Now it’s obvious. After eight years of America enduring a black president – who has been frustratingly moderate and thoughtful and gracious, and has had the gall not to produce one useful sexual or financial or politic scandal at all – and now likely to be followed by our first woman president, who will give orders to men, of all things – white men, who have run America from the beginning, want their country back. Add to that the other galling thing – whites will soon slip to minority status in America. There will be no majority of any kind. Donald Trump was inevitable.
After all, Trump burst upon the political scene as the driving force in birtherism. Obama was not born here, he couldn’t have been – the idea of a black president just seemed wrong. That didn’t work. Trump’s effort to get Obama’s college records released, to prove Obama was an awful student who only got into Harvard Law School because he was black, probably denying admissions to some smarter white guy, also went nowhere – but a lot of white folks appreciated the effort. That set Trump on his way. That may be why Trump won the nomination. This race was always going to be about race.
But it’s not all about those black folks. There’s the recorded voice on the phone saying press “1” for Spanish and that same option at the ATM – it’s the brown folks too – and Donald Trump seems to want to be the champion of stopping that nonsense too. That might explain his odd trip to Mexico City, trying to sound reasonable about the good people – and succeeding – only to fly back to Phoenix that evening to tell America he was going to deport every damned brown person here without papers, and then deport their children born here, even if those kids are American citizens. He went from nice to nasty in a heartbeat.
This was a tricky business, and at the Washington Post, Jenna Johnson, Robert Costa and Philip Rucker report on the behind-the-scenes tussles about how to pull this off:
The morning after Donald Trump once again embraced his hardline immigration posture in a shouted speech, at least four members of his two-week-old Hispanic advisory council said they might not vote for the Republican presidential nominee and warned that his harsh rhetoric would cost him the election.
At meetings Thursday on the 14th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan, the candidate’s top aides held the opposite view. They thought his tough talk on immigration – combined with a whirlwind trip to Mexico on Wednesday – had, in the words of one adviser, “won him the election.”
“How do you like our poll numbers?” Trump excitedly asked in a brief telephone interview with The Washington Post on Thursday. He rattled off recent surveys that he said show his support has inched up.
So they pulled this off. Clinton now has a seventy-five percent chance of winning, not an eighty-five percent chance, which is pure success, as planned, after some fits and starts:
For nearly two weeks, Trump has publicly and privately debated how best to describe his immigration positions, especially when it comes to the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.
He spent days floating a series of possible changes and gauging the reaction, and even visited Mexico for a few hours Wednesday in a bid to appear more presidential. But later that night, he decided to stick with the far-right positions that were key to his success in the Republican primaries and could help him cement the support of white men – one demographic where he beats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
The roller-coaster debate – which continued Thursday after a speech the campaign heralded as definitive – centered on Trump’s repeated calls during the primaries to deport all of the undocumented immigrants in the country. He suggested that his declaration applied even if they have lived here for decades, are contributing members of society or have children who are U.S. citizens – although he appeared to back away from his call to immediately deport all of the illegal immigrants living in the United States with a “deportation force.”
But in the end, the debate within the Trump campaign turned out to be about messaging rather than policy.
The policy didn’t matter. The attitude did, but that got tricky:
The public side of the debate took a turn on Aug. 20, when Trump held a hurriedly organized Saturday meeting with a newly formed National Hispanic Advisory Council at Trump Tower. He asked those around the table to share alternatives to mass deportation, signaling that he was willing to change his mind on the issue.
The council urged Trump to focus on how undocumented immigrants contribute to the nation’s economy and abandon his plans to quickly deport millions – a view Trump heard from fellow business owners and wealthy Republican donors over the course of the summer. For several days, the candidate seemed to echo these views, saying in interviews with Fox News Channel that he would be willing to work with those who came here illegally and are living prosperous lives.
At a town hall meeting in Texas, Trump even polled audience members to get their input on the fate of the nation’s undocumented immigrants, using his most flattering language to date.
But some Trump advisers told him that many voters like his stubborn dedication to issues that other politicians won’t touch, and warned that flip-flopping on immigration would make him no different from the career politicians he has accused of being “weak” and beholden to donors.
They really did hammer him with that message:
These advisers urged Trump to use tough, nativist language in his immigration speech in Phoenix on Wednesday to create as sharp a contrast as possible with Clinton. They argued that by showing strength and force of leadership, Trump will attract undecided voters.
