Navarro: Be wary of political ‘balkanization’


  • CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Ana Navarro speaks at Smith College Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Jack Suntrup

  • CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Ana Navarro speaks at Smith College Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Jack Suntrup

  • CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Ana Navarro speaks at Smith College Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Jack Suntrup

Published: 1/25/2017 12:02:31 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Even as Republicans around her fell in line to support Donald J. Trump’s candidacy for president, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Ana Navarro did not budge.

The lifelong Republican, who was born in communist Nicaragua before fleeing to south Florida as a child, told an audience at Smith College Tuesday night that she knew she wouldn’t vote for Trump since June 16, 2015, the day the real estate mogul announced his run for the White House.

“That day he called Mexicans rapists and criminals,” Navarro said. “That first day, which is engraved in my memory, I knew that even if he became the nominee of my party, I would never, ever — nunca jamás — support Donald Trump.”

Navarro delivered her quip-heavy speech to a crowd that filled the lower level of John M. Greene Hall as part of a “presidential colloquium” this week that included a talk Monday by MSNBC news anchor Rachel Maddow.

At times, Navarro elicited laughter. She compared some Republican presidential candidates to cardboard cutouts, joked about her heavy alcohol consumption after the election and gave advice to future presidential candidates — “Do not send emails,” she said flatly.

At other times, she struck a more somber tone.

“Whether you believe in God or you don’t — and I’m telling you guys, this is no time to be an atheist — because we better all pray to some god that he is a good president,” Navarro said. “The cost of him being a bad president is really just too great. It could cost American lives.”

Why Republican

Navarro used the opening part of her speech to explain why she is a Republican.

“My family fled communism,” Navarro said. “Ronald Reagan supported us in that struggle. That pretty much sealed the deal for me.”

She said she grew up in South Florida, a region with a healthy GOP influence, where Cubans who fled Fidel Castro’s regime settled and aligned with Republicans.

“My Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is pro-immigration reform, pro-LGBTQ rights, pro-freedom, pro-everything,” Navarro said. “And she fights for all of us and is inclusive.

“I also stay a Republican because I believe in values of a strong national defense, of smaller government,” Navarro said, adding that includes the government not interfering with reproductive rights. “I believe in individual responsibility, in fiscal responsibility.

“And I’m staying a Republican because, damn it, Donald Trump ain’t gonna kick me out,” she said.

Later on, during a question-and-answer session, she said the worse-case scenario for the GOP would be to become a “monolithic” party filled with “old white people.” The Democrats, she said, would naturally become the party of everyone else.

“It’s corrosive to our social fabric,” she said.

She also urged those in the crowd to not silo themselves away from those who have differing opinions.

“For me, our biggest problem that we face today, is the political balkanization of America,” she said. “We have lost our ability to embrace diversity of thought.”

In interviews afterward, this theme resonated with the crowd, including Kristin Dolcimascolo, an eighth-grade science teacher.

Dolcimascolo, an independent who leans Democrat, said if you don’t engage people with differing views, “you don’t have any ground to stand on to expect them to have empathy toward you.”

Navarro also gave her assessment of some of the people with whom Trump surrounds himself.

“I know a lot of them,” Navarro said. “They’re very good people; they’re very qualified professionals. … Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Katie Walsh.

“My hope was that if he surrounded himself with seasoned operatives, they would help him … be sane,” Navarro said. “Instead, he seems to be making them be insane.”

Later, during the Q&A session, Navarro predicted Trump would succeed in implementing his more protectionist views toward trade.

She predicted Republicans would oppose attempts at a less assertive foreign policy.

“I think that with foreign policy he’s going to certainly meet some resistance from folks like a John McCain, like a Marco Rubio, like a Lindsey Graham, who are not buying into the protectionist, isolationist thing,” she said.

And she said the biggest challenge congressional Republicans face is replacing the Affordable Care Act.

“So many Democrats don’t want to work with Republicans,” she said. She said Democrats know there are issues with the ACA, and she doesn’t want the GOP to take the issue on alone, because “rarely do complicated issues get fixed in a good matter when it’s all one-sided.”

When asked what Navarro would ask Trump in a sit-down meeting with him, Navarro said she would demand he let “DACA,” or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, children and young people stay in the United States.

Afterward, Michelle Kaskey, 64, a nurse practitioner from Northampton, said she left the speech wanting more substance.

“I think it was a pep talk,” she said. “I was hoping for substance and insight from the inside.”

She did latch on to advice Navarro gave regarding how Democrats in Massachusetts can wield pressure on Republicans from the political wilderness.

“I think Republicans who want to stand up against Trump are going to need a lot of hand-holding, moral support, being told that they’re doing the right thing,” Navarro said, advising people to call congressional offices. “It’s not easy to confront the president of their own party, and I don’t expect them to do it easily or readily.

“We need to support the Republicans ... on any issue that they have the courage to speak out about,” Kaskey said.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at

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Northampton, MA 01061


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