It’s easy to predict the 2018 midterms (i.e., the Democrats will win big… or they might not).

It’s a little tougher to predict the 2020 presidential election (i.e., Trump will lose in a landslide… or he might not).

But if we really want to get crazy, let’s look at the 2024 presidential election. Because regardless of whether or not Trump gets reelected in 2020, he will not run in the election after that. Either because he’s a disgraced loser who is way to old to run for office, or because he is constitutionally prohibited from a third term (unless, of course, he declares himself president for life… ahem). 

In any case, we can say, with a high degree of certainty, that Trump will not be the GOP nominee in 2024.

So who will it be?

Well, let’s face it — naming a specific person at this point is idiotic, arrogant, or a sad attempt to fill time on a 24-hour news channel having a slow day.

No, I don’t have any names to throw around. However, I can predict what type of person the Republican nominee will be. First, we can be fairly certain that he will be a guy, probably a white guy, and probably an older white guy. After all, the GOP is overwhelmingly the party of older white guys. So don’t expect their future nominee to be an Asian woman in her forties. 

Of course, the limited gender and racial makeup of the current and future Republican Party is well-known. The bigger question is what characteristics the 2024 nominee will have.

And this is where it gets truly interesting. Conventional wisdom holds that Trump has so severely damaged the GOP brand that it will not recover, at least not any time soon. Trump’s incompetence, corruption, and immorality have repulsed most Americans from voting Republican. Combined with undeniable demographic trends, the GOP will be sent reeling in the coming years.

Under such adverse conditions, the GOP will try to make amends. They will nominate a moderate in 2024, and his campaign will basically consist of begging for forgiveness. But this tactic will fail miserably, and the Republican Party will essentially be confined to pockets of the Deep South and rural America, with nothing but decay and slow death in its future.

But wait. There is a different version of this story.

You see, there is a school of thought that Trump has permanently altered not just the GOP, but American politics itself. His brand of fire-breathing madness and racist demagoguery has revealed the GOP for what it is. And the conservative base loves it. Far from punishing Trump and his allies for, say, insulting anyone who isn't a white man, the GOP true believers are more enthralled than ever.

As a result, Republicans are now perfectly comfortable embracing xenophobia and tolerating tacky pronouncements on race and ethnicity. In fact, they are loath to disclaim it, for fear of pissing off their army of bigots.

In this scenario, the next GOP nominee will be just as prejudicial, neo-fascistic, and hate-filled as Trump. The probable difference is that he will not be as overtly crude as Trump. He will be more polished, and more open to playing nice when it suits him. At the very least, he will have just enough self-control to avoid attacking people in 5:00 tweetstorms.

This smoother, more charming Trump could indeed win a general election, especially if the Democrats find a way to screw up things up like they always do.

And then what happens? Well, Trump 2.0 would have little trouble pushing America into authoritarianism for the foreseeable future. He will succeed where Trump’s belligerence and obvious mental instability have failed.

He will create a new nation. And it will all be over for the rest of us.

How’s that for a prediction?



This Is Why I Don’t Watch TV

At this point, my television exists to play DVDs, stream Netflix documentaries, and blare Foo Fighters videos for my five-year-old son (hey, the kid has good taste).

I rarely turn on the TV just to channel surf. As such, I almost never see commercials, which has improved my quality of life substantially.

For this reason, I have missed one of the key advertising trends of recent years. I’m talking about the steady flow of heavy-handed, crass, xenophobic, ignorant race-baiting political ads that demonize Latinos for the sole purpose of terrifying old people into voting for Republicans.

I consider myself lucky on this count.

Yes, these ads convince people that unless they pull the lever for the GOP, hordes of deranged Hispanics will knife them in the street and violate their dead bodies, before executing their families just for kicks.

Now, you might think these ads appeal primarily to those bigots who already harbor anti-Latino sentiment, functioning as a wake-up call to drive them to the polls. That’s true, of course.

But what’s even more disturbing is that these ads are not just tapping into anti-Hispanic hatred. They are creating it.

Yes, a recent study has found that “ads and inflammatory language are actually ‘activating’ voters’ latent stereotypes about Latinos and immigrants, and those sentiments in turn are influencing how voters feel about immigration policies.”

Yikes — it’s not enough that Latinos have to fight the president, his legions of like-minded lunatics, institutionalized racism, Hollywood stereotyping, and the cultural baggage of centuries of anti-Hispanic hysteria. Now, we have Madison Avenue converting people into fear-based, irrational, racist voters.

It’s almost as if advertising agencies have some experience convincing Americans to buy something that’s horrible for them.

But I digress.