“We had a serious adult conversation about where we are. The people that won this debate said, ‘Look, this is what got us here, and we can’t abandon it,'” one Trump adviser said Thursday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be candid about the campaign’s internal deliberations. “There were many of us who made input, and it was clear that the hold-the-line people, we had more sway with him. I think the political calculation is, you can’t abandon the base.”
In short, go with the angry white folks and abandon that advisory council. Let them walk. They did walk:
The harsh tone of the policy speech stunned Jacob Monty, a member of Trump’s Hispanic advisory council and a Houston-based immigration lawyer. Monty has helped Trump raise money and wrote a newspaper column in June headlined, “A Latino’s case for Donald Trump.”
“The speech was just an utter disappointment,” he said in an interview Thursday.
Soon afterward, Monty resigned from the advisory group and posted on Facebook that he will not vote for Trump.
“I don’t want to be a prop like the Mexican president,” Monty said in the interview. “We were out there defending him. And then to be just lied to like that – it doesn’t feel good. It’s not okay.”
Others felt the same way. Ramiro Peña, a Texas pastor, called the advisory council “a scam” in an email to campaign and party leaders, according to Politico. Massey Villarreal, a Houston businessman, deemed the speech “awful” in an interview with NBC Latino. Alfonso Aguilar, a Latino activist, tweeted that he felt “disappointed and misled.”
So what? It was time to move on:
Even as those defections were unfolding Thursday morning, more than a dozen senior Trump campaign staff members met at Trump Tower to map out their strategy for the rest of the race. The mood in the room was charged and optimistic, with attendees praising Trump’s speech and trip as a jolt to his bid, according to two people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private meeting.
One Trump ally involved in the talks Thursday described Wednesday’s drama as the “day that won him the election” because of Trump’s reiteration of his conservative views on immigration, which many in his orbit consider crucial to wooing economically frustrated working-class voters.
Frustrated (white) working-class voters are all they need, and someone to deal with that uppity woman:
And in another sign that Trump’s orbit would continue to hold to its combative ethos, longtime conservative operative David N. Bossie was introduced as the new deputy campaign manager. Bossie, previously president of the Citizens United advocacy group, has been a prominent investigator of Clinton controversies for decades.
“A friend of mine for many years,” Trump said, speaking from his office in New York. “Solid. Smart. Loves politics, knows how to win.”
Josh Marshall isn’t so sure about that:
The good news for Democrats on this front is that it’s not clear to me that Bossie has any real experience running campaigns or winning elections, certainly not at the presidential level. What he is is a career ‘investigator’ of the Clintons who’s been the promoter of most of the ugliest, most surreal and unhinged Clinton conspiracy theories. He also has a decent historical role as the head of the plaintiff organization in the Citizens United case. The actual group Citizens United is his group. That was his lawsuit.
In any case, imagine all the worst and most lurid slime that’s been peddled about the Clintons over the last 25 years: Bossie played some key and often the central role in all of it. So you can get a pretty good idea of how the last 60+ days of this campaign goes down. Needless to say, he and Trump seem to get along great.
From the Washington Post:
There had been deliberation both internally and with party leaders about whether to formally bring Bossie into the campaign, with conversations over whether he was right for the high-ranking post and whether his confrontational style would fit.
In other words, did it make sense to have someone that toxic formally tied to the campaign or just sharing dirt from the outside? I guess we have our answer.
Now we know which way this is going, no matter what Trump says in Mexico City or elsewhere, and Greg Sargent has a few choice words for everyone in the media who says Trump is perhaps being a bit more reasonable:
Because Trump stopped using the words “deportation force,” some journalists are claiming he’s “shelving” mass deportations. But to focus on that is to succumb to misdirection. Trump did say he would remove criminals first. But he also said that we will be in a position to consider the “appropriate disposition of those individuals who remain” only after his “beautiful southern border wall” is built, all the criminals are removed, and illegal immigration is ended “for good.”
Even though none of those conditions is ever likely to be met, some are bizarrely treating this as if it holds out the promise of relief or legal status later. But it cannot mean this, because Trump himself flatly ruled out any meaningful path to legal status, and he also said he would rescind Obama’s efforts at executive deportation relief, including for the DREAMers which he repeatedly called “amnesty.” There is no logical way to square those priorities with the potential for genuine assimilation later.
