Two Prominent Latinos Take Sharply Different Approaches to Trump

On Sunday, Univision newsman Jorge Ramos pressed his case against Donald Trump during interviews with two prominent Latinos.

First the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, pushed back against Ramos, making it clear that he wanted to have a dialogue with the presumptive Republican nominee. Then Lionel Sosa, the Texas-based marketing executive who helped Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush appeal to Latino voters, echoed Ramos's disgust with Trump. Both men spoke with Ramos for the "Al Punto" program.

Rodriguez talked of asking Trump, who has famously talked of walling off the Mexican border, if Trump could build a bridge to Hispanics. Rodriguez said Trump responded enthusiastically, telling him, "Pastor Samuel, my commitment is to help the Hispanics with jobs, with better education, with opportunities. And I want to stop illegal immigration. But I want to support and lift up the Hispanic people." Rodriquez said Trump repeatedly assured him that "the Hispanic people are going to love me."

Ramos, referring to some of Trump's most notorious pronouncements, asked if it wasn't racist for Trump to criticize Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists and to call for a moratorium on the immigration of Muslims. Ramos asked if Rodriguez was concerned that Trump might be taking advantage of him.

Rodriguez responded that while he had denounced Trump's rhetoric, he would not shun Trump. "Conversation changes lives and changes hearts," he said. "I want to be a light in the midst of darkness. People won't change if there isn't a relationship, if there isn't interaction." He said he wanted to have dialogue with both the Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns. "I want both campaigns to respect our community and endorse our values," he said.

Lionel Sosa, the son of Mexican immigrants, was as blunt in rejecting Trump as Rodriguez was diplomatic in calling for dialogue. "Yes, he's racist," he told Ramos. "Donald Trump doesn't have respect for us. ...This is not the Republican Party that I know. ... He doesn't know us and doesn't want to get to know us."

Sosa went on to tell a famous story about a discussion with Ronald Reagan during the presidential campaign of 1980. "Reagan said Hispanics are Republicans but don't now they are," Sosa recalled, adding that Reagan was referring to conservative values that appealed to both groups. Sosa's messaging strategy helped Reagan draw about 37 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1980. Two decades later, again with Sosa's assistance, George W. Bush also did well, though Sosa's claim that he received 44 percent of the Hispanic vote has been widely disputed.

In a column last month for the San Antonio Express News, Sosa indicated that he might vote for Hillary Clinton. He wrote: "Here's my quandary. If my party's left me, where do I go? What should I do when there isn't a horse in the race that stands for the core values of the party that I loved? I may just go for the devil we know instead of the lunatic we don't know."