Okay, let’s walk through this.
1. I have not had the taco bowl at the Trump Tower Grill, a restaurant situated on the ground floor of Trump Tower. But in my experience (credentials: lived in California for seven years; wife makes it frequently, passed down from family), the best Mexican food comes from places where the focus is on Mexican food, not places where you could get a taco bowl or you could also get the lobster ravs or the “Ivanka’s salad.”
2. What’s more, New York City is great at everything, but notoriously crappy at Mexican food. Even the good Mexican food in New York City isn’t that good. (I do have some recommendations, though, so feel free to email.)
3. To reinforce that point, one (not particularly generous) reviewer said that the taco bowl “rendered an insult to Mexicans every bit as profound as Trump’s previous pronouncements.”
4. But let’s set that aside. Let’s set aside the idea of best taco bowls — with an unqualified boundary for “best,” implying that Trump is including the country of Mexico, where I sort of doubt they make a lot of taco bowls but if they did I’m confident they’d do it pretty well — and let’s focus on what’s happening here.
5. First of all, Trump uses the hashtag #CincoDeMayo, suggesting that his eating a taco bowl on May 5 is linked to the Mexican holiday. (In fact, it appears to be a special of the day!)
Not that the holiday is really a Mexican holiday. It’s an American thing, which a cynic might suggest is linked to the heavy recent marketing effort from Corona. It’s almost like Corona saw what St. Patrick’s Day did for green beer, threw a dart at a list of Mexican holidays, and here we are.
6. Put another way, it’s sort of a white person’s idea of what a Mexican celebration is like, sort of like how Chichi’s restaurants used to be approximations of what a Mexican village looked like. (I am both dating and geolocating myself here, but whatever.) It is probably as authentic a celebration of Mexican culture as St. Patrick’s is of Irish culture.
7. And then Trump puts a very, very fine point on it: “I love Hispanics!”
8. I can’t.
9. It reminds me of this classic Onion headline: Woman Who ‘Loves Brazil’ Has Only Seen Four Square Miles of It. It’s Trump posing next to a donkey wearing a sombrero in Guadalajara. I’m seeing the world! Except, here, it's, Look! I’m eating your traditional food on your traditional holiday! I love you guys!
10. Incidentally, not all Hispanics are Mexican, and many people of Mexican heritage prefer the term Latino or Chicano, but that’s actually too nitpicky for this conversation.
11. That pronouncement, though. There is definitely, as the Atlantic’s David Graham noted this week, a pointed distinction between how Trump talks about some groups and how he talks about others. Hispanics, like black Americans, are this other group to which Trump tries to appeal, not part of the communal group of Americans that are included when he says “we.” This is a foray into a foreign land.
12. Granted, Trump does need to improve his standing with Hispanics. In an April Washington Post/ABC poll, 7 in 10 Hispanics had a strongly unfavorable view of Trump.
13. But Trump isn’t trying to appeal to Hispanics here. He’s trying to appeal to the other tourists, which is to say non-Hispanic white people. He’s trying to demonstrate to some extent that he really doesn’t have a problem with Hispanic Americans — that he, like anyone, can appreciate their traditions. He’s coming back from Guadalajara and showing the pictures, like that lady from Brazil, answering questions about the public transportation in Brasilia. He’s indicating that he has no problem with Hispanics. Not to Hispanics, but to his base.
14. Well really, that’s secondary. Trump is mostly doing this to troll us, and we took the bait, and we can’t help it, and oh, man, Election Day is still so far away.