What’s more, as Benjy Sarlin notes, Trump also outlined proposals that add up to a “far more sweeping enforcement regime” than the status quo, and a “major expansion of enforcement in general.” This includes proposals to triple the number of ICE agents, to immediately initiate deportation proceedings for any undocumented immigrant arrested for anything, and to redouble the focus on people who overstay visas. An analysis by Jose DelReal concluded that as many as six million would be targeted for short term deportation under Trump’s regime. As Sarlin rightly puts it, Trump actually recommitted to mass deportations last night, albeit in a somewhat more limited way than his earlier hallucinations about removing all the 11 million with a clap of those strong, manly hands.
Dem strategist Simon Rosenberg argues that Trump also said he’d do more to enlist local law enforcement in deportation efforts. “Trump stopped using the words ‘deportation force,’ then proposed something far more Orwellian and expansive,” Rosenberg says.
The idea is that every cop in America would be able to demand your papers, and if he doesn’t like them, he’d send you off to the detention center for immediate deportation. Sargent sees no reasonable “softening” here:
Given all of this, Trump’s short term focus on criminals and supposed shift away from mass deportations nothing more than a rhetorical ruse. It’s reporter chum. It’s designed to soften the goal of mass removal, by creating the impression that maybe possibly something can be worked out for those he calls “the good ones” later. But that option is simply not present Trump’s vision, no matter how hard people squint for it. Indeed, all of this taken together puts Trump to the right of Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” stance. Trump would expand deportation efforts, and more generally, he was far more overtly xenophobic about keeping the dark hordes out – and far more lurid and ugly in his broad-brush tarring of illegal immigrants as criminals and invaders – than Romney was.
This race is about race, and McKay Coppins report on baffled Republicans wondering who Trump’s immigration speech was for:
In the wake of Donald Trump’s hardline immigration speech Wednesday night, Republicans throughout the party largely abandoned discussion of a late push to win over Latinos, and seemed instead to focus on a new question: Which white voters can the candidate still reach?
That would be only one subset of white voters:
David Kochel, an Iowa-based Republican operative and former campaign strategist for Jeb Bush, interpreted Trump’s immigration speech as a “decision to play directly to [his] already secured base.”
“It has to be their calculation that they can drive up turnout in white working-class areas of battleground states to dizzying heights,” Kochel said. “Otherwise this move makes no sense 69 days from the election.” In any case, he added, “The ‘softening’ of Trump’s immigration policy died tragically on Wednesday night in Phoenix. Foul play is suspected.”
Republicans and conservatives remained sharply divided over the wisdom and effectiveness of Trump’s immigration tough talk – but there was little disagreement about its intended audience.
The Los Angeles Times’ Cathleen Decker notes the situation out here:
Nothing in his speech served to expand his reach among minority Americans. For some Republicans who have worked for decades to diversify their party, the result felt apocalyptic.
Mike Madrid, a California GOP strategist who has sought to broaden the party’s reach among Latinos and other nonwhite voters, declared himself “stunned” at Trump’s approach.
“We’re witnessing the end of the party,” he said. “I now know what my father meant in 1980 when he told me the party he grew up with” – in that case, the Democrats – “was no longer the party he felt comfortable in.”
Trump may be ruining everything:
The danger to the party is twofold. In California, the immigration fight spawned a huge legalization and voter registration effort that boosted minority voter numbers further, helping Democratic candidates and leaving Republicans with only rare successes since. The scarcity of successful GOP politicians in the state has given state Republicans no foothold to counter the image of the more conservative national party, tightening the party’s downward spiral.
Replicating that in multiple states will only narrow the Republican path in national political contests.
Madrid, the California-based consultant, predicted that Trump’s standing among Latinos nationwide in November would fall substantially behind Romney’s, into the range of 18-20%, in part because of the message he delivered Wednesday.
To offset that loss, Trump would have to draw in suburban white voters. Many of them, however, have recoiled from him this summer because of his policy views and temperament. Wednesday’s speech did nothing to change that.
There are few Republicans out here now, for a reason:
“So many of my Republican colleagues say we have a brand problem. We have a brand problem because we have a policy problem,” said Reed Galen, a Republican consultant and veteran of George W. Bush’s campaigns and administration.
