Donald Trump is a man used to saying what he wants, when he wants, to whom he wants.
In fact, Trump himself might say that’s who he is and what he does. That’s the Trump way. The Trump brand. The Trump light. But Donald Trump’s mouth just ran headlong into one of the major demographic forces shaping the United States: Latinos.
Recently, Trump announced his plans to run for president. The speech included this:
The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. [Applause] Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
The comments amounted to simply too much at Spanish-language network Univision. Last Thursday, Univision officials issued a bilingual statement announcing plans to sever ties with the Miss Universe organization, an entity partially owned by Trump. The network also canceled plans to air the Miss USA pageant. The company said little else and declined a request to comment further. By Monday, NBC, the network set to air the Miss USA pageant in English and where Trump hosted a popular reality TV show, “The Apprentice,” was also facing public and behind-the-scenes pressure to dump Trump. It did.
Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, told me that Univision has tried to brand Trump and his straight talk as racist. Trump plans to hold Univision responsible — down to the dollar — of the $13.5 million, five-year exclusive Spanish-language broadcasting deal that the two finalized in January, according to Cohen. Miss Universe has already collected $2.5 million of it, Cohen said.
And Trump won’t wait quietly.
“You can expect to see a major lawsuit filed against Univision,” Cohen — whose official title is executive vice president and special counsel to Donald J. Trump — told NBC News. “When someone makes erroneous and defamatory statements about his character, Mr. Trump will always and totally fight back.”
Something about the Trump way apparently appeals to some voters. In a Suffolk University poll of New Hampshire voters released last week, Trump ranked a close second behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush among the GOP contenders. The problem that Trump faces is that the voters he’s appealing to in a state like in New Hampshire, site of the nation’s first primary, aren’t exactly a growing force in the rest of the country.
Latino voters not only represent one of the fastest-growing shares of the electorate, but also a substantial portion of those eligible to vote who remain unregistered.
That’s why in 2012, when the presidential debate commission declined to plan a candidate event on Univision or put a non-white moderator at the helm of an event on another network, Univision demanded and got extended sit-downs with GOP nominee Mitt Romney and President Obama. When it did, audiences tuned in at a rate that fell short of the number who tuned in to watch the telenovelas ordinarily scheduled for those time slots. But the audiences were still considered substantial because Univision’s audiences are big.
Here’s the thing that Trump and others must recognize: Way back in 2013, Univision crossed another important threshold that helps to explain why the 2012 candidates showed up when Univision called. During a critical summer ratings period in both 2013 and 2014, Univision’s prime-time programming beat all four of the nation’s major English-language networks with the 18-to-49-year-old viewers that advertisers desperately want to reach.
In other words, it’s a huge force.
What’s more, Latino consumers — the vast majority of of those watching Univision — were expected to control about $1.5 trillion in consumer buying power this year. That figure represents what Nielsen’s consumer research division last year described as a “staggering 50 percent increase” from the group’s buying power as recently as 2010.
Latinos — and particularly Latinas — represent an absolutely key part of the market for beauty products, goods that other consumers are more likely to view as optional, according to a February Nielsen consumer analysis. And since these products are not typically life-saving or sustaining, the companies behind them have to invest more heavily in advertising them — on networks like Univision.
Sensing a pattern here? Advertisers want to reach Latinos. Politicians, and particularly Republicans, need to appeal to them to win national offices. And networks need to convince bilingual and English-dominant Latino viewers that their programming, the people on it and the companies behind their shows value Latino viewers, or at least don’t despise them.
This, of course, brings us back to beauty pageants and one of the reasons that Trump’s Miss Universe organization signed a deal with Univision in the first place. Pageant ratings on English-language television networks have, with some recent improvements, largely been in a state of decline for decades. It’s not hard to see why Spanish-language television powerhouse might represent an important expansion space.
So maybe overly broad, insulting statements about illegal immigrants are your thing. Maybe Trump thinks it’s helped to push him to second place in a respected primary state poll.
There’s just one problem: Power — cultural and political — is moving in another direction.
In addition to the unknown number of Americans of all races and ethnicities who may have been more than a little bothered by whatever Trump meant when he described people coming over the U.S.-Mexico border illegally as “rapists” and exporters of crime, there are about 9 million people in the United States who may have felt deeply and personally offended. You see, there are roughly 9 million people in the United States who live in so-called “mixed-status” households where some members may be U.S. citizens, others undocumented and documented immigrants. The vast majority of these households include an immigrant from Latin America.
So Trump’s comments likely feel quite personal. And these families can vote at either the ballot box or with their pocket books.