Journalist Jorge Ramos is a symbol of the Univision news chain. As such, he’s one of the most influential Latinx voices in the United States. Ramos believes that next Tuesday’s election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden “will be decided by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The virus “has caused 220,000 deaths” in the country.
Ramos is the well-known anchor of Spanish-language Univision News and the programs Al Punto and “Real America”. In this interview with Confidencial, he speaks of the election as a true “collision” in a deeply divided country. He cautions that “getting Donald Trump out doesn’t mean that the United States will immediately return to normal.”
Given the degree of polarization in the United States today, what’s at stake in this November 3rd election?
I believe that the future is at stake, the nature of US democracy. I still hold on to the ingenuousness we have as immigrants, so I believe that the system is strong. It’s stronger than one racist, nationalist, egocentric person who makes decisions only for himself. He’s lied more than 20,000 times, according to the Washington Post.
President Donald Trump doesn’t want to say publicly that he’ll recognize the results of this Tuesday, November 3rd. But even if he doesn’t recognize the results if he loses, I still believe in the system. I continue believing that Congress is an independent body. The Supreme Court is an independent body, even if it now has a conservative majority. And journalists have absolute freedom to tell the truth.
If Donald Trump remains, he’s been the most anti-immigrant president since 1954, and that will have terrible consequences. It will be still harder for the Nicaraguans, Central Americans and Latin Americans that live here.
The decisive swing states and the Latinx vote
The polls show Biden to be the favorite and the probable winner. Do you believe they’re trustworthy, or could the polling errors of 2016 be repeated? At that time, they didn’t reflect Trump’s true support. Could there be another fiasco for the Democrats, like that of Hillary Clinton?
I no longer believe in the polls. It’s foolish to make predictions regarding Donald Trump, because we were so monumentally mistaken four years ago.
On October 26, 2016, the Associated Press, one of the most reputable news agencies, had conducted a poll. It showed Hillary Clinton with a 14-point lead over Donald Trump. Everyone took it as a given that she was going to win. The poll modeling all showed that. But of course, the result was different. Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote by more than 2 million votes and that makes it more complicated. However, even so, Donald Trump won.
The Pew Center has offered a clear key to what happened. In the United States, there’s a sector of “timid Trumpists”. These don’t tell the pollsters or the journalists, or even their own families at times, who they’re voting for. But at the moment of voting, they go for Trump. This gigantic group of “timid Trumpists” don’t dare defend Donald Trump in public when he makes racist or sexist comments. That can be embarrassing in your home, with your family, with your workmates. It humiliates you to defend someone like that. But when voting, they gave him a victory in 2016 and they want to do it again in 2020.
What are the projections for the race in the states that could define it, for example, Florida, Texas, Arizona and Pennsylvania?
Joe Biden is ahead in the four states you just mentioned, except Texas. Texas always votes Republican. If Texas were to vote Democratic, that would change not only the election, but the future of the United States. Without Texas and California, and without New York, there’s no way to win in the United States.
I’d keep my eyes on three states. One is Florida, where there are a lot of Nicaraguans and many Latin Americans in general. Another is Arizona, where there are many Mexican-Americans. These two states went for Donald Trump last time and are now favoring Joe Biden. I think that if more Latinx voters had come out in Florida and Arizona [in 2016], maybe the result would have been different. Last time, there were 13 million Latinx who didn’t go out to vote, and that’s a tragedy. They didn’t like Trump, but they didn’t like Hillary Clinton either.
What are the determining factors that move the Latinx vote? How important is the topic of immigration, the economy, COVID-19, at this time?
Hispanic voters want the same thing as the rest of the people in the United States. That is, their first concerns are the economy, health and education. If you have work, if you have medical insurance so you can see a doctor when you’re sick. For your children to attend a decent school. That’s what everybody wants. The topic of immigration is fourth or fifth on their minds.
This year, the pandemic has changed everything. Over 220,000 people in the US have died. If everything stays the same, they predict that death toll could nearly double in a few months, to almost 400,000. There’ve already been over 9 million positive cases in the United States.
