Interview
"The Republican base is very angry with the elites and Trump continues to be the one that best represents it"
In an exclusive interview with LPO, Latino political expert Raúl Madrid, who lives in Austin, speaks about the Republican campaign and explains why the party establishment that bets on DeSantis cannot set free from Trump.

"My case is a bit weird because my family came to New Mexico in the 1600s or so, almost 500 years ago. So we crossed the border. We are not immigrants in the strict sense because we have been here for many many years. New Mexico is a Mexican culture, my grandparents were born in New Mexico and they only spoke Spanish," says the Latino political scientist Raúl Madrid. His ancestors settled in that border territory that in recent centuries was disputed and is a transit between the United States and Mexico. Renowned for his work on Latin America and the populism of Donald Trump, Madrid is now a professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas in Austin. In an exclusive dialogue with LPO, he affirms that it will be very difficult for the Republican Party to free itself from Trump in the next presidential elections, but he also warns that the former president will have a very difficult time building a majority again. In addition, he talks about the Latino electorate and the Republican dominance in Texas.

How do you see the scenario of the race to 2024 after the results of November elections?

Regarding the upcoming presidential elections, I think the one who got stronger was Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida who was re-elected by many votes. And since Trump did not do very well with his candidates, many Republicans think that DeSantis would be a better candidate than Trump. The problem is that this is the Republican elites' point of view, but I think the base is still with Trump and Trump has not begun to seriously campaign against DeSantis. He has barely said a few things about him.

What would happen in that case?

Trump is a very skilled person, he is good at campaigning, he knows what the Republican base wants and he is going to start attacking DeSantis. DeSantis is not a very charismatic candidate. He is a tough man, he has his own style, but he is not charismatic, while Trump is. He is able to say the things that no other candidate can say. I do not think DeSantis can beat Trump. If Trump is a candidate, I think he is going to get the Republican nomination.

The scenario is paradoxical because Trump was launched a week after the poor results in November. Was he right or was that early launch a sign of weakness?

Trump is a very stubborn man, very egocentric, he believes no Republican can beat him and he will insist on what he wants. He ignores what the pollsters and advisers tell him: he does what he wants. He does not want to appear weak and he is always interesting in appearing strong, in being the strong man in the movie. That is why he announced his candidacy anyway, even though many of his advisers told him he should wait. The truth is there is nothing that makes me think that Trump is not going to get the Republican nomination.

"Si los republicanos quieren romper con Trump, es el momento de hacerlo ahora"

Is that good or bad for the Republican Party?

Trump can get 45% or 46% of the votes in the general election, but to get a majority is very difficult. Trump can be elected president if there is a third party candidate that takes votes away from the Democrats, but if it is just Trump versus Biden or versus anyone, I am not so sure he can win. He is less strong now than he was two or three years ago. If there is an independent candidate who can get votes from the Democrats, then yes, Trump could win in that case.

Trump is a very skilled person, he is good at campaigning, he knows what the Republican basis wants and he is going to start attacking DeSantis. There is nothing that makes me think that Trump is not going to get the Republican nomination.

Why did Trump's top candidates win the primaries and lose the general in 2022?

They are good candidates, they move to the right, some did not have very acceptable stories like Herschell Walker in Georgia, Kari Lake a little more because she is charismatic. The were not centric candidates, they were not good in a general election. Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, who was more moderate and had diverged from Trump, easily retained the governorship.

"La gran pregunta es si DeSantis tiene la fuerza suficiente para combatir a Trump"

Why does the Republican base continue to support Trump?

I think they support Trump because he basically represents them. The Republican electorate has changed in recent years. It is now a highly anti-immigrant, anti-elite, anti-free trade constituency and Trump represents them. It is a Republican base very angry with the elites, very angry.

He manages to get a coalition formed by evangelicals, populist voters, anti-immigrants voters. It is a white working class constituency and some middle class people as well, mostly rural, mostly southern, but with a few other communities too. DeSantis tries to represent that same electorate, and if Trump were not there, I think DeSantis would have a very good chance. But with Trump, it is going to be difficult for him.

The Republican electorate has changed in recent years. It is now a highly anti-immigrant, anti-elite, anti-free trade constituency and Trump represents them. It is a Republican base very angry with the elites, very angry.

Can we say that the Republican base would rather lose with Trump than win with a moderate candidate?

I wouldn't say that. They get excited, they think they can win, they think they are the majority, they think they won last time, that there was fraud and they do not believe in the polls. So, they think that they will win if there is a free election. But the reality is that no, they are not a majority and they cannot win easily, unless there is a third candidate in the race.

"The Republican base is very angry with the elites and Trump continues to be the one that best represents it"

What is the main point of the conflict between Trump and the Republican elites?

What happens is that many of the members of the elites are ashamed of Trump, they do not like him at all, they are afraid of him. He insults them. They do not think that Trump has a strong ideology, they do not trust him very much, they think he is an opportunist and is not a good candidate for the Party, they think they could win much more easily with another candidate. The relationship with Trump is complicated because they do not like him at all, but at the same time they cannot say anything against him because Trump attacks them. It is a very uncomfortable situation and it is even possible that Trump could destroy the Republican Party. I do not think it will happen because at some point he is going to die, he is going to retire or retire from politics. So at that point the Republican Party is going to go back to what it was. Because Trump represents a highly personalistic movement.

What is the logic of Republicans campaigning against migrants when all projections indicate that Latinos are becoming and unavoidable force?

There are several logics. Many Latinos here are anti-immigrants or at least against illegal immigration, and they think there are too many immigrants. But for most, I would say that 60% of Latinos love immigrants and they do not like Trump's policy related to that issue. The problem is that although Latinos are 18% of the population, in the electorate they are much less, maybe 10%, because many Latinos are not eligible, they cannot vote, others can vote but they do not vote, and besides, of those who vote, two-thirds vote Democrat and one-third vote Republican. It is not like African Americans who vote 90 or 95% Democrats. Latinos are not like that and that is why we weight less. Latinos can change the results in some states, in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, but in most of the states they are not that important because they are purely Republican or Democrat states. It is a variable that will not affect the result in Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan.

I do not think Trump can destroy the Republican Party because at some point he is going to die, retire or retire from politics and the Republican Party is going to go back to what it was.

McCarthy's election in Congress and that of the Republican National Committee showed dissidents questioning Trump by right-win, politics and the like-minded media. Why is that?

Since Trump is no longer president, he is not so strong and cannot manage public opinion in the same way he did before. He does not have the same influence right now, but when the campaign starts I think everything will change a bit because the channels will start to cover it and he will be more influent. At the moment, he does not have the power he had before, and if he is not president again in 2024, he is going to start to decline. He knows it and that is why he wants to be a candidate again.

"Ser latino y ser demócrata en Texas no significa ser progresista"

How do you explain the Republican dominance in Texas since 1994?

Texas has always been a conservative state. The thing is that before it was conservative Democrats who owned the state and now all those Democrats have converted to the Republican Party. Not much has changed in the background, only the party identity has changed. The problem is that although in the long term it could become a purple state, that moment has not arrived yet. Partly because of Latinos who can't vote or do not vote, it is not going to change any time soon. 80, 85% of whites in Texas vote Republican, Latinos only vote 60% Hispanic. So they need a lot more Hispanic voters for the Democrats to win. The state has changed demographically, but it still has not changed enough. Maybe in 20 years it will be different. For now, the Republicans are going to win Texas in 2024 and probably 2028 as well. Texas is not Arizona or Georgia, not yet.

Translator: Bibiana Ruiz.  

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