This Martin Luther King Jr. Day — while I cheer for Reverend Warnock, Georgia’s first black Senator, and Biden and Harris, America's first administration with a Black and southeast Asian woman sitting shotgun — my father is in mourning.
My Republican Mexican father loved to tell people at dinner about how he tried hard to raise “good, conservative girls.” Imagine his horror when, after a single semester at the University of San Francisco, his youngest returned a left-wing feminist vegan. Everything I’d learned from watching Fox News with my father came under fire. Our relationship was irrevocably changed.
In 2016, when Donald Trump was still a candidate no one thought would make it to the end of the debate season, my father — at the time a Ted Cruz supporter — said that Trump had “chutzpah” and a knack for creating “a theater of chaos.” And as the Republican candidates were nicknamed and eventually thrown out of the ring, a love affair emerged that estranged me and my father forever.
It has been said that Hispanic people love drama: the telenovelas; the black vs. white, good vs. evil battles of the luchadores; the personal gossip. That was one reason I believe my father loved Trump. Another was the bombastic, self-assured, sexually aggressive and emotionally unavailable flavor of masculinity that could be summed up in a single word and which applied to Trump in buckets: machismo.
Even though my father has lived in the United States for 57 of his 77 years on earth, he still carries certain cultural baggage that affects how he engages with politics. Once, when I asked him why he admired Trump, he said, “He’s been with so many beautiful women. That’s powerful.” In some parts of the world, sexual prowess is power. For older men, that is.
Growing up in New York City, I was catcalled in front of my father since the age of 13, and sexually harassed by male superiors at nearly every job I managed to land. How is it that a man could show outrage over these injustices when they happened to his daughter, and also support a man like Trump? I couldn’t get my head around it.
But sexual assault allegations and vile public comments aside, my father genuinely looked up to Trump. He seemed rich, successful, had three beautiful wives (coincidentally, so had my dad), and he didn’t think of what he was going to say before saying it. In sharp contrast to the polished talking heads we were so used to voting for, Trump offered brutal honesty and an outsider’s perspective, speaking in language that an everyday guy like my dad could understand.
Over the years of Trump’s presidency, I pondered why so many Latinos were not only conservative, but pro-Trump, on a number of occasions. Conquered by Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries, Mexico, South, and Central America are deeply Catholic places, and given the massive amounts of corruption and stolen elections occurring in plain sight, that faith was often the main thing working people clung to for solace. Mexico, the country of my father’s birth, was devoted to devotion.
Every element of Mexican life is defined by Catholic traditions, and none of these traditions is stricter than those that relate to gender. Not only is it looked down upon for women to get an abortion, but something as basic as wearing a tampon is taboo. Not only are women expected to give up their careers once they marry, they are often unable to land a job after their divorce. Men and women sit on opposite sides of the room, even within families, and wives will stop eating to serve their husbands when they walk into the room, late to a family dinner.
So of course, a man who ran as anti-choice, pro-family, pro-patriarchy, and against big government (Cuba’s communist revolution taught all of Latin America to fear big government) was a sure win for Hispanic voters. Stir in some machismo and there you have it: a whole bloc of immigrants voting for a man who calls them rapists, gang bangers, drug dealers, and all around bad people. And my father agrees. Obviously Trump is not talking about him.
So where will all of this energy go now that Trump is finally on his way out?
My father, age 77, is not exactly fluent in the internet, but he is known to troll his friends (and me) on Facebook. I wondered whether he run the extra mile and transplant himself to a new platform where Trump is the main figure — a Parler-type place for conservatives. Would his devotion extend that far, or would he go back to supporting a less extreme but similarly infuriating conservative like Ted Cruz?
As far as Wednesday is concerned, my father has no doubts about what will happen.
“I don’t have to follow him anywhere,” he said to me over the phone when I posed these questions to him. “He’s not going anywhere.”
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