Ana Navarro, a political commentator for news outlets including CNN, ABC, and Telemundo, and a Republican strategist who worked on presidential campaigns for John McCain and Jeb Bush, discussed the causes and implications of Donald Trump’s electoral victory during a lecture at the Woodrow Wilson School on Nov. 16.
“Unless the Virgin Mary appeared to me on a piece of toast, I would never support Donald Trump,” Navarro said. “This election was the first time in my life that I voted Democrat.”
Navarro explained that she opposed Trump largely due to his statements, beliefs, and actions regarding immigrants, women, Hispanics, Catholics, prisoners of war, and disabled people.
“I begrudgingly accept that Donald Trump is now the titular head of the Republican party,” Navarro said. “I do not accept that he is the head of my Republican party.”
Navarro went on to name the key factors contributing to Trump’s victory, such as his ability to self-fund his campaign, his well-known personal brand, his background in the entertainment industry and resultant knowledge of the media and popular culture, and his ability to produce attention-grabbing and rating-boosting headlines. She stated that he also benefitted from a crowded field in the Republican primaries.
“There were sixteen other candidates trampling over each other’s messages, competing for a small fraction of votes,” Navarro said. “Donald Trump was what I call the perfect storm of a candidate. Maybe even a category 5.”
Despite her convictions against Trump, Navarro said she still believes in the Republican party. Having fled the communist regime in Nicaragua, she remains a fervent supporter of Reagan ideology. She also expressed a belief that a strong two-party system is necessary for political efficacy.
“Too many people have worked too long and too hard to make [the Republican party] a more inclusive party,” she noted. “I’m not going to leave them alone, I’m not going to abandon ship.”
A Republican since she was eight years old, Navarro was conflicted over her eventual decision to vote for Hillary Clinton.
“I pulled petals off daisies, I talked to friends, I drank heavily,” she said to laughter in the audience. “I didn’t want to run into [Clinton’s] arms just because she wasn’t [Trump]. I ended up doing that. It was called panic.”
Navarro said that the election was a lesson for Democrats to acknowledge potential problems and resist complacency.
“Voters relied on polls and thought they could not vote or cast symbolic third party votes because [Clinton] was so far ahead,” she said.
She also urged the Republican-controlled Congress to both cooperate with Trump and keep his policies in check.
“We must remain vigilant that Donald Trump accepts American values and the Constitution,” she said. “Individuals have individual responsibility to try to do our part to make these divisions less of a problem, to become a less polarized country."
Navarro ended her comments on a powerful note, speaking directly to survivors of sexual assault and harassment as well as undocumented students.
“You must speak up,” she said. “Do not be afraid. Put names and faces to your experiences.”
Physics Graduate Student Sam Saskin GS said he attended the event because he enjoyed Navarro’s commentary during the election season.
“She brought the same sense of humor here,” he said.
Saskin added that it was interesting to hear a conservative voice speak against Trump, an opinion that other students in attendance agreed with.
“She’s a very interesting figure,” Yihemba Yikona ’17 said. “I heard a lot over the campaign about how she was denouncing Trump. I didn’t realize at first that she was conservative.”
“Living in Princeton especially, it’s sometimes difficult to get exposure to a variety of ideas,” Princeton High School junior Mike Meyer said. “It was interesting to hear [Navarro] explain why she is Republican.”
The lecture, titled, “A Republican Reflects: Ana Navarro” took place in Robertson Hall Lecture Hall, with additional seating in Harold W. Dodds 100, at the Woodrow Wilson School at 4:30 pm on Wednesday, Nov. 16.