It’s easy to isolate yourself in the cavernous halls of the convention centers where the nation’s political parties have gathered this summer—first the Republicans in Cleveland, and now the Democrats in Philadelphia.
Organizers turn the conventions into fortresses, mainly to prevent potentially violent protests outside from spilling inside. But they seal off the conventions so well that protesters with legitimate complaints never even get to lay eyes on the candidates.
The hundreds of journalists who cover the conventions usually know that nothing interesting or surprising will happen, since the candidates have been selected in advance. Yet every four years we converge on these conventions like ants, rushing to get inside, where we can do little but wait.
The delegates and speakers generally are faithful followers who show up to demonstrate their unwavering devotion to the candidate. What was different about this year’s Republican convention, however, was that Donald Trump’s supporters were faced with a moral dilemma: how to get behind a candidate who expresses racist and sexist ideas. After all, supporting Trump makes you look like him—and I’m not referring to his yellow mane. Trump’s hard-line rhetoric caused many Republicans inside and out of the convention hall to keep their distance. Except for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who did show up—and who got booed for giving a speech in which he refused to endorse Trump.
Cruz is hardly alone. In Cleveland, I spoke with several Republicans who said that they wouldn’t vote for Trump. They were surprisingly easy to find. One Republican from Florida even wept while we spoke, saying that Trump’s nomination was “very sad.” And a delegate from Texas told me that she was ashamed to defend Trump to her own family.
As for the speeches in Cleveland, I must say that I’ve never heard so much hatred in a single convention—and I’ve never seen so much exclusion. Of the 2,472 delegates, only 133 were Hispanic. Of the speakers, only three were Hispanic. It was the whitest convention I’ve covered since 1988, and much of the content of the speeches was focused on fear or suspicion.
Four of the five Trump children spoke, and they were a kind of antidote. They seemed to smooth his image of a being a coarse, authoritarian egomaniac.
At one point, amid the reality show that the Cleveland convention turned out to be, I checked my phone and got another piece of carefully spun news. President Enrique Peña Nieto had apologized for the so-called Mexican “white house” scandal. He admitted that his wife’s purchase of a luxury home from a government contractor had rightly outraged the Mexican people.
Last year, Mexican government controller Virgilio Andrade investigated the matter—but his report was a farce. So it’s still necessary to carry out an independent probe. Any lingering suspicions of corruption could be cleared up by a U.N.-sanctioned investigation.
But Peña Nieto’s apology won’t lead to his political suicide. Therefore, whoever becomes the next president of Mexico should commit to investigating the purchase of the house and prosecuting if any laws were broken.
Despite Peña Nieto’s apology, many doubts remain. It’s still not clear where the money to buy the $7 million property came from. Was it a gift? Did his wife, Angelica Rivera, get a great deal as a thank-you to Peña Nieto for the projects that he had awarded to the contractor, back when Peña Nieto was governor of the State of Mexico?
An apology doesn’t exonerate Peña Nieto, and many Mexicans don’t believe him. The conflict of interest is obvious: The president’s family benefited from his being in office, even if the president insists he didn’t break any laws.
The worst part is that none of the people involved in this scandal have had to face any consequences. Yet Carmen Aristegui and her team, the Mexican journalists who exposed the “white house” deal, were fired from the radio station where they worked, allegedly under pressure from the Peña Nieto administration.
The journalists have also been harassed with lawsuits, the latest of which involves the foreword from a best-selling book that Aristegui wrote about the scandal: “La Casa Blanca de Peña Nieto,” or “Peña Nieto’s White House.” (I recommend it—it’s quite good.)
In the end, what I learned during my time in Cleveland is that both political conventions and apologies can at times be very sophisticated ways to hide the truth.
Jorge Ramos, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, is the host of Fusion’s weekly television news show, “America With Jorge Ramos,” and is a news anchor on the Univision Network. Originally from Mexico and now based in Florida, Ramos is the author of several best-selling books. His latest book is: “Take a Stand: Lessons From Rebels.”