Opioid of the Masses

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A few Saturdays ago, my wife and I spent the morning volunteering at a community garden in our San Francisco neighborhood. After a few hours of casual labor, we and the other volunteers dispersed to our respective destinations: tasty brunches, day trips to wine country, art-gallery tours. It was a perfectly normal day, by San Francisco standards.

That very same Saturday, in the small Ohio town where I grew up, four people overdosed on heroin. A local police lieutenant coolly summarized the banality of it all: “It’s not all that unusual for a 24-hour period here.” He was right: in Middletown, Ohio, that too is a perfectly normal day.

Folks back home speak of heroin like an apocalyptic invader, something that assailed the town mysteriously and without warning. Yet the truth is that heroin crept slowly into Middletown’s families and communities—not by invasion but by invitation.

Very few Americans are strangers to addiction. Shortly before I graduated from law school, I learned that my own mother lay comatose in a hospital, the consequence of an apparent heroin overdose. Yet heroin was only her latest drug of choice. Prescription opioids—“hillbilly heroin” some call it, to highlight its special appeal among white working-class folks like us—had already landed Mom in the hospital and cost our family dearly in the decade before her first taste of actual heroin. And before her own father gave up the bottle in middle age, he was a notoriously violent drunk. In our community, there has long been a large appetite to dull the pain; heroin is just the newest vehicle.

Of course, the pain itself has increased in recent years, and it comes from many places. Some of it is economic, as the factories that provided many U.S. towns and cities material security have downsized or altogether ceased to exist. Some of it is aesthetic, as the storefronts that once made American towns beautiful and vibrant gave way to cash-for-gold stores and payday lenders. Some of it is domestic, as rising divorce rates reveal home lives as dependable as steel-mill jobs. Some of it is political, as Americans watch from afar while a government machine that rarely tries to speak to them, and acts in their interests even less, sputters along. And some of it is cultural, from the legitimate humiliation of losing wars fought by the nation’s children to the illegitimate sense that some fall behind only because others jump ahead.

It enters minds, not through lungs or veins, but through eyes and ears, and its name is Donald Trump.

During this election season, it appears that many Americans have reached for a new pain reliever. It too, promises a quick escape from life’s cares, an easy solution to the mounting social problems of U.S. communities and culture. It demands nothing and requires little more than a modest presence and maybe a few enablers. It enters minds, not through lungs or veins, but through eyes and ears, and its name is Donald Trump.

Last Sunday, the day before Memorial Day, I met a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War at a local coffee shop. “I was lucky,” he told me. “At least I came home. A lot of my buddies didn’t. The thing is, the media still talks about us like we lost that war! I like to think my dead friends accomplished something.” Imagine, for that man, the vengeful joy of a Trump rally. That brief feeling of power, of defiance, of sending a message to the very political and media establishment that, for 45 years, has refused to listen. Trump brings power to those who hate their lack of it, and his message is tonic to communities that have felt nothing but decline for decades.

In some ways, Trump’s large, national coalition defies easy characterization. He draws from a broad base of good people: kind folks who open their homes and hearts to people of all colors and creeds, married couples with happy homes and families who live nearby, public servants who put their lives on the line to fight fires in their communities. Not all Trump voters spend their days searching for an analgesic.

Yet a common thread among Trump’s faithful, even among those whose individual circumstances remain unspoiled, is that they hail from broken communities. These are places where good jobs are impossible to come by. Where people have lost their faith and abandoned the churches of their parents and grandparents. Where the death rates of poor white people go up even as the death rates of all other groups go down. Where too many young people spend their days stoned instead of working and learning.

Many years ago, our neighbor (and my grandma’s old friend) in Middletown moved out and rented his house on a Section 8 voucher—a federal program that offers housing subsidies to low-income people. One of the first folks to move in called her landlord to report a leaky roof. By the time the landlord arrived, he discovered the woman naked on her couch. After calling him, she had started the water for a bath, gotten high, and passed out. Forget about the original leak, now much of the upstairs—including her and her children’s possessions—was completely destroyed. Not every Trump voter lives like this woman, but nearly every Trump voter knows someone who does.

