With anti-Cas­tro Cubans, a glimpse of the real Trump

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

They’re not even pre­tend­ing to wait for the vot­ers to have their say. The main­stream me­dia and pun­dits have called the elec­tion: Hil­lary Clin­ton is the win­ner, and the spec­u­la­tion has quickly moved on to her staff picks, her tran­si­tion ef­forts and her first 100 days in of­fice. Not co­in­ci­den­tally, some in the es­tab­lish­ment are send­ing a di­rect mes­sage to Don­ald Trump’s sup­port­ers that their can­di­date is dead and has no chance of vic­tory.

As a me­dia pun­dit and po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst my­self, I too feel pretty nega­tive about the ex­pected elec­tion out­come. How­ever, I had the op­por­tu­nity to travel to Mi­ami for a Trump event with the Bri­gade 2506, the Cuban he­roes from the Bay of Pigs in­va­sion who gave their his­toric en­dorse­ment — their first ever — to the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee. I spoke with grass-roots ac­tivists who are con­vinced that Mr. Trump can win on Nov. 8.

I kept ask­ing them if they had seen the polls, and they were in­sis­tent that their man could pre­vail. One ac­tivist told me, “The en­thu­si­asm is real, and Trump will win Florida.”

It was a pos­i­tive en­ergy un­like any­thing I saw on the ground in 2008 or 2012, when John McCain and Mitt Rom­ney were at the top of the ticket.

Hear­ing Mr. Trump in per­son, I fi­nally un­der­stood why mil­lions of vot­ers, es­pe­cially vot­ers who have been ig­nored and left be­hind in this econ­omy, con­nect with him.

He came across au­then­tic and calm, noth­ing like the de­monic and car­toon­ish char­ac­ter whom the me­dia love to por­tray. He spent time talk­ing with th­ese older Cubans, brave men and women who fought against the Cas­tro regime in their na­tive land. One of the women served 12 years in a Cuban jail.

Mr. Trump re­ferred to them as “free­dom fight­ers” and spoke feel­ingly of how Pres­i­dent Obama’s weak deal had given the regime ba­si­cally all it wanted, with no ben­e­fit for the United States and no pro­tec­tions for the op­pressed Cuban peo­ple.

Watch­ing him that day, I kept think­ing about how things might have turned out had Mr. Trump been able to stay dis­ci­plined and on mes­sage through­out the cam­paign. What if he had re­sisted that 3 a.m. tweet about the for­mer Miss Uni­verse or if he had spo­ken with more dig­nity about women in gen­eral?

It’s such a missed op­por­tu­nity, for when vot­ers get the whole pic­ture, re­ported fairly, the con­trast is sig­nif­i­cant. The Clin­tons en­gage rou­tinely in cor­rupt prac­tices, mix­ing their po­lit­i­cal power with their non­profit work to make them­selves rich, while not stand­ing up for the lit­tle guy.

It’s so telling: Mr. Trump is the bil­lion­aire, but it is Mrs. Clin­ton who has be­come the can­di­date of the su­per­wealthy and spe­cial in­ter­ests.

Mr. Trump is far from per­fect, and there are plenty of times that I was an­gry with his di­vi­sive and undis­ci­plined man­ner, es­pe­cially in feud­ing with fel­low Repub­li­cans. He is not a politi­cian, which means he speaks his mind openly, a habit that has got­ten him into some trou­ble at times, but has also re­vealed his gen­uine con­cern for the mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who have been left be­hind. Had Mr. Trump stayed on mes­sage and been more of peace­maker, I am con­vinced he would be crush­ing Mrs. Clin­ton in the polls.

By con­trast, Mrs. Clin­ton of­fers no clear vi­sion for Amer­ica other than Obama 3.0. Oba­macare’s fail­ures are now be­com­ing part of Hil­larycare, and she has to de­fend sky­rock­et­ing pre­mi­ums that af­fect in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies across the coun­try. She should be forced to ex­plain daily why Mr. Obama and con­gres­sional Democrats have presided over a slug­gish econ­omy and grow­ing in­come in­equal­ity.

But Mrs. Clin­ton hasn’t had to play much de­fense, ef­fec­tively spend­ing the gen­eral elec­tion at­tack­ing Mr. Trump. It also ap­pears her cam­paign has the stronger ground game and has been able to re­build much of the win­ning Obama coali­tion of mi­nori­ties, women and younger vot­ers. Th­ese vot­ers are not ex­cited about Mrs. Clin­ton — many ac­tu­ally dis­like her — but say they are more con­cerned about a Trump pres­i­dency.

I wish more Amer­i­cans could see the Mr. Trump that I saw in Mi­ami. He gave a heart­felt speech, and I re­al­ized that, with all his neg­a­tives, his agenda is the bet­ter way for our coun­try. Even Speaker Paul Ryan could get more of his agenda done with Mr. Trump in the Oval Of­fice.

Roberto Gutier­rez Serra, a Bri­gade mem­ber, told me this elec­tion is “crit­i­cal.”

“We have never en­dorsed a can­di­date, but felt that this time was dif­fer­ent be­cause we can­not af­ford to lose this coun­try and hand it over to the lib­er­als who are will­ing to push Amer­ica fur­ther left where gov­ern­ment ex­erts more con­trol over Amer­i­cans. That is a dan­ger­ous path for Amer­ica.”

Mercedes Schlapp is a Fox News con­trib­u­tor, co-founder of Cove Strate­gies and for­mer White House di­rec­tor of spe­cialty me­dia un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

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