Every year, he noted, the percentage of minority voters rises and the percentage of white voters declines, a trend that, uninterrupted, will further marginalize Republicans.
“Either we decide that we are going to die or decide we are going to live,” he said of his party.
Trump has the party choosing death, and Jennifer Rubin notes the parallel problem with that other group:
Trump’s campaign chief Kellyanne Conway announced he would do outreach events to African American audiences, including black churches.
Well, scratch the last part. On Wednesday, the Detroit Free Press reported that “Trump won’t be speaking to the black congregation at Great Faith Ministries International during the 11 a.m. service. And his Saturday interview with [Bishop Wayne T.] Jackson on the church’s Impact Network – which will not be open to the public or the news media – won’t air for at least a week after the event.”
Rubin sees no explanation for this other than pure cowardice:
He is showing up; he just won’t meet in public with the congregants. (“Trump’s first foray as a presidential candidate into a church of African Americans was initially billed as a speech to the congregation to lay out his policies that impact minorities, followed by the interview with Jackson.”) He was rightly blasted…
The implicit message could not be any clearer. He loves, loves, loves speaking to huge audiences of whites. He talks off the top of his head. He needs no notes. He’ll go to Washington state to talk to them. However, he cannot bring himself to make a single public appearance – even with a script in the teleprompter – to reassure African Americans that he cares about them.
“If his sermon turned out to be anything like his tweets it could set race relations back a generation,” joked Rick Wilson, a Trump critic who is assisting independent conservative Evan McMullin.
This isn’t going to work:
Trump’s real problem – aside from the number of groups he has offended and his lack of money or campaign infrastructure – is that he is not only doing worse than Mitt Romney did with minorities but he is doing worse with white women and college-educated whites. He’s trying to convince white voters he’s losing that he really isn’t a bigot. This sure isn’t going to help.
After weeks of criticism over his attempts to reach out to African-American voters, Donald Trump on Thursday professed to have “so many African-American friends” who are “living the good life.”
“I have so many African-American friends that are doing great. They are making good money. They are living the good life. They’ve got the American dream going,” the Republican nominee said Thursday on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.”
Then, he returned to a familiar refrain.
“You have so many in poverty and the crime is horrible and the education is terrible, and they live terribly and I say what do you have to lose? What do you have to lose?” he said. “Give it to me. I’m going to fix it.”
So, some of his best friends are black, and rich, and the rest are dupes suckered in by the Democrats, but it gets more offensive:
The New York Times on Thursday reported on a leaked transcript of Trump’s lengthy, prepared answers to be delivered during a campaign visit Saturday to a black church in Detroit, Michigan, in a face-to-face interview with its pastor.
The scripted remarks, prepared by Trump campaign aides and Republican National Committee staffers in response to questions submitted in advance, according to the report, strike a sharp contrast with the Republican nominee’s usual improvisational, uncompromising style.
“Coming into a community is meaningless unless we offer an alternative to the horrible progressive agenda that has perpetuated a permanent underclass in America,” Trump is expected to say while also calling for “race to disappear as a factor in government and governance.”
“As president, I must serve all Americans without regard to race, ethnicity or any other qualification. I must approach my task with the utmost wisdom and make sure that all Americans have opportunities to achieve to their potential.”
In another scripted exchange, Trump says, “I have a strong faith enriched by an ever-wonderful God.”
The exact wording, however, may be subject to change depending on input from black Republican consultants working with the campaign, according to the report.
The final interview may go something like this. Are you a racist? No. That’s good to know. Yes, isn’t it? Well, thanks for dropping by. It was my pleasure.
Expect no more than that. Trump has written off the black vote, just as he has now written off the Hispanic vote. All he wants is a few more white votes. He’s angling for the votes of white folks deeply embarrassed by him, if not appalled by him. He’s not a moral monster. He tried, didn’t he?
No, he didn’t, and he cannot win with just the white vote, even adding in the vote of those many wary white folks who might now decide that he’s not so bad after all, because he’s not going to deport all eleven million all at once – it’ll be in stages – and because he did sit down for that interview with that black minister in Detroit, even if they were both reading from a script, in private, for later, restricted broadcast. Assume that actually works. What difference does it make? This is no longer a “white” country. A “whites only” strategy is kind of a 1953 Ozzie and Harriet thing, charmingly retro but politically useless – but that makes this election about race after all. Perhaps it should be.