In any case, the researchers found that “misleading messaging tying immigrants to criminal gangs, such as MS-13, triggers fears among people, which in turns drives strong sentiments against immigrants and sanctuary city policies.” Furthermore, these fearful attitudes “are not in response to crime, but about stereotypes regarding Latinos and immigration.”

It gets worse.

The study also shows that “Republican ads using negative imagery about Latino immigrants and crime activates latent bias and contributes to support of anti-immigrant policies.”

Just how “activated” are these biases? Well, the researchers found, for example, that there is no correlation between crime rates and support for banning sanctuary city laws. As we know, sanctuary cities tend to have lower crime rates than other cities. But the perception that they are nests of rapist immigrants is strong, and this perception gets jacked up with every ad that depicts these areas as dangerous.

So we end up with a situation where people are not “evaluating their support for ending sanctuary cities on the basis of crime in the area. Instead … support for ending sanctuary cities correlated with a higher rate of Latino population growth.”

In fact, the researchers found that “residing in a high-Latino-growth area is predictive of support for Trump,” but this has only been the case since Trump arrived on the scene with “his utterance of inflammatory and bellicose comments about Mexican immigrants.”

Basically, Trump not only whipped up hatred against Latinos and made it ok to be overt about it. He actually helped create more racism. Yes, it’s yet another thing we can thank the current occupant of the White House for.

The bottom line is that, for the GOP, it’s “an effective strategy to first paint immigrants as dangerous, and then base your campaign on addressing that as a problem,” creating an issue where there wasn’t one before, and thereby conjuring up a whole new batch of hate-filled racists in its wake, all for the sake of scoring a few more votes.

The study concludes that, unfortunately, the GOP continues to “double down on this message,” meaning that “anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment will continue to grow, and it is on Republican elites for driving this.”

Of that, there can be no doubt. It is indeed on all on them.



Maybe This Time?

I’ve written before about gun control and our nation’s status as the shoot-em’-up capital of the industrialized world. 

Seventeen people in Florida are dead because one angry man believed the AR-15 was the solution to all this problems. This uniquely American mindset apparently never manifests itself in the youth of, say, Belgium or Australia or Japan. 

It’s a mystery — right?

Now, I’m certainly not going to get into all the defenses of the Second Amendment that we hear from conservatives every time there’s a mass shooting. These arguments range from the semi-principled to the clearly illogical to the completely bat-shit insane. So why put ourselves through it again? 

I also don’t want to discuss the shooter. There are conflicting reports about whether he is a Latino, or a white supremacist, or some oddball combination of both. But ultimately, let’s skip it, because the less said about this pathetic loser, the better.

Instead, I want to dwell on the tiniest shred, the thinnest shard, of hope that this latest mass shooting might be a catalyst toward sanity.

Many of us feel that way, primarily because of the activism of teens and young people who are fed up with being viewed as target practice and/or acceptable losses in the fight for “freedom” or battle against “tyranny” or whatever vague, paranoid rationale gets tossed around as justification for allowing bloodbaths to occur with regularity on American soil.

Yes, there is already rumbling that “Hey, these kids aren’t as anti-gun as you think.” And even if every millennial demanded more gun control tomorrow, the political and cultural barriers to real, lasting change are daunting.

But we do know that one of the leaders of this youth drive is Emma Gonzalez, whose powerful speech has become both viral sensation and rallying cry.

This once again proves that if you want something done, turn to a Latina.

So maybe, possibly, we have turned a corner on this madness? Do we dare hope?



Big Guns

No doubt, you’ve heard about Trump’s proposed budget, which includes things like billions for a border wall that will never be constructed and, presumably, a million or two for hush money to porn stars and/or Russian operatives.

But setting aside the minor facts that this budget would completely fuck over poor people and, maybe, destroy the planet, there is something else that caught my attention.

Defense spending would rise by 10 percent.

This is not a huge surprise, of course, as Republicans have a bizarre fascination with warfare, and members of the GOP are constantly threatening to invade one country or another, even while distancing themselves from the last disastrous war (a campaign that was, of course, all their idea in the first place). Hell, Republicans are happy to spend $30 million on a damn parade just to show off our super-awesome military hardware.

But a fair question is whether all this military spending is making us any safer. 

After all, we already spend more cash on the military than any other nation on Earth — by far, actually. In fact, we spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.

So when we will it be enough? Should we spend more than the next ten nations combined, or the next twenty? Should we spend more than the rest of the planet put together?

Because if it’s true — as Republicans have often said — that our military is in disrepair and needs to be rebuilt, I would ask, “Why can’t we get something decent for the 16 percent of our budget that we spend on defense?”

