If you want to start an argument, post-Election Day, here is one of the many questions that you can ask: How many Latino voters backed Donald Trump?
The Washington Post political team has been all over this issue, asking: Did 29 percent of Hispanics actually vote for Trump? Was this just a matter of "rural" Latinos, whatever that means, swinging his way?
This is a very, very hot-button topic. During live coverage of the Florida results you could hear a "this is like 9/11" shock in the voices of the on-camera talent (I was mostly watching CNN) as they realized that a smallish, but significant, percentage of the state's complex Latino population was going to back Trump.
As a former resident of West Palm Beach, I looked at the numbers and thought to myself: (1) The Cuban vote alone cannot explain what is happening and (2) someone needs to ask this question: What percentage of Latinos in Florida have converted to evangelical and Pentecostal forms of Protestantism?
So here is the question journalists should think about as we look at another piece of Washington Post coverage on this issue: If you were going to look for Latino Trump voters in Texas, where would you start looking?
Start with this exercise: Click over to the full blog post and look at the screen shot of this particular Post story, located at the very top of my text. What is the first thing that you see in this image?
I don't know about you, but the first thing I saw was a Pentecostal woman, with one hand raised in prayer as the congregation sings a praise chorus, in some kind of new Protestant church (note the individual chairs, as opposed to pews).
The caption for this Post photo states: "Trump voters Ismael Aguayo and his wife, Darlene Aguayo, worship Nov. 20 at their church in El Paso."
The key words, I would think, are "at their church." Now what kind of church is this and how far into the Post story will readers need to go to find out if their membership in that church may have something to do with their controversial decision to vote for Trump, or against Hillary Rodham Clinton?
The answer: Readers have to go a long, long way into this political feature -- but the information eventually shows up. Let's start with the overture:
EL PASO, Texas -- Ramon De La Rosa predicts it’ll take President-elect Donald Trump just six months to make America great again.
The 73-year-old is eager to see Trump bring back jobs from places such as China and stop taxing hard-working Americans to pay for food stamps and other entitlement programs.
When Trump launched his presidential campaign and labeled Mexicans who enter the country illegally as rapists, criminals and drug dealers, De La Rosa, who was born in Mexico and crossed the border at 17 to become a U.S. resident, was not offended. It also didn’t faze him that Trump pledged to build a massive wall along the border here in an effort to keep people just like him out.
“I know he didn’t mean that about all Mexicans,” De La Rosa said, noting that Trump just talks like a “tontito,” a Spanish term meaning “fool.” “He knows nothing about politics and nothing about speaking politically correct.”
In other words, the story starts with what Post editors would assume would be the key factor in the decision by some, repeat "some," Hispanics to vote for Trump. It is interesting to note that De La Rosa got the message that Trump was not talking about all Mexicans, but violent exceptions, while the Post went with the media's familiar simplification of the candidate's words.
This is where you would expect the story to start. That's fine.
But why are "thousands of El Pasoans celebrating Trump’s victory and looking forward to his inauguration," after Trump received 26 percent of the vote in El Paso County?
The story is very blunt and comprehensive in terms of the many reasons why Hispanic voters would be appalled by Trump, linking him with the racism that has shaped many lives along the border. It is also clear that many of these voters understand some of the dynamics of globalism and, thus, embraced key element's of Trump's message about saving U.S. jobs.
Along the way, the story pauses to share the feelings of Hispanic voters who are mourning Clinton's loss.
But why, when push comes to shove, did some vote for Trump?
This brings us back to De La Rosa and his years of hard work, including his efforts to become a U.S. citizen. Members of his family talk about Trump in economic terms, stressing that they paid their dues while others have streamed into America seeking government aid.
Finally, at the very end, we reach the story behind that photo:
While De La Rosa and his daughters were drawn to Trump’s economic policies, Ismael Aguayo, 31, and his wife, Darlene, 30, were drawn to Trump’s antiabortion stance. More than half of El Pasoans are Catholics or evangelical Christians, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.
Aguayo and his wife were both raised in evangelical Christian households. They are now raising their two daughters, 8-year-old Darlene and 4-year-old Victoria, the same way. They attend a church in west El Paso, and Aguayo is a member of the church’s advisory council.
Aguayo, who grew up in a rural town outside El Paso, said that he and his wife do not fully support Trump or his agenda, but that a vote for Trump was a vote for “godly principles” that give unborn children a chance at life. While he and his wife “love homosexuals because Jesus loved us no matter what our sin was,” they also oppose same-sex marriage.
His vote for Trump was a vote for at least one conservative Supreme Court justice, he said.
There are other voices, at the end, making similar statements. Some had to keep their Trump votes secret, to avoid negative reactions from friends and colleagues.
Once again, we face a familiar question: Are we dealing with a purely political story here or one in which the actions of voters are shaped by their religious and moral convictions, as well as issues of economics and political loyalties?
As we await the release of more in-depth studies of exit-poll numbers, I think some of the crucial elements of this big story are clear.
Once again, the "pew gap" was crucial in a national election. In this case, if you want to find Latino voters who dared to vote for Trump, you need to visit some growing churches -- probably evangelical and Pentecostal churches.
Was that hard to figure out? Why not make this fact one key element of this report, up at the top of this long, long feature? Or, once again, is politics really real and religion is, well, you know?