As candidates strive to make headlines and gain attention, the Republican assault on undocumented immigrants is reaching ever-new lows with Chris Christie suggesting that if elected he would get the head of the package delivery service FedEx to figure out how to track the movements of all immigrants, both undocumented and documented, all the time, spurring mockery as to whether people would be barcoded and scanned as they went from place to place.
On Bill Maher’s show, they had a good discussion about the fact-free anti-Mexican racism that is fueling Donald Trump’s campaign against undocumented immigrants, aided and abetted by the Republican party in a manner that we have seen before with Richard Nixon and Democrat George Wallace, with vague appeals to fear of crime committed by these dangerous ‘other’ people unless they are kicked out.
California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher was on the panel and while first admitting that the party should be ashamed of having Trump as their new leader, then went on to somehow defend Trump’s claims of the danger of crime posed by immigrants. It was quite bizarre.
In fact, the correlation between immigration levels and crime is an inverse one, though one has to note that the decline in crime could be due to a multiplicity of factors so the cautious conclusion is that there is no correlation between the size of the immigration population and crime. In addition, most immigrants in prison are there for immigration violations and not violent crimes. Even that bastion of conservative thought the Wall Street Journal has commented on the mythical nature of the connection between immigrants and crime
Every immigrant here illegally has already broken a law, though that doesn’t mean they are predisposed to crime. In a 2005 paper, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago reported that more recently arrived immigrants are even less crime-prone than their predecessors. In 1980 the incarceration rate of foreign nationals was about one percentage point below natives. A decade later that had fallen to a little more than a percentage point, and by 2000 it was almost three percentage points lower.
Mr. Trump wants to have an unserious debate about immigration, one that involves scaring voters and scapegoating newcomers for crime problems that are mostly homegrown. The liberal press corps will continue indulging him because he’s entertaining, and they know his bluster helps Hillary Clinton.
I mentioned before about how someone saying “I know this is not politically correct but …” signals something bad is going to emerge and that the speaker knows it and is trying to inoculate themselves against possible negative reactions. Randy Blazak gives more examples of the use of such preemptive deflection tactics.
Trump represents a frightening trend of convenient racism rooted in a belief that America was great before ethnic and racial minorities, women, and sexual minorities wanted equal rights. (What Trump calls “political correctness.”) These people will say that “racism is wrong, but…” or “I’m not a racist, but…” and then something deeply racist follows. They’ll say that “all lives matter,” in the face of the movement to acknowledge the devaluing of black lives. They’ll say they are not homophobes, just for “religious freedom” (an argument the KKK still makes). They’ll say they’re not Islamaphobes, just against terrorism (ignoring the carnage done by domestic, often Christian, terrorists). And they’ll say that they are not bigots, just opposed to illegal immigration (of brown people). It’s a kinder, gentler form of bigotry, but it’s still bigotry. And Donald Trump is the new Father Coughlin and he wants to be free of the political correctness that would stand in the way of his bigotry. (At least he’s abandoned the GOP’s “go after the gays” mantra from the last election.)
Trump has tapped into a rich vein of support in the way he speaks about marginalized groups and, as in so many other ways, the other Republicans candidates are falling in line.
The party establishment knows that Trump is bad for them but cannot separate itself from him and thus has to find ways to justify what he is saying, such as that he is striking a chord among the public. What they are not saying is why they feel a need to strike a chord with this particular segment of the public.