Extremist rhetoric about what should be done about undocumented immigrants in the US seems to have become the norm in the Republican primary race with all the candidates vying to not be seen as ‘soft’ on the issue. For a long time they had managed to do their usual tap dance of keeping their proposals and language vague and woolly enough to appease their base while not totally alienating the Hispanic vote. That was until Donald Trump blew up that strategy.
Trump hugely raised the stakes in the Republican immigration policy by calling for the end of birthright citizenship and forcibly deporting all undocumented immigrants. Jeb Bush muddied the situation even further by using the derogatory term ‘anchor babies’ and then, when called out on it, saying that he was referring to Asians, thus alienating yet another ethnic group. Not to be outdone, Ben Carson upped the stakes even further and called for drone strikes along the border. You can just see Trump saying, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Given this escalating rhetoric against immigrants, it is only a matter of time before we hear calls for rounding up all people who were not born to parents who are US citizens and putting them in internment camps. I wonder who will be the first to call for the summary arrest of anyone found without legal papers.
In Republican circles, it has always been good politics to attack the ‘liberal’ media but keep on the good side of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and conservative talk radio. But here too, Trump has torn up the Republican rulebook. Trump seems to see no downside to attacking all journalists, and has reignited his feud with Megyn Kelly and the rest of Fox News. Trump’s latest move was to throw Univision and Fusion news anchor Jorge Ramos out of a press conference. Ramos is no ordinary journalist. He is probably the most influential journalist in Spanish media in the US. By attacking Ramos, Trump is undoubtedly driving the Republican party’s already low standing among the Spanish-speaking population even lower.
In this midst of all this, Greg Sargent makes an important point that this situation is something that the Republican were warned about two years ago might happen and could have avoided.
So here’s a friendly reminder: this whole Trump mess probably could have been avoided. If Republicans had simply held votes on immigration reform in 2013 or in early 2014, it probably would have passed. That likely would have made it harder for Trump-ism to take hold to the degree it has so far.
Before you ridicule me for suggesting that Republicans would be better off today if they had simply done what I wanted them to do — pass immigration reform — please recall that GOP leaders themselves said at the time that they wanted to pass immigration reform. Even reform that included a path to legalization for the 11 million.
But conservatives revolted, Boehner shelved plans to pursue reform, and Republican leaders and aides quietly assured reporters that the party could always pass reform in 2015, to fix the Latino problem in time for 2016.
But some Republicans explicitly warned at the time that if the party failed to pass reform in 2014, it would only get harder to do so in 2015, because the GOP primaries would start up.
In other words, some Republicans warned at the time that the party needed to embrace reform precisely to avoid the epic slow-motion disaster that might unfold if immigration got tied up in primary politics, creating fertile conditions for a talented demagogue to pull the party further to the right. Which is exactly what is happening now.
The Republican party piled up the kindling by their fecklessness and Trump has lit a fire that is now raging out of control. Every single Republican candidate will now have to try and figure out where they stand in relation to Trump’s positions on immigration because they are going to be asked this. You can be sure that the second debate hosted by CNN on September 16 is going to have questions on this topic, something that Fox News largely skirted in the first one.