Features / Other Bloomers and Shakers

OTHER BLOOMERS & SHAKERS: Ana Navarro, Standing Up & Standing Out

by Shoba Viswanathan

In an election season and early presidency where we see Americans polarized more than ever before, Ana Navarro has emerged as an unexpected point of hope. She is a career Republican strategist who has arguably become a voice of political rationality. The 45-year old Navarro speaks her mind and how! With a unique perspective and a forthright way of saying what she thinks, Navarro is a made-for-TV personality. This election season saw her become something of a household name.

While network political-expert panels have become raucous in their quest for ratings, and the shout-fests are often indecipherable, some guests have managed to stand out. In a business where it is easy to become cynical, she is among the few who manages to communicate conviction. Navarro is in this very select group – and her voice feels particularly important as she speaks for a certain group of conservative women who seem to exist more in concept than reality.

While Ana Navarro has found her limelight after 40, hers is a story that has been building. Navarro was born in Chinandega, Nicaragua on December 28, 1971. In a June 2016 interview with the Havana Times she says, “I had a very happy childhood for a few years, until the civil war began.” In 1980 she left with her mother and three siblings for the United States, via Honduras, “thinking as so many exiles do, that it was only for a short time; never thinking that for me it was going to be a life-long change.”

Her family was forced to leave Nicaragua because her father Augusto “Tuto” Navarro was opposing the Somoza regime and being persecuted for it. He was with the Contras, who opposed the Communists. Ronald Reagan’s vocal support of the Contras was the beginning of Ana’s own engagement with the Republicans or, as she puts in a New Yorker article, “ Signed, sealed and delivered for Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party.”

In a Miami Catholic school with many other exiles, and in her family life, politics was a big part of her impressionable years. “I grew up very sensitive to the meaning of the political system and to the crises in Latin America,” she has said and, perhaps not surprisingly, she went on to major in Latin American Studies and Political Science at the University of Miami. While earning her law degree at St. Thomas University Law School in the late 1990s, the US Congress passed a law terminating the temporary residency status of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and Central Americans and declared them “deportable.” Navarro was actively involved in fighting this measure and is credited with having helped pass NACARA – The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act.

Navarro represents a “centrist conservatism” which was the direct product of her own experiences as a young immigrant in the Miami of the 1990s. The combination of strong anti-communist feeling mixed with pro-immigration sentiments and inclusiveness on social issues makes her seem like an oddball Republican these days. She is a reminder to not push everyone into one ideological box.

From college and early activism, Navarro moved on to become a part of Governor Jeb Bush’s team, and then was a strategist for the John McCain and Jon Huntsman presidential campaigns, in 2008 and 2012 respectively. In an interview with Harvard’s Institute of Politics after the 2012 elections, we see evidence of Navarro’s growing reputation as a straight-shooter.

As a Latina Republican, she became the go-to for Telemundo, ABC, CNN and CNN Español for comments, and her unique voice became noticed. As she puts it, she remembered what the Sacred Hearts nuns taught her as part of her Catholic education: “Don’t give it away for free.”

While Navarro has been a political commentator since around 2012, she came into her own when she took on the Trump spokespersons during the 2016 campaign season. She was willing to say what was on the minds of many viewers. The single biggest jump in her social media followers seemed to happen on the night she used the word “pussy” on TV to challenge Trump’s supporters. She was making the point that those who cringed at her use of the word could at the same time accept as their president someone who says such derogatory things about women. She has faced backlash from those who disagree with her, and there is a petition circulating asking CNN to fire her. And in the way of our times, she is the target of plenty of name calling on social media.

PFLAG National, “the nation’s largest organization uniting families, allies, and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ)” announced on March 7th, 2017 that it will be honoring Ana Navarro with the Straight for Equality in Media award at a Gala on March 27, 2017. This award—which implies a bridging between who you are and who you support—is indicative of the role Ana Navarro plays as a Republican Latina commentator these days. In an interview with Fortune magazine, from before the election, she had this exchange:

Q: What can Republicans like you, who staunchly oppose Trump, do to move your party back toward the center and away from the fringe groups bolstering Trump?

A: I don’t think it’s going to be up to us. I think everybody’s going to have to concede some territory and be in a consolatory spirit as Republicans, if we are going to move forward. I think it’s wrong to pose it in that way: what are Republicans like me going to do to rescue the party from the fringe? We’ve got to learn how to live together.”

Navarro has repeatedly spoken of her conviction that the best system is a strong two-party system. She often reminds viewers that she was a Republican well before Trump. Admirers from both parties have asked her if she’d consider running for office, as seen in this video with The View.

Navarro is a savvy operative, and she manages her brand with care. It’s good news for us that a big part of her image is authenticity. Articulating her views from a nexus of political ideology and personal experience, Navarro shines a light on the importance of making every voice count. For those of who support Bloom, it’s particularly encouraging to note that she hasn’t succumbed to the pressures of political interests, and that choice has allowed her to stand up and stand out.

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Shoba Viswanathan is a writer and editor based in NY. Her long-standing philosophy of understanding the Other Side, has developed a new urgency these days. She can be found on Twitter @shobavish.

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