Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Ruben Navarrette is a fresh and increasingly important voice in the national political debate. His twice-weekly column offers new thinking on many of the major issues of the day, especially on thorny questions involving ethnicity and national origin. His column is syndicated worldwide by The Washington Post Writers Group. Navarrette draws on both his knowledge of policy and politics and his life experiences to provide meaningful and hard-hitting commentary. He is a widely sought speaker on Latino affairs, has worked as a substitute teacher in classes from kindergarten to high school, and has hosted radio talk shows. Honors & Awards:
  • 2004 2nd place in the National Headliner Awards
  • 2006 3rd place in the National Headliners Awards presented by the Press Club of Atlantic City
  • 2002 & 2003, the Dallas Observer named him Best Columnist at a Daily Newspaper
  • Books by Ruben Navarrette Jr.:
  • A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano (1993)
  • Buy on Amazon
  • Contributer to Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul (2000), of the best-selling "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series.
  • Buy on Amazon
Recent Articles

RUBEN NAVARRETTE COLUMN

FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE. Normally would advance for release Sunday, April 18, 2021, and thereafter

(For Navarrette clients)

By RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.

SAN DIEGO - A recall election seems to be on the horizon in the Golden State.

In 2018, Gavin Newsom was elected governor of California with 62% of the vote. The future appeared limitless. One could have easily imagined him winning reelection in 2022, then vying for the White House in 2024.

But then came 2020, the year of COVID-19 with all its harmful side effects. And in California - with its GDP of $3.2 trillion, representing almost 15% of the total U.S. economy - the worst side effect was a government lockdown that shuttered schools and crushed businesses.

As in other states, the lockdown was an executive function. It was Newsom's call.

The governor also made some dumb mistakes - like attending a dinner, without a mask, at a ritzy Napa Valley restaurant last November while other restaurants were shut down.

But Californians are also notoriously anti-authority. Many of these folks moved here from other states so they could do what they want, when they want, and how they want. They don't take kindly to anyone telling them they can't do it. To radical leave-me-alone types, Newsom went from the face of the future to the face of fascism.

At the start of the pandemic, when the beaches were closed, a friend who works for the city in a coastal community told me that he was getting angry phone calls from defiant baby boomers who wanted to surf. In California, riding a wave is considered "essential work."

A recall election can be triggered if supporters gather about 1.5 million valid signatures. Supporters got more than 2 million, and already 1.2 million have been verified. A recall election is a good bet, and it will likely be in November.

Newsom knows this. Last month, he appeared on ABC's "The View" - the holy grail for liberal women - and made clear he will fight to save at least one job: his own.

Asked where the recall effort came from, Newsom went full political. He blamed "the top 10% proponents, the people who are behind this, are members of the 3-percenters, the right wing militia groups, the Proud Boys, who supported the insurrection, and folks who quite literally and enthusiastically support Qanon conspiracies."

Unbelievable. The poor guy doesn't have a clue about how he got here. The recall effort in California goes well beyond sour grapes Republicans who can't win statewide elections anymore. Every time they find a candidate that is to their liking, that candidate is so far to the right that he winds up being intensely disliked by the rest of the state.

There are also disappointed Democrats who voted for Newsom and now think the guy just wasn't up to the job. They include teachers, restaurant owners, and health care workers who give Newsom failing marks.

It's true that polling suggests the recall breaks along party lines. A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that only 40% of likely voters back the recall, while 56% oppose it. Seventy-nine percent of Republicans would vote "yes," but only 15% of Democrats would do the same.

Still, it would be a huge mistake to think these figures translate into a vote of confidence for the governor.

They do not. Californians are just worried about what is behind door #2, if Newsom gets recalled and a Republican takes his place. You don't beat something with nothing. The California GOP has less than nothing to offer.

But the major weapon in Newsom's arsenal is, ironically, something that hurt him during the pandemic because it led him to make bad decisions: his political instincts. The problem wasn't that he closed the state. The problem is that he closed it, then opened it, then closed it halfway, then opened it halfway, then who knows what?

Newsom is a natural politician. He isn't a good governor, but he's a great candidate. He loves the fight. The anti-recall campaign is already sending out emails, asking for donations to defeat "the Republican recall."

