WASHINGTON, July 14, 2015 — Fellow RINOs, we have a problem, and its name is “Trump.”
Dumped by Macy’s, NBC Universal, and Univision for comments about immigration, Donald Trump admits to surprise at the hostility those comments raised.
Trump made his comments in the course of a rambling presidential announcement speech:
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
In addition to outraging some of his business partners, Trump drew condemnation from other GOP candidates, including Marco Rubio. As for the political price, there’s this: Trump is at the top of GOP popularity polls.
Trump is on a roll. His speech on immigration in Phoenix was expected to draw only a thousand people, but it was moved to the Convention Center to accommodate 5,000. All the tickets to the free event were snapped up almost immediately, and a secondary market for them appeared on Craigslist, the tickets selling for $50.
The GOP field is currently so crowded that Trump’s number one spot is only 13.5 percent, not a strong endorsement from Republican voters. That number affords him little more than bragging rights. But at this stage of the race, bragging rights matter, and that still represents millions of voters.
The national Republican Party, nervous about Hispanic voters, is anxious for Trump to tone down his immigration message. The media have taken to painting Trump as a loudmouthed, irredeemably racist buffoon. So why does an irredeemable loudmouth have bragging rights?
Are Republicans really as awful as the internet meme engines suggest?
Of course not. The data on that are sparse, which wouldn’t prevent a journalist from spinning a good story, but the social scientist in me is more reluctant to speculate. But we can draw on some informal observations and propose conjectures which we won’t call “truth,” but rather, “hypotheses.”
Perhaps, loudmouthed racist that he is, Trump isn’t so different from the rest of America. He may be what more of us would be if we were buffered from the consequences of expressing our views by billions of dollars and an army of yes-men. Wealth doesn’t make you good or bad; it merely allows you to be more yourself, and Donald Trump is clearly himself.
Before most of us make comments about Mexican drug dealers, we feel obliged to point out that we aren’t racist. My mother is Hispanic, my brother is married to a Mexican, and I grew up eating grandma’s tortillas and enchiladas, and I make sure to say all that before venturing an opinion on illegal immigrants and crime.
I feel obliged to preface any negative remarks about Mexican immigrants with expressions of love and admiration for the great majority of hard-working, genuinely decent Mexicans living and working this country.
My friends and colleagues all do the same thing. We are like the stereotype of the white person who prefaces comments about black crime with, “some of my best friends are black.”
There’s almost nothing worse in many circles today than being labeled a “racist.” If we can’t find a way to sugar-coat comments about minorities or convince our listeners that we’re also worried about Canadian drug gangs and illegal Canadian immigrants when we complain about leaky borders, we’ll just change the conversation to something less dangerous.
Trump has never had to care what people around him think. He’s always been able to say what he wants and receive no negative feedback for it. Hence his comments are probably much less filtered than our own. How many of us think the words that Trump says, but for fear of consequences keep silent?
At first blush, I’d guess, “13.5 percent of Republican voters.” But this goes beyond Republican voters, let alone Trump supporters. Informal observation says that more than a few liberals and Democrats share Trump’s concerns about immigration, but are ever so delicate and neutral when they voice them.
Were I a betting man, I’d bet a great deal that almost every adult in this country has at some point had an absolutely hateful, vile thought about someone, and almost all have harbored fleeting, negative stereotypes. That’s human. Most of us have had ugly thoughts about people close to us.
That telepathy is found only in science fiction and fantasy should leave us all profoundly relieved.
Not being Trump, I feel obliged to repeat at this point that I’d never even think what he said in his speech last month. Being generally honest, I then admit that I might think the first sentences, but I’d change the last one to “But most are good people.” Like many in my ethnic, racial and educational cohort, I refuse to admit that I can harbor a racist thought.
But of course I can, and so can you.
Some of us revel in those thoughts, and some are uncomfortable with or ashamed of them. Trump says what most of us think, sometimes. I’m not put off by Trump because he thinks these things; I’m put off because I suspect he thinks them all the time. “And some, I assume, are good people”? The condescension almost drips from the words.
The problem with Trump isn’t that he has harsh things to say about Mexican immigrants; only an idiot would claim that some illegal immigrants don’t bring gangs and crime with them, and it isn’t racist to say so. Some really are drug dealers, rapists and murderers, and we all know it.
The problem is not that Trump is wrong about the ineptitude of the Obama Administration on immigration; the crisis on our southern border is both real and engineered. The surge of minors across the border last year was party a result of blurred and perverse signals from the administration.
It might be more accurate to modify “ineptitude” with “criminal.”
The problem with Trump is two-fold. First is one of substance; he paints immigrants with far too broad a brush, in a way that seems designed to scapegoat Mexicans rather than solve a problem. Second is one of style; he’s loud and obnoxious and makes us uncomfortable. Worse, he actually seems to say what he’s thinking.
Making us uncomfortable is one thing those of us in the chattering classes can’t forgive. Trump connects with people we’d never hang out with in the faculty lounge. The problem is, they outnumber us, and they’re getting mad.
Unless we RINOs can find a way to deal with immigration that includes respect for the law and doesn’t turn responsibility for our borders over to people on the other side of them, we’re going to lose the Party. Trump will beat us bloody and leave us in his dust. The man may be a buffoon, but he knows how to deliver a kick in the teeth.