Hispanic evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez has a consistent political strategy: position himself as a nonpartisan advocate committed “not to the agenda of the elephant or the donkey but the lamb,” all while trying to convince Hispanic Christians to support socially conservative causes and politicians.
You might think that the immigration-reform-promoting Rodriguez would be in a bind with immigrant-demeaning Trump as the Republican nominee. But even though Rodriguez has been publicly critical of Trump’s rhetoric on immigration, he seems to be positioning himself to encourage Hispanic evangelicals to support the Republican candidate. He has said Trump blew it with his early campaign rhetoric and that the candidate must “redeem the narrative” with Latinos.
This week Bloomberg reported that Trump would be delivering a videotaped message to be shown at this weekend’s meeting of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), which Rodriguez heads, and whose board includes Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver. The pro-immigrant group America’s Voice called on Rodriguez not to let Trump deliver a message to the group given Trump’s “hateful, incendiary rhetoric directed at our communities.”
(Just days ago, Trump attacked NHCLC board member Russell Moore, a leading Southern Baptist official, as a “nasty guy with no heart.” Rodriguez, who co-authored with Moore a Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing Trump’s immigration rhetoric and policies last July, said at the time that “an attack on Russell Moore is an attack on the entire evangelical community.”)
Rodriguez told the Washington Post earlier this week that he would wait to see if the message was “respectful” before deciding whether to show it. Today it is clear that Trump has satisfied Rodriguez, because the NHCLC put out a press release saying the group would show video messages from Trump and from Hillary Clinton on Friday evening.
While Rodriguez says he will not endorse a candidate, it’s hard to take him seriously as some kind of honest broker between the staunchly pro-choice Clinton and the muddled punish-the-woman Trump, who has said he would nominate Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade. As we recently noted, Rodriguez has said, “I’m going to vote for protecting the Supreme Court from judges that are activists, that run counter to our Judeo-Christian value system.” And he has made it clear that he believes Hispanic Christians must make opposition to abortion, not support for immigrant families, the basis of their vote.
In an interview being promoted by Glenn Beck’s The Blaze today, Rodriguez doubles down on that message, saying it would be “morally reprehensible” for Christians to vote for a candidate who supports Planned Parenthood, saying they would need to “repent.”
“I want to speak to every single African American, Latino, and Anglo Christ follower who believes in biblical orthodoxy — how can we justify supporting anything — be it Republican or Democrat — that in any way, form or shape defends Planned Parenthood?”
Trump has repeatedly praised Planned Parenthood but says he wants to defund the women’s health organization unless they agree to stop providing abortion services.
Rodriguez told The Blaze that it would take “a miracle” for Trump to win over the Latino community, but suggested it could be possible if he apologizes and chooses a Hispanic running mate, mentioning Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez and Ted Cruz.
The supposedly nonpartisan Rodriguez has filmed a video promoting the Republican Party’s faith-outreach project. Only 16 percent of American Latinos identify themselves as evangelical, according to the Pew Research Center, but they are more likely than other Hispanics to vote Republican.