Politics is the only line of work that Newsom has ever been in. He is 53 years old, and he's been politicking since he was 29 and serving on the San Francisco board of supervisors. He's a master at politics.

California Republicans - who in many ways are in more trouble than he is - can't touch him. The governor is in full campaign mode. Newsom is determined to save his job, summoning a competence that was sadly missing when it was time for him to do the job he is trying to save.

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Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, "Navarrette Nation," is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2021, The Washington Post Writers Group

RUBEN NAVARRETTE COLUMN

FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE

(For NAVARRETTE clients)

By RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.

SAN DIEGO - With more than 20,000 unaccompanied minors in the custody of U.S. officials - both at the border and in holding areas throughout the Southwest - what was already a crisis may now be a crime scene.

There are serious allegations that some of the children being held at detention facilities have been sexually assaulted.

Let the horror sink in. Here you have thousands of children who fled cutthroat countries in Central America where ruthless gangs use threats of rape to terrorize people. They traveled more than 1,000 miles to the United States seeking a safe haven. Instead, they're allegedly crammed into detention facilities with insufficient food or water but plenty of exposure to COVID-19. And, then, they're just vulnerable enough to be at risk of being sexually assaulted by predators.

We don't yet know of these allegations are true, but I have no doubt that they are. There are disgusting creeps on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Just who is alleged to have committed these atrocities is also not yet clear. It could be anyone.

Either way, Uncle Sam would be on the hook. That's because the second that immigration officials took custody of these migrant children, the U.S. federal government became their de-facto legal guardian. Uncle Sam is responsible for their well-being. It's up to him to keep these children safe, protected and cared for until officials can decide what to do with them.

The ghastly possibility that children who are detained in U.S. custody have been sexually assaulted will shock absolutely no one who covered the border crisis in 2014 that entangled President Obama, or the one in 2018 that confounded President Trump. Both times, there were many such allegations of children being sexually assaulted. We have been here before, and we will likely be here again.

Yet, these allegations are also a reminder that, of all the options available to the bumbling Biden Administration about how to handle unaccompanied minors who cross the U.S.-Mexico border - and this administration has tried plenty of them - the absolute worst option of all is to warehouse these children in U.S. custody for longer than the 72 hours allowed by law.

Officials should quickly process these children, put ankle bracelets on them and hand them over to the adult guardians who were supposed to take custody on this side of the border.

After all, for a child, languishing in the custody of U.S. officials can be dangerous. The longer this goes on, the greater the odds that bad things happen.

One person who wants to get to the bottom of what happened - albeit solely for political reasons - is Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The Republican has standing in the matter because some of the alleged attacks took place at the Freeman Coliseum facility in San Antonio, which now houses more than 1,300 migrant children. Abbott claims that - in addition to allegations of sexual assault - his office has received complaints alleging at least three other forms of child abuse: an insufficient number of staffers to care for children, children not eating, and a failure to keep children who test positive for COVID-19 away from other children. The governor wants the facility closed, and he has ordered the Texas Rangers to investigate the abuse allegations.

Now we're talking. Good on Abbott. Of course, he was silent back in 2018 when similar allegations arose during the Trump years. Of course, he is a hypocrite and a hack. But given how corrupt our political system is with everyone so eager to cover up for the captains of their respective teams, Abbott may also be these kids' only hope of getting justice, getting help and getting to safety.

If Democrats object to Abbott taking the lead on this issue, they are free to join the fight and defend these kids on their own. If they're not prepared to do that because they don't want to embarrass or get sideways with a Democratic administration and a Democratic president, that's on them.

Democrats need to put up or shut up. Given how badly they performed the last time they were in this kind of tight spot - during the 2014 crisis, under Obama - I'd prefer the latter.

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Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His podcast, "Ruben in the Center," is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2021, The Washington Post Writers Group

RUBEN NAVARRETTE COLUMN

FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE

(For Navarrette clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

WRITETHRU: In 4th graf, 1st sentence, fixes number in parenthetical to 32.6% African American)

By RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.

SAN DIEGO - As Americans bicker over Georgia's new voting statute, I can't tell if we're all talking about the same law.

Supporters insist the legislation is simply about preventing voter fraud, preserving election integrity and making sure every vote counts.

That sounds lovely. But it's fiction.

