Interview with Robert Reich
By Jesús Aguado
The annual meeting of Democrats Abroad took place in San Miguel de Allende this year, gathering 160 organization leaders from across the country. At this meeting, members elected its new executive committee and William Chapman of Boston as the new Democrats Abroad County Chair.
One of the meeting’s keynote speakers this year was former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton, Robert Reich, who granted Atención an interview.
Jesús Aguado: What is the purpose of your talk during this meeting?
Robert Reich: I want to explain—from my viewpoint, having been in four different administrations, including one Republican—what is happening now with American politics and Donald Trump, how he really got elected and what has to happen over the next few days [of the Democrats Abroad meeting]. I want to put it all into context. I hope that what I say can inspire Democrats Abroad to vote and to be more activist.
JA: What would you like to see happen in the next few years?
RR: 2020 will be a critical election. I hope that Trump is defeated in the primaries. It is not impossible, but he could be defeated in the Republican primaries. He could be the Republican candidate. It is even possible that he decides that he does not want four more years of this. It was pretty clear that he got into the 2016 election to promote his brand. I do not think that even he expected to be president. It is possible he may not run again, but if he does run and he is the Republican candidate, it is important for the United States and for the world that he is defeated.
JA: Who do you believe can defeat Donald Trump?
RR: It is too early; the first primaries are next year. There is time for Democrats to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates; that is what this whole process is about. It will be premature for anybody to make up his or her mind and close their minds to any other possibilities. There are a lot of very good candidates. In fact, the quality of Democratic candidates that have already come into this race is higher than the quality of Democratic candidates in any other races.
JA: If Democrats want to defeat Donald Trump, what should be their strategy?
RR: Democrats should not just criticize—that is easy. They have to provide a credible agenda for the future. He is going to be campaigning just as he has, and his primary tactic is fear. I think Democrats have to campaign on hope, which is more powerful than fear. It is also very important to give the public a sense that the bigotry, xenophobia, and racism that Trump has run on is antithetical to American values. I think it is important for Democrats to talk about public values and morality, what America stands for. This is a major turning point for this country.
JA: If Trump runs and wins, what do you think those next four years will be like?
RR: If he runs and wins, I fear for American democracy. I fear for democracies around the world. I fear for the future coherence of our country. The strength of the United States has always been in our diversity, and we are a nation of immigrants. Apart from Native Americans who were already there, most of us are the descendants of immigrants. For Donald Trump to pretend otherwise, to create this bogus idea that there is a true American race or ethnicity that is different from the people that were already there or the people who aspire to become Americans, is dangerous, and it violates and undermines the very strength that is the United States.
JA: Trump has said that México is doing nothing to prevent migration from Central America to the United States, and he has threatened to close the US-México border. Is that possible?
RR: It is absurd. The USA and Mexico trade about 1.5 billion of goods. Both countries depend on that trade. Many businesses in the US could not succeed without trade with México.
JA: Do you think a war is imminent with the US intervention in Venezuela, now that there are Russian agents in that country?
RR: I will be very surprised. The American public does not want a war. The movements and statements that come out of the State Department should not be interpreted as the steps toward any form of hostilities; that would be a tragedy.
JA: How should Mexicans take the comments from President Trump against their country?
RR: Do not overreact to what he says. He lies, exaggerates, bluffs, acts tough…most of this is just meaningless blather. Pay no attention.
Robert Reich is an American political commentator, professor, and author. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. He was the US secretary of labor from 1993 to 1997. He was a member of President-elect Barack Obama’s economic transition advisory board.