Aug. 31 2016 11:02 AM

MSU professor’s Trump embrace irks Latino community

The former interim director of Chicano and Latino studies at Michigan State University, Joseph Guzman, is seen, in glasses, to the left of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the Aug. 19 rally in Dimondale, in this screenshot from CNN.

He’s Latino. He’s a long-time Republican. He’s supporting Donald Trump for the presidency.

And he’s an outlier in his Hispanic community, which by margins unprecedented in modern politics has aligned against the Republican nominee.

“First of all I am a Republican — a longtime Republican — I make no secret of that,” said Joseph Guzman, the former interim director of Chicano and Latino Studies at Michigan State University. “And I support the nominee of our party.”

Latino and Chicano activists have taken to social media to protest his support of the controversial nominee. They say Trump has attacked the community with a series of racist comments. Like accusing an Indiana-born federal judge of bias because of his Mexican descent. Of comparing Mexicans to “killers and rapists.” Of saying that “when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.”

Guzman, who serves on the National Hispanic Advisory Council for Trump, said he supports the candidate's economic policies and perspectives the and school choice, as well as valuing the billionaire’s opposition to abortion.

“I can’t go through all the gamut of issues, but I will say that broadly Mr. Trump appeals to working people,” he said.

And while Guzman supports the GOP platform, he does differ from the party on one key issue: same-sex marriage.

“I don’t believe in discriminating against any individual based on immutable characteristics,” he said.

In the scholar’s estimation, Trump is not getting a fair shake by the media.

“You can see there is a huge bias in the way things are reported,” he said. Exhibit A in his case against the media are polling numbers from the primaries. He claims most of them were off significantly in both the Democratic and Republican presidential primary races. He said that was evidence that those running the polls were “supporting” Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, and “not supporting” Trump.

He called the skewed polling data “almost on the level of psychological warfare to discourage the opposition.”

“Mr Trump is really intent on fixing things that are broken in our system, and we got a lot them,” Guzman said. “He has demonstrated he will show restraint, he will think about the larger interests and he won’t be influenced by vested interests. I think that’s very powerful.”

Guzman’s support of the firebrand billionaire and former reality television show star caused a ruckus in social media. The reason? Guzman was front and center on the bleachers behind Trump as the GOP nominee spoke in Dimondale on Aug.19.

While many are appalled by Trump’s declarations on Mexicans, Guzman takes a longer view.

“He was talking about the rape of women that are transported by coyotes,” he said, referring to human smugglers. “And it’s been well established that 80 percent of them are raped. That’s a horrible thing not to mention the human trafficking. I think that his intentions are good.”

The online news outlet Fusion claims 80 percent of women from Central America transported from Mexico were raped by coyotes, but the report itself acknowledges it is impossible to get a full picture. Still, Amnesty International puts the percentage at 60.

He also pointed out that much of the heroin flooding the streets in the U.S. is coming from Mexico. Law enforcement agrees, noting that Mexican cartels have moved into the heroin trade as other drug markets have dried up.

By day, Guzman is an assistant professor in the MSU Human Resources & Labor Relations Department. Evenings and weekends, he and his wife, Ana Maria, volunteer on behalf of Trump. His wife was named Ingham County co-chairwoman for the Trump campaign last week. She was not immediately available for an interview.

Guzman said he is not paying much attention to the social media firestorm that erupted after activists posted a CNN screenshot of him seated behind Trump.

“I know there’s strong emotions out there, but I hope people can look past emotions and think about specifics,” he said of the controversies. “And also remember in this country we are free to choose our political candidates.”

Guzman acknowledged that he was not particularly skilled at social media and has disengaged from it, but not without posting a few responses in which he attacked his critics as “foolish,” pivoting away from Trump’s comments on undocumented immigrants and focusing instead on the question of abortion.

One of Guzman’s colleagues, Rubén Martinez, director of the Julian Samora Research Institute at MSU, said he has no problem with Guzman's supporting Trump for president.

“He’s a private citizen,” Martinez said, echoing Guzman’s assertion of his right to support to any political candidate of his choice.

Martinez acknowledged that Guzman stands apart from the Latino and Chicano community, which is strongly supporting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

But both men slammed the “mainstream media” for focusing on personalities, not issues.

“I want to have the mainstream media take its role seriously in informing the public,” Martinez said. “The mainstream media is focusing on every hiccup.”

Guzman agreed.

“There’s not enough issues discussion,” he said, noting Clinton has not held a press conference in over 200 days.

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