What the Georgia law is really about is resisting demographic changes in the Peach State (which is now 10% Latino and 32.6% African American). It's about protecting White Republicans by discouraging non-whites from voting. And it's about calling attention away from the embarrassing fact that Republicans couldn't deliver a GOP-controlled state to Donald Trump in November, and that Georgia then went on to lose two Senate seats in runoffs in January.

Democrats could have stopped right there, made that argument and said nothing else. What fun would that be? Of course, they went further. They oversold their outrage, and made themselves look silly.

President Joe Biden has previously called the Georgia law "Jim Crow on steroids." This week, Biden doubled down on hyperbole when he said "these new Jim Crow laws are just antithetical to who we are."

That sounds awful. But it's just more fiction.

Here's the truth.

U.S. history, common sense and human nature tell us that voting bills come in only two varieties: those that expand the franchise, and those that limit it. The Republican-backed Georgia bill, which has been aggressively defended by Gov. Brian Kemp, falls into the second camp.

Context matters. The law comes after a string of GOP losses, which was fueled by historically high turnout among Latinos and African Americans. The bill should be titled "The Republican Protection Act," because it is designed to prevent the GOP from losing future elections in a Dixie state that is becoming more racially diverse.

Some big corporate players based in Atlanta -- namely Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines -- publicly condemned the Georgia bill. This angered cultural conservatives, who told the corporations to butt out because voting isn't about soft drinks or air travel.

That was dumb. Coca-Cola and Delta have presumably, over the years, paid millions of dollars in local and state taxes in Georgia. They have the right to speak up when the state takes a wrong turn.

Likewise, Major League Baseball had every right to decide that it didn't want to be associated with Georgia, and so it moved its annual All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver.

Conservatives insisted that Colorado has a voting system that is much like one that Georgia will now have.

What they miss is that Colorado didn't just pass a bill to restrict voting in response to changing demographics and election losses.

Meanwhile, this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was "quite stupid" for corporations to wade into political battles.

On Monday, McConnell told reporters at a press conference: "My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics. Don't pick sides in these big fights."

On Tuesday, McConnell dug himself in deeper when, at another press conference, he added this about corporate leaders: "They have the right to participate in the political process…[But] if I were running a major corporation, I'd stay out of politics."

This is the same Mitch McConnell who - having raised millions of dollars in the last few decades from corporate PAC's and private corporate donors - sucks up corporate contributions like a vacuum sucks up dust. McConnell has also spent years fighting against attempts to restrict corporate giving. Clearly, the Republican is interested in what corporate leaders give, but he couldn't care less what they think.

On Wednesday, McConnell corrected himself.

"I didn't say that very artfully yesterday. They're certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are. My principal complaint is they didn't read the darn bill."

My complaint about Republicans is that these tantrums over corporations that grow a conscience have shown them to be a bunch of phony hypocrites who don't believe in anything but their own survival.

The old Republicans hated whining, victimhood, cancel culture, racial fear mongering, identity politics and forcing Christian bakeries to bake cakes for same-sex weddings.

The new Republicans are whiny victims who use identity politics to scare White people, depict corporations as bullies and threaten to "cancel" companies that choose not to do business in a given state.

Now that it has gotten its feelings hurt by the backlash to the Georgia voting law, the GOP hasn't just lost its bearings. It has lost its mind.

- - -

Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His podcast, "Ruben in the Center," is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2021, The Washington Post Writers Group

About
Ruben Navarrette is a fresh and increasingly important voice in the national political debate. His twice-weekly column offers new thinking on many of the major issues of the day, especially on thorny questions involving ethnicity and national origin. His column is syndicated worldwide by The Washington Post Writers Group. Navarrette draws on both his knowledge of policy and politics and his life experiences to provide meaningful and hard-hitting commentary. He is a widely sought speaker on Latino affairs, has worked as a substitute teacher in classes from kindergarten to high school, and has hosted radio talk shows.
Books
  • A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano (1993)
  • Contributer to Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul (2000), of the best-selling "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series.
Awards
  • 2004 2nd place in the National Headliner Awards
  • 2006 3rd place in the National Headliners Awards presented by the Press Club of Atlantic City
  • 2002 & 2003, the Dallas Observer named him Best Columnist at a Daily Newspaper
Links