Though the details differ, men and women like my neighbor represent, in the aggregate, a social crisis of historic proportions. There is no group of people hurtling more quickly to social decay. No group of people fears the future more, dies with such frequency from heroin, and exposes its children to such significant domestic chaos. Not long ago, a teacher who works with at-risk youth in my hometown told me, “We’re expected to be shepherds to these children, but they’re all raised by wolves.” And those wolves are here—not coming in from Mexico, not prowling the halls of power in Washington or Wall Street—but here in ordinary American communities and families and homes.

Trump’s promises are the needle in America’s collective vein.

What Trump offers is an easy escape from the pain. To every complex problem, he promises a simple solution. He can bring jobs back simply by punishing offshoring companies into submission. As he told a New Hampshire crowd—folks all too familiar with the opioid scourge—he can cure the addiction epidemic by building a Mexican wall and keeping the cartels out. He will spare the United States from humiliation and military defeat with indiscriminate bombing. It doesn’t matter that no credible military leader has endorsed his plan. He never offers details for how these plans will work, because he can’t. Trump’s promises are the needle in America’s collective vein.

The great tragedy is that many of the problems Trump identifies are real, and so many of the hurts he exploits demand serious thought and measured action—from governments, yes, but also from community leaders and individuals. Yet so long as people rely on that quick high, so long as wolves point their fingers at everyone but themselves, the nation delays a necessary reckoning. There is no self-reflection in the midst of a false euphoria. Trump is cultural heroin. He makes some feel better for a bit. But he cannot fix what ails them, and one day they’ll realize it.

I’m not sure when or how that realization arrives: maybe in a few months, when Trump loses the election; maybe in a few years, when his supporters realize that even with a President Trump, their homes and families are still domestic war zones, their newspapers’ obituaries continue to fill with the names of people who died too soon, and their faith in the American Dream continues to falter. But it will come, and when it does, I hope Americans cast their gaze to those with the most power to address so many of these problems: each other. And then, perhaps the nation will trade the quick high of “Make America Great Again” for real medicine.

Your Editor Asks: Is this the answer?

The New Voter Pool in Florida: Puerto Ricans

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Teresa Otero flies a Puerto Rican flag during an outdoor festival for a Latin radio station’s anniversary in Kissimmee, Fla

More than a quarter-million Puerto Ricans have moved to the mainland U.S. since 2008, an exodus driven by the island’s faltering economy. About a third have settled in Florida, where there are now more than 1 million Puerto Rican-born residents—almost equal to the number of Cubans. The influx into the nation’s biggest swing state has created a tantalizing prize for presidential candidates. Although Puerto Ricans traditionally lean Democratic, candidates on both sides are investing heavily in courting these newcomers, who, as U.S. citizens, are eligible to vote in Florida’s March 15 primary and in the November general election.

In February, Hillary Clinton opened a campaign office in Orlando, at the heart of central Florida’s Interstate 4 corridor, where the Puerto Rican population is concentrated. Donald Trump’s campaign sent volunteers there to distribute bumper stickers and lawn signs. Marco Rubio, who successfully pushed for a regiment of Puerto Rican veterans known as the Borinqueneers to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, also plans to open an office in the city. “The epitome of swing votes are Puerto Rican voters,” says Christina Hernandez, a Democratic consultant who’s worked for Clinton and President Obama. “These are the most swing voters in the most swing areas of the most swing state of the entire country.”

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The tug of war over the Puerto Rican vote has been quietly going on for years. In 2012 the Libre Initiative, a political advocacy group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, opened an Orlando office offering English-language classes and discussions about how free markets and an evangelical faith reflect Puerto Rican values. Libre’s Florida staff has grown to five from one in 2012, and it’s opening a second office, in Tampa. In March it will make its first foray onto the island, hosting a booth at an exposition targeting Florida-bound residents.

A growing number of Puerto Ricans in Florida are registering as independents, says Mark Lopez, director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center. Unaffiliated Hispanic voters in the I-4 corridor have grown 16 percent since 2012, compared with a 9 percent increase in overall Hispanic registrations, according to state figures. “I’ve spent a lot of time in that community the last two years,” says Florida Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Republican. “They want to make sure that they have a job and that their children can have a job. They want to make sure their kids get a great education.”

The party is also tapping into the disillusionment of Puerto Ricans with their own island government, which is $72 billion in debt and defaulted on some of its bonds in January. Five of the past six governors of Puerto Rico have been Democrats. “It’s an easy story,” says Bertica Cabrera Morris, a Republican consultant in Orlando. “You left Puerto Rico, your island paradise, to come here, and now you’re going to support the party that screwed you?”

Democrats aren’t letting Puerto Ricans go easily. In 2011, Obama became the first sitting president since John F. Kennedy to pay an official visit to the island, earning him a life-size bronze statue in San Juan. Clinton, who won the island’s Democratic primary in 2008, visited in September; she’s secured the endorsement of Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin. In February she publicly chided Wall Street for its unwillingness to let the island restructure its debt. “Holding the future of Puerto Rico hostage to maximize profits for a group of hedge funds isn’t who we are as a nation,” she said in a statement.

In Washington, congressional Democrats are pushing to give the territory the right to file for bankruptcy protection. Republicans argue that the island should reduce spending and honor its debts to bondholders. With Congress deadlocked, Puerto Rico’s future could be decided by the next president. That’s not lost on Josany Cordero, a mother of three who’s working at her aunt’s restaurant in Kissimmee, south of Orlando, while she decides whether to move permanently from her home in Bayamón, near San Juan. She says she’d register as an independent and vote for Clinton: “I know this person will be good for the United States and help Puerto Rico.”

Your Editor Asks:

Why was New York a destination for Puertorricans for so long?

The Future of Latino Politics

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pizzafistThe sad decline in race relations has focused, almost exclusively, on the age-old, and sadly growing, chasm between black and white. Yet this divide may prove far less important, particularly in this election, than the direction of the Latino community.

This may be the first election where Latinos, now the nation’s largest minority group, may directly alter the result, courtesy of the race baiting by GOP nominee Donald Trump. If the GOP chooses to follow his nativist pattern, it may be time to write off the Republican Party nationally, much as has already occurred in California.

Today, Latinos represent 17 percent of the nation’s population; by 2050, they will account for roughly one in four Americans. Their voting power, as the GOP is likely to learn, to its regret this year, is also growing steadily, to 12 percent of eligible voters this year, and an estimated 18 percent by 2028.

Political geography may prove as critical here as rising numbers. African Americans, for historic reason, are heavily concentrated in deep blue cities, simply padding already existing Democratic supermajorities, or in the deep red South, where they are overwhelmed by a conservative white majority. In contrast, Latinos represent a growing constituency in critical swing states such as Florida, where they constitute one-fifth of the electorate, as well Virginia, Nevada, Colorado and, thanks to the genius of Donald Trump, perhaps even Arizona.

The next African Americans or the new Italians?

Not even considered a separate racial group by the U.S. Census Bureau until 1970, Latinos encompass many cultures and racial backgrounds – from purely European to heavily Native American and African, with lots of mixing in between. Unlike African Americans, the Latino experience has not been forged by the crime of slavery, the primary source of our deep-seated racial discontent. Latinos either predated Anglos in Texas or the Southwest, or came here later to seek opportunity and improvement.

Latinos, then, are more akin to Italians, an ethnic group who also came to this country largely poor and undereducated, than to African Americans. Like Latinos today, 19th century Italians were not generally cast in a good light by the ruling establishment. The New York Times in 1875 labelled them unflatteringly as “the Chinese of Europe.” Like all groups, Italians had their share of bad apples – the Mafia, for starters – but most were hard-working, family people. Over the years, they have succeeded and become property owners. They are hardly monolithic politically, having produced such progressive icons as Mario Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio as well as conservative heroes like Rudy Giuliani.

In contrast, African Americans have, arguably, to their disadvantage, become a political monolith, voting 90 percent Democratic in virtually every major election. Since Richard Nixon’s first race for the White House garnered 32 percent of the African American vote, no GOP presidential contender has won more the 15 percent, and in the Obama years it’s been less than half of that.

Latinos, at least pre-Trump, have been a contestable constituency. In 2004, Latino voters gave George W. Bush 40 percent of their votes. The GOP also has produced a strong group of Latino elected officials – Gov. Susan Martinez of New Mexico, Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. On the state level, notably in Texas, the Latino vote has been highly contested; current Gov. Greg Abbott received 44 percent of Latino votes in his election victory over a white, pro-choice Democrat beloved by the party’s white liberal base.

What works after The Donald?

Even before Trump, the need for GOP candidates to pander to nativist sentiments damaged Republican credibility among Latinos. The GOP brand is now so tarnished that Trump may actually do as “well” – that is, roughly 25 percent – as did Mitt Romney. Over time, this is the kind of performance that assures political death.

Perhaps the most damaging long-term effect of Trumpism may be to drive Latinos to adopt the kind of racial identity politics already threatening to tear this republic apart. That African Americans have adopted this approach – which relies heavily on central government intervention to address serious problems – is understandable, given their historical experience. But whether this works for immigrants, whatever their ethnicity, and their children, is dubious.

Ironically, Latinos have tended to do better in those deep red states, notably Texas, where broad based economic growth – particularly in blue-collar fields like energy, home construction and manufacturing – has taken place. Overall, Latinos suffer less unemployment, and achieve higher rates of homeownership and business ownership, in the Lone Star State than in progressive California. To be sure, real poverty may afflict many Texas Latinos, as it does in California, particularly in rural areas, but they tend to have a smaller gap with whites than here in the Golden State, where, according to the United Ways of California, half of Latino households barely make enough to pay their basic expenses. In Los Angeles, the number rises to 54 percent.

Latinos and the future of the Democratic Party

Due in part to Trump, the real action in Latino politics for now will be within the Democratic Party. In California, Latinos seem to be dividing between pro-growth, pro-business pragmatists and a more ideologically driven progressive faction that celebrates identity politics and adheres to the general progressive agenda that prioritizes redistribution over economic growth.

Some activists also would like to see Latinos adopt the confrontational, anti-police politics now so widespread in the African American community. Others, like California state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, have cozied up to the green and smart-growth agenda favored by padrones like San Francisco hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer.

Overall, the hard green agenda seems a poor fit for Latinos, many of whom work in industries – manufacturing, construction and agriculture – most affected by draconian regulatory policies favored by Steyer and his crowd. Sacramento’s desire to force higher energy prices is particularly harmful to Latinos, many of whom live in the hot interior of California.

The state’s draconian planning and regulatory policies also have continued to make California a “no go” place for most industrial firms, have stymied home construction and are preparing a graveyard for much of the agribusiness industry. Latinos constitute two-thirds of all agricultural workers, and are twice as likely as other Californians to tell pollsters that the drought was having “a major impact” on their lives.

This divergence between progressive politics and economic self-interest provides a natural opening for more pro-business Democrats, like Rep. Loretta Sanchez, in her U.S. Senate race against predictably leftist California Attorney General Kamala Harris of San Francisco. She leads Harris two-to-one among Latinos, according to some polls. If Sanchez can meld her Latino, largely Southern California base with middle-of-the-road, and even conservative, Republicans and independents, she could begin to reshape the future of California politics.

Latinos and the birth of multiracial America

Such a mediating role for Latinos could help slow the racialism that is creeping into both parties. It is not healthy that the Democratic Party is almost 40 percent minority, while the GOP is 90 percent white. Some progressives openly see Trump’s effort as a “white America’s sad last stand.” It is, thus, no surprise that many whites may see the Democratic Party as seeking to decimate both their place in society and their heritage.

Joel Kotkin is an R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism in Houston. His newest book is “The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us.”

Your Editor Takes Sides: The final verdict will be on what each party stands for. And its reflection will be based on how many voters each stand attracts. Count me in with the Democratic Party for now. 

Hispanic Media Covering This Election Differently

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Jorge Ramos and Alicia Menendez interview Presidential candidate Gary Johnson and Vice Presidential candidate William Weld during Fusion’s Libertarian Presidential Forum on August 17. Mark Lima FUSION

By Rene Rodríguez The Miami Herald

It’s 10:30 a.m. on the morning after the second presidential debate, and Ricardo Brown is live on the air on WURN-AM Actualidad Radio hosting his daily political talk show “Panorama Nacional.” But instead of a heated analysis of how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fared during their latest showdown, Brown is speaking softly, Vivaldi playing in the background, telling his listeners he’s in the mood for peace and quiet.

Brown even tells his co-host María Fernanda Silva that he’s considering taking a long vacation until Nov. 9, when the election will have been settled. A little while later, at the radio station’s offices in Doral, Brown says he wasn’t kidding about taking a break. Only his smile implies he’s not serious.

“I try to stick to the middle of the road when I’m covering elections, but this one has been difficult because you keep getting hit by trucks going in both directions,” he says. “I’m getting bored. I want this election to be over soon. In fact, I want the next four years to be over soon. No matter who wins or loses, the next four years are going to be gridlock in Washington. We’ll survive as a nation. Heck, we survived the Civil War. But I’m bored. I wish I was a bear. I want to hibernate until this is all over.”

Brown’s candidness about his election fatigue is refreshing. It’s hard to imagine an English-language news personality of his stature — an Emmy award-winning correspondent and reporter who has covered stories for Univision, Telemundo and CBS Telenoticias in more than 50 countries over four decades — being this frank and off-the-cuff.

But in the present-day of South Florida’s Spanish-language TV and radio, a personal connection edges out political agendas. This more moderate, restrained tone is a radical departure from what Hispanic media in Miami used to be in the 1980s and ’90s: an often bitter landscape dominated by hardliners who raged at Castro’s regime and stoked public sentiment against anyone they deemed sympathetic to communist governments. In 1976, a car bomb severed the legs of WQBA host Emilio Milian, who had denounced extremist Cubans on the air.

We are part of the Latino community and we serve it, but we’re not here to tell them how to think.

José Diaz-Balart, Noticiero Telemundo co-anchor

Today, though, Hispanic media have evolved and caught up with their English-language counterparts — not just in terms of professionalism, but also in importance and advertising. That sophistication is critical in earning the attention of U.S. Latinos, who account for 17.6 percent of the country’s inhabitants and wield 11.3 percent of its purchasing power. In 2015, overall spending on U.S. Hispanic media (including TV, radio, newspapers and magazines) totaled $7.83 billion.

President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney spent eight times more money in 2012 on Spanish-language ads than in 2008. 2016’s totals won’t come anywhere near that, since Trump has spent no money on Hispanic media advertising. But the increase proves the growing importance of courting Spanish speakers, whose numbers continue to grow.

In direct impact, the dollars spent on Spanish-language media buys in the presidential campaigns are relatively insignificant. As of mid-September, the campaign of Democrat Hilary Clinton had spent only $2.5 million of its total $110 million general election advertising buy with Spanish-language broadcasters on TV and radio. Republican candidate Donald Trump’s campaign has spent less than $19 million overall, with $0 devoted to Hispanic media. Overall, the two candidates have spent a total of $56.8 million in the state of Florida.

But an election year brings a windfall to news outlets in both languages. Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group projects that an estimated $4.4 billion will be spent on TV ads for the 2016 election, an increase from $3.8 billion in 2012.

And although nightly news programming can’t compete with filmed entertainment in the ratings game, prominent Spanish-language news and radio personalities can use their reportage to build their audiences and establish loyalty over the course of the election cycle, particularly among populations whose own histories have been marked by dictatorships. In media businesses, the larger the audience, the more the outlets can charge advertisers of all types.

And then, of course, there is the influence of the voters on the election outcome. According to a poll released by Univision earlier this month, 60 percent of Hispanic registered voters in Florida would vote for Clinton if the election were held today. The percentage was even greater in other states such as Nevada (65 percent) and Colorado and Arizona (66 percent).

In an election year when immigration has become an intensely debated issue, the 27.3 million U.S. Hispanics eligible to vote — an increase from the 23.3 million in 2012 — could determine the results in critical swing states such as Florida. Yet according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, only 69 percent of registered Latino voters say they are “absolutely certain” they will vote in this year’s election, down from 2012’s 77 percent. The study also showed that 33 percent of eligible Latino voters who say they will not cast a vote on Nov. 8 cite a dislike of both candidates, while 22 percent don’t feel their vote would make a difference.

The balance

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José Diaz-Balart is the only news anchor to reach viewers on two major networks in Spanish and English. He is the co-anchor of Telemundo’s nightly national 6:30 p.m. newscast and anchors the Saturday evening edition of NBC Nightly News. Jose A. Iglesias jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

Reflecting the importance of that vote, Spanish-language news media has taken a stance on the election that is noticeably more neutral and balanced than their English-language counterparts, where cable TV stations (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC) and radio personalities (Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity) are often synonymous with the candidate they favor.

“We are part of the Latino community and we serve it, but we’re not here to tell them how to think,” says José Diaz-Balart, the co-anchor of Telemundo’s nightly national 6:30 p.m. newscast and host of the network’s Sunday public affairs program “Enfoque.” “The beauty of Telemundo is that we’re serving a community with passion and respect but not being activists. We’re here to give people as wide a perspective of information as possible so they can make up their own minds.”

Diaz-Balart also anchors the Saturday evening edition of NBC Nightly News from New York and appears on “Meet the Press” every month.

“The bilingual community in South Florida is probably the best representative of how informed Hispanics around the U.S. are,” he says. “They are extremely well-versed in issues you would have to explain in-depth in other parts of the country, whether you’re talking about the desaparecidos in Iguala or the peace deal in Colombia. That depth of knowledge shows how wrong the misconception some have that the Spanish-speaking audience only cares about immigration.”

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But immigration — Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, Syrian refugees, anti-Muslim sentiment — is a key factor in this year’s election. No other Spanish-language journalist has hit the subject harder than Jorge Ramos, the co-anchor of Univision’s nightly news show since 1988.

Ramos, who also hosts the weekly English-language “America with Jorge Ramos” program on Fusion, was born in Mexico and has been one of Trump’s most vocal critics. In August 2015, he made national news after squaring off against the Republican nominee during a press conference in Iowa, even getting booted out of the room by Trump’s security staff at one point.

Although Ramos was criticized by some of his journalistic peers for allowing himself to become the center of the story instead of reporting it, he remains unrepentant.

“I’m just a journalist asking questions,” he says about the charges of activism some have leveled at him. “The problem is not with me. The problem is when you have a candidate who makes sexist and racist remarks. Our role as journalists is to challenge those who are in power.

“Trump is the most disruptive and divisive political figure in generations. He has attacked the press more than any other candidate than I can remember in this country. The only other person who has blocked me with bodyguards was Fidel Castro in 1990. That’s why this is a unique election, because of the candidate. But for us, it’s also unique because it’s the largest number of Latinos eligible to vote. We have 28 million Latinos eligible to vote. Hopefully, we’ll have a larger percentage than the 42 percent who turned out to vote in 2012.”

Engagement

Both Univision and Telemundo have aggressively courted viewers to register to vote. Eduardo Suñol, vice president of Telemundo News Digital, says the network launched its #YoDecido (I Decide) public service campaign and website last year as a way of keeping viewers informed while also stressing the importance of their vote, particularly the 18-34 demographic. The network launched a Telemundo News App for Android and iOS devices that live-streams content and breaking news and will allow users to follow voting results in the Presidential, Senate and House elections on Nov. 8 in real time.

Along with PBS NewsHour and MSNBC, Telemundo also partnered with Microsoft Pulse to allow viewers to use their mobile devices and computers to react live to the presidential debates as they happen.

“We had 600,000 users in the first debate, and we were able to see exactly whether they were male or female, Democrat or Republican or Independent, and the exact moments they agreed or disagreed with live,” Suñol says. “It’s an amazing tool we didn’t have in the past. It’s like having a voting machine in your living room. And our news app will allow our audience not to have to wait for someone to tell them the results.

“When I was 18 and living in Cuba, I loved to take my girlfriend out to the Malecón and whisper beautiful things in her ear under the moonlight. Today, you can still take your girlfriend there and whisper in her ear, but you could be checking the election results at the same time.”

75% of Hispanics in Miami are foreign-born

Univision’s “Destino 2016” political coverage encompasses TV and online coverage, including a strong engagement on social media via its “Univision Politica” feed on Facebook and Twitter, which has a combined following of nearly 700,000. Carlos Chirinos, the senior political editor for Univision Digital, says Univision’s broadcast of the first presidential debate in September via Facebook Live was the third most-watched of any news outlet, after Fox and the New York Times. Interestingly, the English-language version edged out the Spanish-language version of the debate, which is translated live by a staff of seven.

“That shows we have an audience that is bilingual and prefers to hear the candidates in English,” Chirinos says. “Some of our most-read pieces every day are posted on Univision News [the network’s English-language site, which was launched in June]. The first that happened, we were astonished.”

Lourdes Torres, senior vice-president of politics and special projects for Univision, says the network is constantly thinking of ways to get their viewers involved in the Presidential race, but on their own terms.

“For the first debate, we had Jorge Hernández, the lead singer of [the socially-outspoken norteño band] Los Tigres del Norte,” she says. “For the second debate, we had the [Oscar-nominated] Mexican actor Demián Bichir. The opinion of people like them means a lot more to our viewers than some Democratic or Republican spokesperson or analyst.”

On the radio

Even more than television, Spanish-language talk radio in South Florida has transformed itself into a far more sophisticated and inviting arena than it was 20 years ago. According to a recent report by Nielsen Media Research, 97 percent of the nearly 57 million Hispanics in the U.S. tune in to radio every week, with nearly 10 percent of them listening to talk shows.

In South Florida, as in the rest of the country, FM’s dominance over AM continues to grow. But talk radio is so deeply engrained in Latin American culture that corporate giants such as Univision, CBS and iHeart Media have all acquired AM stations in Miami over the last 15 years that previously operated independently.

“Hispanic media in Miami went through a revolution after 2000,” says Dario Moreno, a political consultant and professor of political science at Florida International University. “First you had the consolidation of the old Spanish media, especially AM talk radio, under Univision. A lot of the decision-making authority was taken out of Miami and put into corporate, so radio now has a more corporate attitude.

“Then came the rise of immigration as a national U.S. issue,” Moreno says. “You saw that start to happen in the 2004 and 2008 elections. Jorge Ramos took a very pro-immigration public stance, and that started to change a lot of the tone of Spanish-language broadcasts. U.S. foreign policy became the main subject. And then you had a demographic revolution. An increasingly larger of the viewers and listeners of these stations are increasingly non-Cuban. News coverage is no longer Cuba-centric.

“When Cubans made up 90 percent of the listening audience in the 1980s, Spanish-language radio in Miami tended to be a mirror of English-language conservative talk radio, where you were preaching to the converted,” he says. “As the community became more diversified, radio has had to become more diverse to maintain their listenership. It’s a simple matter of market forces.”

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About 75 percent of Hispanics in Miami are foreign-born — a larger percentage than in any other city in the U.S. (By comparison, 57 percent of Hispanics in New York and 50 percent in Los Angeles were born in another country). Oscar Haza, a veteran journalist and South Florida radio personality who currently hosts the morning drive-time show on WCMQ-FM Z92, says the breadth and depth of the conversation of South Florida’s Spanish-language radio is a reflection of the diversity of the area’s Latino population.

“People tell me we talk too much about Cuba and Venezuela, but that’s because they continue to be the news,” he says. “In the 1980s, we also talked about Panama and Nicaragua and Haiti. Miami is the capital of Latin America, and every time there is a political crisis that forces people out of their countries to come here, they create news. That’s why the Spanish-language media in Miami will always thrive. We keep getting replenished.”

Endurance

Haza also argues that Hispanic media has one advantage over their English-language competition: They don’t take sides.

“We’re seeing a lot of things we’ve never seen before with this election,” he says. “The debates have shown the usual limits are broken. There’s no etiquette any more. They use every low blow imaginable. And with polarizing issues, the press often becomes the scapegoat. People generalize as if we were all the same. There’s no one more radical than Rush Limbaugh or more sensationalist than Bill O Reilly. We’re much more balanced than those guys. We give Democrats and Republicans equal air time. I think we’ve come a long way.”

Fernand Amandi, a partner at the polling firm Bendixen & Amandi International who is also teaching a course on the 2016 election at the University of Miami, sees a similar evolution in South Florida’s airwaves.

“This market has always been unique in that the last 30 years, there have been multiple outlets on TV and radio talking about politics in Spanish on a daily basis,” says Amandi, who also hosts a morning talk show on WIOD. “Miami-Dade was one of the pioneering counties in this arena. And what used to be a uniformly Republican-leaning, Cuban focus is much more diversified today. There’s always been this pejorative sense that Spanish-language media has always been of an inferior quality. But the people working in South Florida radio today are all respected journalists who happen to be Spanish-dominant. They are doing a great job presenting this election from all perspectives and filters.”

The founding fathers of this country hated each other. But there was a level of civility.

Ricardo Brown, host of WURN-AM “Panorama Nacional”

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Ricardo Brown hosts the popular morning weekday talk show “Panorama Nacional” at WURN-AM Radio Actualidad on Monday October 10, 2016 C.M. GUERRERO.cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.comB

Actualidad Radio’s Brown is one of them. Born in Cuba and raised in a working-class neighborhood in the south end of Hartford, Conn., he served in the military during the Vietnam War (he was stationed in Newport, R.I.) and began his career working for a local NBC TV station before making the switch to Spanish media.

“I feel very Cuban, but I adore the U.S.,” he says. “I’m one of those corny people who gets really emotional when I hear the national anthem, because of the life I’ve had in this country. I love American history. I’ve read all of Lincoln’s debates. His opponents called him an ape. The founding fathers of this country hated each other. Jefferson hated Hamilton and Adams. Adams hated Hamilton. But there was a level of civility.

“I’m still an idealist,” he says. “So it hurts when these campaigns become so bitter and people start saying these ugly things. I have a lot of friends who are for Hillary and a lot of friends who are for Trump, and they hate each other. There’s nothing wrong with people getting passionate, but it’s just gotten out of hand. Maybe it’s our fault, the media. I don’t know. So I’m thinking about closing down my Twitter and Facebook accounts and just going to a monastery.”

The following morning, though, Brown was back on the air, doing his job.

Your Editor Asks: Are these journalists pillars of a bilingual society, or just its reflections.

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