I mean, if the US military still sucks after all the hundreds of billions that have been thrown at it, maybe we should call off this whole defense idea and go the way of Costa Rica, a country that has no army. Incidentally, Costa Rica is never the target of terrorist cells and doesn’t get threatened by nutjobs with nuclear weapons.

Of course, that’s a bit of apples to oranges. But stay with me on this point.

You see, it appears that the more we spend on defense, the more likely we are to go to war. All those tanks and bombers and missiles apparently will themselves to be used.

Perhaps it is the same principle behind the fact that the states with the most firearms have the highest gun-death rates.

Just as having a gun in your house makes you more likely to get shot, maybe having more soldiers makes it more likely for a country to get into a war.

I don’t know whether than is true or not. But I do know this: We are the most fearful and paranoid nation in the industrialized world. No matter how much we spend on bombs and bullets, it will never make us feel safer.



Going Incognito

In the good old days, you could always tell who was what.

For example, just a few decades ago, every Latino in America — at least according to pop culture — was Mexican with dark brown skin, and probably worked as a gardener. I mean, it was pretty simple for Americans to get out their handy bucket of clichés and then start stuffing Latinos into them. 

Life was simple.

But then things got messy. Hispanics started coming in different shades, with terms like “second generation” banded about, and not all of them spoke Spanish, and some even went to college when nobody was looking. And don’t even get us started on “Latinx.”

Yes, it’s gotten so complex that very real questions about identity and culture are cartwheeling through the Latino community, with the result that voices get raised, metaphysical quandaries turn into quagmires, and your basic simple-minded racist can’t even keep straight whom he is supposed to hate now.

Because the truth is that “Hispanic identity is fluid to begin with,” and “the gray area that Latinos inhabit in this country’s historical black/white binary inevitably leads to shifts in identification.”

Basically, who or what is Latino has always been a question, and it has never been more open to debate. Even age-old signifiers of culture are fading away.

For example, even in my generation, just about every Hispanic person was also Catholic. Being a member of La Raza and displaying an almost fanatical devotion to the pope was a natural combo.

But leave it to those wild, trend-setting, selfie-lovin’ youngsters — the millennials — to mess with that 

You see, “Latino millennials, overall, are becoming less religious the more they assimilate to American culture.”

Yes, we could point out that this might not be Latinos assimilating to America, as much as the other way around, but let’s save that debate for another time. 

The basic truth is that “the longer Latinos are in the United States and the more Americanized they become, the more secularized they become.” In fact, “the fastest growing [religious] group among millennials is the nones” (i.e., those who align with no specific religion). 

Of course, many of these Latinos are still spiritual, in their own individualistic kind of way, but many others are becoming straight-up atheists, a trend that is also true for America overall. 

I guess many Hispanics are finally asking exactly what, other than eat up a lot of their Sundays, has the Catholic Church ever done for them. Personally, I believe this is a very fair question. 

However, for now, let’s turn our attention to another sign that it is getting more and more difficult to pinpoint those Latinos among us.

A recent study has found that “although recent immigrants identify as Hispanic at a rate of almost 90 percent, this number drops to around 50 percent after the fourth generation.” 

The reasons for this are complex. One motivator is simple self-loathing, as many Latinos who can pass for white sometimes prefer to do so. Another variable is fear, because slipping below the radar of Trump supporters is “a strong motivation for avoiding identification as Hispanic.” 

Some commentators theorize that the lessening of ethnic pride “in later generations can be due to increased assimilation.”

Finally, there is the fact that the longer Latinos live in America, the more likely they are to intermarry with other groups and produce multiethnic children, and this can lead to “U.S.-born Hispanics who sometimes find their identities challenged by natives of their home countries who don’t think they’re Hispanic enough, and come off as too American.”

Regardless of the specific reason, at present, “11 percent of adults with Hispanic ancestry do not identify as such, and 23 percent of Hispanics most often refer to themselves as ‘American.’”

So what does it all mean? Well, it could indicate that in the near future, Latinos will be considered white Americans, whether they want to be or not.

Indeed, many people have pointed out the historical parallels to the Irish, the Italians, and the Jews — all of whom were considered non-white until the intensity of cultural change and the force of societal pressure suddenly made each of them, more or less, white. 

Or maybe white people just got together for a secret vote and decided to let the O’Reillys and the Rizzos and the Goldsteins in — I don’t know for sure.

Regardless, it is undeniable that it is a time of great change for Latinos, and this shift can be difficult to notice when Hispanics have more concrete issues on their minds — like surviving three more years of a xenophobic toddler who would gladly depart everyone with a Z in their last name.

But it is happening.

Life is no longer so simple.