Donald Trump has managed this tragedy horrendously. For a long time, he wouldn’t use a mask anywhere. He lied to people, supposedly to avoid creating panic. He knew it was transmissible through the air, but he didn’t inform the public in time. Just today, his son came out and said that the number of deaths is minimal. That’s not true. Yesterday alone, 900 people died [from the virus] in the United States.
So, let’s suppose that everything stays the same in 2020 as in 2016. That the “timid Trumpists” are still hiding out there. Nevertheless, I believe that the pandemic is what will decide who’s the next president of the United States.
The great divide in the United States
In the case of Joe Biden, is there a specific factor moving people to vote for the Democrats? Is it Joe Biden’s leadership, or is it a vote against Donald Trump?
Joe Biden is the antidote to Donald Trump. Everything Donald Trump is, Joe Biden is not. In fact, Joe Biden’s campaign has been nearly invisible. Joe Biden is promising two things. One is, “I’m not Donald Trump”, and that says a lot in the United States. The other is that we’ll return to normal, that we’re all tired of seeing Donald Trump every day. We’re tired of listening to him talking about all kinds of things. Telling lies, and constantly showing his ignorance and hypocrisy.
In the United States, we’ve been pushed to two extremes. We have terrible economic problems because of the pandemic. There are also extremist ideas about immigration. Joe Biden is the antidote to Donald Trump. What Biden is saying to us is: I’m going to be a normal president, no one that screams. I want civility, I want respect. That’s Joe Biden’s offer. Many are willing to even put up with boredom, as long as they get rid of Donald Trump.
How much has the United States changed under Donald Trump’s leadership in these four years? If Biden wins the presidency, are the forces that Trump unleashed going to permanently keep the country divided? Or does that depend on whether Trump is president?
What we’re going to see on Tuesday is a true collision. Many may think that we’re talking exclusively about Donald Trump, but in reality, it’s not that way. Sixty-two million people voted for Trump, and sixty-five [million] for Hillary Clinton. The country is totally divided. There are very large groups in the United States who are resisting the demographic changes. These groups accept openly racist proposals from their leader.
We can’t forget that Donald Trump said the people from El Salvador, Haiti, and the African countries came from garbage countries. [Note: Trump’s actual phrase was “shithole countries”]. He falsely accused the Mexican emigrants of being criminals and rapists. He doesn’t dare criticize the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. Donald Trump has the support of more than 60 million people who think like he does. And that’s what’s really dangerous.
Getting Donald Trump out doesn’t mean that the United States will immediately return to normal. There’s a very large group of people who resist thinking of the United States as a multiethnic, multicultural and multiracial country. These are mainly people in the suburbs, rural areas and among the white population. They resist realizing that the US is no longer the white country that they imagined some forty or fifty years ago.
The crisis scenarios
If Trump doesn’t recognize the result of the election, could a crisis arise?
I’ve no doubt there could be a crisis. It’s possible Donald Trump will immediately come out to say he won, or that there was fraud against him. That very possibly may happen.
But again, I believe that the democratic system will prevail. Donald Trump can say whatever he wants, but if the results says something else, [he’ll be out]. On January 20, 2021, he’ll have to grab his belongings, pack them in a suitcase and leave the White House.
Now, I’ll lay out a crisis scenario. Currently, over 80 million U.S. citizens have already voted by mail. That’s more than the number of votes either candidate received [in 2016]. So, it’s possible that on Tuesday night, the only results available are from people who voted in person. We won’t have the results at that time from many who voted by mail. It’s possible that one of the two candidates doesn’t accept the results that same Tuesday night. That could be the scenario if the results of voters who came out directly favor one winner, but when all the other votes are totaled, there’s another.
According to what you’re saying, it’ll be hard to know on November 3 who the winner of this election will be.
Unless it’s landslide, and that’s what Joe Biden and the Democrats are betting on. If we believe the polls, Joe Biden’s going to sweep. However, it must be a triumph so total, so powerful, that there’s not the least doubt left that the mail-in votes could modify the election.