Shaiken: Thank you. Daniel.

Daniel Coronell: Sorry. The best idea is when I close the mic. Trump is not the cause, Trump is a consequence. We are living in a very wide war because of this information and the fake news. Probably as a self-criticism against the journalism, we are a new measure. Journalists now also have the challenge to try to teach the people to be more critical of what they read and see in social media. I have an adorable neighbor, an older lady who asked me the other day if it’s true that Democrats are leaving these country toward communism. It is incredible because she is an educated person and is convinced because of the propaganda.

A friend also asked me this week if whether it was true that Biden will allow abortions at nine months. When I say it was not true that he was going to make abortion mandatory to which… So I knew that it was a lost cause. I replied that he shouldn’t worry because if he did, he couldn’t do it retroactively.

So we live in the middle of this terrible campaign of disinformation. We need to try in order to increase the judgment of the common people, in order to make best decisions. The problem now is not as strictly between Republicans and Democrats or between right and left. It’s between the truth and the people who take advantage of the lies. That’s very complicated because it’s not only in the political field, is a universal problem that we have to deal with.

Harley Shaiken: Thank you. Maria, we’ll conclude with you.

Maria Echaveste: I’ll be brief. I think both of what Paul and Daniel said are absolutely important. How do we fight the propaganda, how do we focus on truth and evidence and have a common set of facts? That we can then build common approaches to problems that are confronting our communities, our states, our country, the world. I agree with Paul that and I believe some of the science reflects that there is this almost an instinctive human nature way of quickly categorizing us versus them. We will look for something that distinguishes.

So I will conclude by saying that I think at least for this country, one area that I feel I may have to spend more time on is the idea of national service — where you bring everyone together for a year, year and a half, from different backgrounds, rural, race, et cetera, class. Have a common purpose to help you recognize that at least, we’re all Americans. That’s what the military did so much when it was draft. I think that maybe some sort of national service to build that sense of a common purpose out of many one. May be an important strategy for dealing with this divide. That frankly, has been used for political purposes for power. That’s naked reality, that is what it’s been used for.

It doesn’t benefit the majority of Americans. People are about to lose all their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas because we can’t get Republicans and Democrats to work together. So I’ll stop there. Thank you, Harley.

Harley Shaiken: Thank you, very brief concluding remarks. I’d like to thank the CLAS staff who did an exceptional job putting this together, as most of the things they do. I’d like to wish Denise Dresser a speedy recovery. We look forward to hearing her voice on future webinars. I’d like to thank the interpreters who did I think an excellent job through this material. Finally, I’d like to thank all the participants from around the United States and around the world. We very much look forward to you being at future CLAS Webinars. So have a good evening.