Donald Trump’s tough guy act is just that, an act

On the first day of class, I always inform my university students that I hold two PhDs. One from a premier research institution, UC Berkeley, and another from one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country, East Los Angeles’ Ramona Gardens housing project or Big Hazard projects (named after the notorious gang). While I’ve relied on my research and analytic skills to critique Donald Trump, as the Republican presidential nominee, I’ve also depended on my street smarts to deconstruct his extreme politics and erratic behavior.

While political candidates, pundits, cable news anchors and journalists become bewildered with Trump, I grew up with his type: wannabe tough guys, bullies and hustlers. To comprehend and stop Trump, critics and opponents must understand him under these categories, among others, like xenophobic, racist, misogynist and liar.

Apart from compassionate and loyal friends, I also grew up with true tough guys. Thus, if I were debating Trump, to paraphrase the late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX), I would launch a similar verbal attack that Sen. Bentsen used to demolish then-Sen. Dan Quayle (R-IND) in the 1988 vice-presidential debate. “Trump, I grew up with tough guys. I knew tough guys. Tough guys were friends of mine. Trump, you’re no tough guy.”

It’s amazing to me that Trump gets away with this tough guy persona, boasting about punching protestors in the face, killing the families of terrorists, waterboarding suspected terrorists and relying on guns and bombs to resolve domestic and international conflicts. This is the same guy who secured five deferments to avoid the Vietnam War, according to the New York Times (August 1, 2016). Speaking of guns, has Trump ever experienced a life or death situation? Growing up in the projects, I witnessed and experienced many deadly and precarious situations. For instance, while learning how to drive, as a 16-year-old, a cop pointed a gun at me. My crime? I failed to make a complete stop.

If he’s really a tough guy, I invite him to my old barrio—without private bodyguards, Secret Service agents and local police—to reassert his claim that Mexican immigrants constitute “drug dealers,” “criminals” and “rapists.” If he can’t repeat these racist generalizations directly to the people he’s attacking, then he’s a coward. Similarly, during his recent trip to Mexico, why didn’t “Mr. Tough Guy” directly demand that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto pay for his absurd wall?

Moreover, by viscously attacking Mexican immigrants, one of the most vulnerable groups in this country, Trump has cemented his bully credentials. Like the bullies roaming our schools, neighborhoods and parks, Trump preys on individuals who can’t defend themselves. He’s behaves like a 6th grader who insults 3rd graders and takes their lunch money. If voters elect Trump, they’ll legitimize his brutish and infantile behavior both domestically and internationally, reaffirming the “Ugly American” reputation.  

Furthermore, Trump is a hustler. While the term “hustle” has positive and negative connotations on the streets, as it pertains to Trump, it refers to people who take advantage of others for personal gains. We had a few of them in the projects. For example, I was hustled a few times after lending money to childhood friends who never paid back. On one memorable occasion, a hustler sold my sister a car battery that he stole from her red Nissan the prior day. (Fortunately, he gave her a discount.) Eventually, these individuals secure bad reputations, where they can’t be trusted.

In terms of his business reputation, in addition to legal turmoil surrounding Trump University, hasn’t Trump been sued by many individuals / vendors who didn’t receive payment for their services? According to USA Today (June 9, 2016), Trump’s companies have been involved in thousands of lawsuits during the past 30 years, where, on many cases, he or his companies have been accused of not paying bills.

Additionally, hustlers will say anything you want to hear to serve their self-interest. They conveniently change their message or tone when it benefits them. Just ask the former members of Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council, like Alfonso Aguilar and Jacob Monty, who, among others, resigned after listening to Trump’s extremist, anti-immigration speech in Arizona on August 31, 2016. I’m astonished that it took these Latino Republicans so long to learn that Trump was hustling them all along. Essentially, like the black Republican supporters / surrogates, these foolish Latinos were used as token brown faces in a mostly white Republican presidential campaign and political party.

At the end of the day, if he becomes the next President of the United States, Trump would have orchestrated one of the biggest hustles in American history.

Huerta is an assistant professor of urban and regional planning and ethnic and women’s studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He is the author of “Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm,” published by San Diego State University Press (2013).



The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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