On February 27, Republican strategist Ana Navarro spoke at Drew as a part of the ongoing Drew Forum lecture series. Prior to the talk, Navarro, who has served as a strategist to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), spoke to Acorn co-Editor-in-Chief Anna Gombert. The transcript is below.
Anna Gombert: So just a little bit about you, you graduated with a Bachelor’s in Latin American studies and Political Science, did you always know you wanted to be involved in the political field?
Ana Navarro: I’ve always been involved in politics. I fled a communist revolution [with] my family in Nicaragua in 1980. I think that when you experience something like that, you realize very early on that being engaged is important and not to take democracy and rights for granted. [My] father has always been politically involved and [I come] from a very political community in Miami and south Florida. I would’ve never imagined that I would end up on CNN and the View and Colbert talking politics. That has happened organically. So I can’t tell you that at age 20 in the University of Miami I was saying to myself “I want to be on TV talking politics.” That was nowhere in my imagination.
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AG: So you’ve worked with Jeb Bush and I believe John McCain, what led you to the Republican party and working with like candidates such as these who’ve then been running for president?
AN: In the Republican party in south Florida, there were a lot of very inclusive leaders, there were a lot of Latinos, Hispanics involved and it was a big tent where there were a lot of people who were traditionally Democratic bases were part of the Miami Republican party. The Republican party in south Florida that I grew up in is very different to what the national––the Trump Republican party is. And I met Jeb Bush when I was a kid volunteering on campaigns. He was first the Vice President’s son, then the President’s son and the chair of the Republican Party of Miami-Dade. I met John McCain through my immigration work, and I loved him at hello. He inspired me and I just really wanted to be a part of that so one thing led to another, opportunities, networking circumstances, coincidences.
AG: You talked about how the party in Miami is different than the national Trump party, do you think the party is still the same as when you joined? Do you see it evolving?
AN: I think it’s a completely different party under Trump than it was before. I’ve seen Republicans attacking John McCain, a national war hero who was battling terminal cancer, or attacking Mitt Romney or attacking the Bushes. These were the Republican leaders that I grew up with. This is a Republican party that has compromised its traditional values in order to accomodate a president who has no values.
AG: You talked about in Miami there were a lot of Latino leaders and you did a lot of immigration work. How do your identities as a Hispanic and Latina woman affect how you work in politics?
AN: You know in Miami there are a lot of Hispanics in positions of power and so we almost take it for granted, I think we are less aware of what it means to be Latino in America. I also went to an all-girls Sacred Heart school and we were expected to be opinionated, informed, assertive and active. So again I almost took for granted what it meant to be a woman, a professional woman, because it’s just what we were. I think that, I’m a woman and I’m an immigrant, I’m Hispanic, I have an accent. I’m sure that leads some to see me in some negative lights but it’s also opened up doors and provided opportunities because I’m able to bring my unique experiences to the table and share [them]. It’s shaped my perspective on things. When you are talking about things like the Dream Act, you know I came here as an eight-year-old, not as a Dream Act kid, but I understand it in a very personal way.
AG: So obviously you are a child of immigrants and an immigrant yourself, how do you view the current immigration reform and how would you possibly like it to be?
AN: I think Trump’s constant demonization of immigrants is deplorable. His use of the wall as a wedge issue to lead to a government closing is deplorable. Creating massive hysteria around a caravan that he’s greatly exaggerated, a caravan of migrants, is deplorable. I hate to see the Dream Act kids, the Dreamers, being used as political pawns. I think we need to have a comprehensive, modern immigration policy that, yes, addresses border security in a modern way, effective way, but also deals with the people that are here. We’re not going anywhere, and we don’t want them to go anywhere; we need them. Hell Trump’s been employing them.
AG: You’ve worked on campaigns and that sort of stuff but now you’re more in the journalism field, you’re a political commentator on TV. Do you see different pressures in those sort of political fields and is there more pressure in one of those fields?
AN: I mean, there is a huge difference between being on the inside of a campaign and being on the outside of a campaign commenting. There’s a huge difference between being a journalist and being a commentator, I am not a journalist. I get to give my opinions and my take on things, hopefully based on information and facts. It’s a completely different lane of politics, but I think that free press plays and integral, essential part of keeping government accountable.
2016 Republican presidential contender and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich will speak at the final Drew Forum lecture of the semester on Tuesday, April 9th.