by Andres Oppenheimer
Now that the Democratic presidential primaries are moving to states with huge Hispanic populations, I have five major reasons why the party’s front-runner, Sen. Bernie Sanders, may be the worst choice for Latino voters.
First, if Latinos vote for Sanders, 78, to become the Democratic candidate for the White House, they will be helping to re-elect President Trump.
Once again, Trump is running for re-election on an anti-immigrant agenda. As he has long done, he is portraying the majority of undocumented Latino workers as criminals, has separated children from their mothers at the border and is severely limiting legal immigration.
Trump is now trying to increase the 28 percent of the Latino vote he got in the 2016 elections by claiming that he brought unemployment — including among Hispanics — to record lows. For the record, President Obama lowered unemployment from nearly 10 percent to 4.8 percent, while Trump reduced it from 4.8 percent to 3.6 percent.
Back to Sanders. He would be Trump’s dream Democratic rival. Trump is basing his entire campaign on the claim that Democrats are “socialists,” a word that scares millions of Americans, including Latinos such as Cuban Americans and Venezuelan Americans who are a decisive voting bloc in Florida, a key swing state.
No other Democratic candidate would make a Trump victory as easy as Sanders, who during much of his career described himself as a “socialist,” and only recently started calling himself a “democratic socialist.”
Trump could point out — without lying, for once — that Sanders spent his honeymoon in the former Soviet Union and that the leftist senator from Vermont has a long record of tacitly and openly defending leftist dictatorships, such as those of Nicaragua and Cuba.
Recently, after Bolivia’s recent leftist ruler Evo Morales rigged the Oct. 20 elections and two separate electoral observation teams from the Organization of American States corroborated his massive fraud, Sanders denounced an alleged “coup” against Morales. In fact, Morales had resigned in front of television cameras.
The second reason Latinos should not vote for Sanders is that he not only could facilitate Trump’s re-election, but may help Trump win the Senate, and perhaps even the House. Democratic legislators running for re-election in Republican-leaning states could lose their current seats if accused of running on a “socialist” ticket.
Third, Sanders’ “Medicare for all” proposal — while in theory a laudable idea — would prevent many Hispanics from maintaining their private insurance coverage.
The powerful Nevada Culinary Workers Union’s Local 226, which represents 60,000 casino workers, many of them Latinos, has publicly said that Sanders’ health plan would hurt its members. In addition, it would probably force a rise in taxes for many middle-class homes, since Sanders has yet to explain how else he would pay for his health plan.
Fourth, Sanders has steadily opposed free-trade deals with Mexico and other Latin American countries. Sanders voted against the NAFTA free-trade deal with Mexico and Canada, opposed the CAFTA free-trade deal with Central American countries, and most recently voted against the revised United States-Mexico-Canada North American free-trade agreement.
Sanders does not understand that a rising tide lifts all boats. If the United States fails to increase its economic cooperation with its Southern neighbors and help improve Mexican and Central American economies, there will be more poverty and more illegal immigration. Plus, without the ability to import duty-free parts from Mexico or Central America, many U.S. factories will be less competitive in global markets.
Fifth, while Sanders rightly proposes to undo Trump’s cruel anti-immigration policies, his vow to put a moratorium on deportations from the United States would make him an easy target for Trump’s claims that he’s an “open borders’” advocate. In fact, no recent U.S. Democratic or Republican president has called for a blanket moratorium on deportations.
In short, my fellow Latinos, you will hear a lot of Sanders’ propaganda in coming days asking you to vote for Tío Bernie. But if you do, you may be indirectly casting a vote for Uncle Donald and pretty much ensure his re-election in November.
Andres Oppenheimer is a syndicated columnist, and anchor of the TV Show “Oppenheimer Presenta.” He is a member of the Miami Herald team that won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize.