Former President Barack Obama mocked Hispanics who voted for President Donald Trump, pro-lifers, and conservative Christians in one statement. He suggested that pro-Trump Hispanics betrayed their race in exchange for less consequential evangelical issues.
“People were surprised about a lot of Hispanic folks who voted for Trump,” Obama said, referring to the fact that in 2020, Trump outperformed his 2016 numbers in 78 of the nation’s 100 majority-Hispanic counties. He also improved his margins with Hispanics in exit polls in the top 10 battleground states.
Obama attributed this shift to conservative religious views, suggesting that opposition to gay marriage and abortion distracted Hispanics from issues they should care about, like race.
“There’s a lot of evangelical Hispanics who, the fact that Trump says racist things about Mexicans, or puts detainees — you know undocumented workers — in cages, they think that’s less important than the fact that he supports their views on gay marriage or abortion,” Obama said.
Obama on @breakfastclubam: “… There’s a lot of evangelical Hispanics who, the fact that Trump says racist things about Mexicans, or puts undocumented workers in cages, they think that’s less important than the fact that he supports their views on gay marriage or abortion." pic.twitter.com/8OpocwYrLV
— The Recount (@therecount) November 25, 2020
Many Hispanics, as well as pro-life Americans and evangelical Christians, found this interpretation extremely offensive.
“A lot of things are wrong with Barack Obama’s condescending remarks about conservative Hispanics. Chief among them is that Donald Trump never ran opposed to gay marriage, as Obama has in the past,” Giancarlo Sopo, a Catholic Hispanic Trump campaign staffer tweeted.
Steve Cortes, a Hispanic and senior advisor for strategy on the Trump campaign, also pushed back on Obama’s comments. “Obama insults Hispanics, says we only voted for Trump because of faith/social issues. As important as life issues are, the economic factors drove most working-class voters to Trump, including Latinos,” he argued.
Obama insults Hispanics, says we only voted for Trump because of faith/social issues.
As important as life issues are, the economic factors drove most working-class voters to Trump, including Latinos.
— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) November 25, 2020
Republicans like Cortes are not the only ones to note Hispanics’ focus on economic issues. “Most Latinos identify first as working-class Americans, and Trump spoke to that,” Josh Zaragoza, a top Democratic data specialist in Arizona, told Politico. Zaragoza noted that Hispanic men in particular “are very entrepreneurial. Their economic language is more aligned with the way Republicans speak: pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, owning your own business.”
Former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) argued that Obama’s comment provided “a great example of why Democrats are losing support in America’s Hispanic community. The comment is dismissive of millions of people and seems to diminish their faith. Regrettable at a time when the President-elect has called for healing and reconciliation.”
While it is fundamentally insulting for Obama to suggest that Hispanics were wrong to place evangelical Christianity ahead of racial identity politics, his remarks also twisted Trump’s record and misinterpreted the Christian positions on key issues.
Matt Walsh pointed out three key problems with Obama’s remarks. “First of all, Obama built the cages. Second, Hispanics would be right to care more about the slaughter of the unborn than mean stuff Trump has said. Third, literally no one thinks Trump is opposed to gay marriage or cares one way or another about the issue,” he tweeted.
Walsh is correct: the Obama administration built the “cages” for which the Left loves to blame President Trump. The viral photos of immigrants sleeping on the concrete floor also date from Obama’s tenure, in 2015. The Obama administration also “separated families at the border,” engaging in the very immigration policies Democrats suddenly decided were beyond the pale when Trump presided over them.
Yet Obama’s attack on evangelical Christians who vote against abortion and for religious freedom was also extremely offensive. Trump has arguably proven himself the most outspokenly pro-life president in American history, when it comes to policy and by making history at the March for Life earlier this year. Obama minimized the horrific slaughter of innocents in the womb, the Left’s increasing support for forcing taxpayers to fund abortion, and Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D-Va.) horrific support for allowing babies who survive abortion attempts to die without effective care.
Obama’s remarks on gay marriage fell widely off the mark. Evangelical Christians support Trump not because we think he would reverse Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) and make same-sex marriage illegal, but because we know he defended religious freedom, allowing Christian bakers, florists, and other artists to refuse to lend their artistic voice to celebrate same-sex weddings. Conservative Christians face ostracism and demonization for disagreeing with the increasingly stifling LGBT orthodoxy.
In one statement, Obama managed to insult conservative Hispanics, minimize the importance of abortion, and dismiss evangelicals as bigoted. Then again, this is the same politician who condemned the people who “get bitter” and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”
Rhetoric like this explains why so many Americans rejected Obama’s hand-picked successor in 2016, and why so many of them elected Republicans to restrain Joe Biden in 2020.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.