Before moving to the U.S. I had always followed the elections–like many people does abroad–with a certain detachment and a sense of distance. Although I moved to the U.S. during the first term of Barack Obama, I will always remember his 2008 Election Night speech from Chicago. I could barely realize that day how his presidency and his leadership would inspire me in the years to come.
The first campaign in which I was involved in the U.S. was Obama’s 2012 reelection. I volunteered in Miami, and then in Washington, D.C. where I had moved in the summer of that year. I remember vividly his inauguration in 2013–he and Michelle walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, with myself standing only a few feet away. Some of us tried to run alongside them, from the other side of the fence, just to make that moment last a few more seconds.
Later on, as a Fellow with Organizing For Action (OFA), while at a screening of a documentary about a group of young immigrants, so called ‘DREAMers’ —immigrants by choice of their parents, who found out that they were undocumented in a country they recognize as home I felt inspired by their stories and determination to fight for their dreams, and committed myself to support our Latino community in every way possible.
Fast forward to April 2015: after working for a while for Univision, I joined their Network News Elections Team and went all hands on the preparation for the coverage for the 2016 cycle. The start of the campaign was earlier than usual, some said, it was my first time breathing election news day in and day out. Exciting times!
As the candidates stated to roll in, it was more and more evident in both parties that this election was nothing like ever before. When Donald Trump announced his candidacy with his anti-Latino and anti-PC rhetoric, many of us thought–wrongly–that his candidacy was nothing but a bad episode of reality TV. I remember being present at the announcement of other candidates such as Jeb Bush in Miami, and during the official campaign launch by Hillary Clinton in New York City. From all of these, with the exception of Trump I can remember that they every candidate had a vision of the country that even if it didn’t resonate with me, had a valid reason to exist.
The next step in the campaign were the primary debates. All the attention was on the first debates for both Republicans and Democrats. Debates tend to help narrow the field, said pundits all over the TV shows. It was a great opportunity to hear them talk directly to voters and show their credentials to become presidential candidates. At that point of the campaign, Trump had dominated the airwaves. He was covered extensively, maybe for those polemic “ratings-fueling” comments or just by the interest generated by such an unusual presidential candidate. Nonetheless, the scrutiny and challenge he received from the media wasn’t comparable to the type of coverage received by Hillary Clinton’s emails as Secretary of State —a story that became a cloud over the campaign that never fully cleared.
The first Republican debate in Cleveland was in August, 2015. I remember how the Media Filing Center had people from all over the world, waiting to see and hear what Donald Trump had to say. Many said that without proposals and policy plans, it would be difficult for voters to have a favorable view of him after the debates.
When Trump was asked during the debate if he would pledge to support the Republican Nominee, he responded that he would only support the Republican nominee only if he was the Nominee, causing everyone in the Media Filing Center laugh. Moments after this, Megan Kelly pointed out his mistreatment of women and he started a feud that lasted for months. At that point I remember many considered it only a matter of time that the Republican field would narrow, and Donald Trump would certainly be kicked out soon. In the Democratic race, Senator Bernie Sander was able to “break the internet” and make himself more and more appealing to millennials and young voters with his anti-status quo messaging.
The first Democratic debate was in Las Vegas in October, 2015. The expectation generally shared among pundits and other analysts: Hillary Clinton would easily make herself the winner of this encounter, given her experience debating and practicing for these events and the field would narrow from five to at least three candidates. Bernie Sanders made headlines when agreeing with Hillary and saying “People are sick and tired of hearing of your damn emails” after she responded to a question on the subject trying to talk about her platform.
At Univision, we fought hard to get the opportunity to present all candidates to Hispanics. As you might know now, neither the RNC nor the majority of candidates would give interviews for Spanish language networks. I remember meeting with some Republicans to discuss possible ideas to get through the candidates and how the RNC could support in any way our efforts. Only one of those ideas came to reality and only one candidate, Jeb Bush, agreed to participate in a two-minute long video focused on personal questions, with no immigration questions called “Take Ten.” Democratic candidates, on the other hand, were far more open to exchanges with Univision; our relationship with the main contenders was more fluid, with even an official DNC debate in Spanish scheduled right before the Florida primary, on March 9th.
2015 ended with me with going from one side of the country to the other, with a Republican Debate in Las Vegas, followed by a Democratic Debate in New Hampshire. For this last one, I remember it was freezing, I had a cough and I wanted to go home and pack for a trip I had planned for the day after. I went on vacation, hopping to get better, and rest for what was expected to be a hard-fought primary season on both sides.