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Amidst Global Health Crisis, Expect Trump to Shift Focus to Immigrants as Greatest Threat to American Safety

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But His Obsession with the Wall May Turn to a Political Liability

Tonight, expect President Trump to attempt to distance himself from a week of bad news by heading to South Carolina to continue his pattern of counter-programming the early Democratic primary and caucus states with Trump re-election rallies. Ahead of the North Charleston rally, Trump will hold a fundraiser for Senator Lindsey Graham, who is the walking embodiment of how the Republican Party has devolved on immigration and latched themselves to Trump no matter the cost to their legacy or issues they once supposedly cared about.

The South Carolina political activity comes after a terrible week for Trump and one that reminded Americans of how ill-equipped he is for the basics of the presidency. In the face of a burgeoning pandemic, we predict he will find a way to blame immigrants and that his one-note attacks will look particularly irrelevant and tone-deaf given the crisis we are facing.

The following is a statement from Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, in advance of Trump’s South Carolina swing:

While we haven’t yet seen a copy of President Trump’s advance remarks, we’ve come to expect his ugly rants and untruths, focused most often on “those people” who pose a grave threat to America: lots of ‘blame the immigrants’ talk; bluster that the border wall is being constructed as promised; ugly lies and fear-mongering about ‘sanctuary’ cities and ‘open borders’ Democrats; the slandering of millions of immigrants and Latinos by highlighting the crimes of MS-13 members; and lots and lots of false bravado and attempted reassurances that we have nothing to worry about from the coronavirus and that his administration has things under control. 

In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to blame pandemic concerns on border policies and immigrants. It is practically the first chapter in the white nationalist and nativist playbook to use fears of communicable diseases to stir up anti-immigrant sentiment and we expect no less from Trump. We remember when House Republicans — some of whom were doctors — capitalized on the Ebola outbreak of 2014 to claim that Central American children would bring the disease to the US and blamed a measles outbreak on migrants, not on the anti-vaccine movement. 

But as Trump continues to emphasize that immigrants and ‘the other’ are our biggest threat – and that a border wall and xenophobia is our only solution – this week offers a convincing reminder why our biggest threat is already apparent and is occupying the Oval Office.  The President’s signature political obsession on the wall may end up being a political liability.

As we stated yesterday, just because President Trump is obsessed with the political significance of his border wall doesn’t make it a politically beneficial subject for Trump’s re-election effort. This week on Capitol Hill, a bipartisan group of lawmakers blasted Trump’s latest raid of billions of dollars appropriated to support military families and military readiness and a host of tribal and private landowners testified about the costs to their land and traditions. Meanwhile, leaders from the U.S. Navy criticized the diversion of billions of funding toward wall construction as harmful to their readiness and plans and told the House Armed Services Committee that they ‘weren’t consulted before the decision to strip the money for the border wall.’

Meanwhile, the ongoing public health crisis posed by the coronavirus is offering a real-time example of the limits of Trump’s approach to governance – turns out that bluster, misinformation, blame shifting, and distrust of experts isn’t exactly helpful or reassuring in the midst of a burgeoning public health crisis.

If Trump goes onto lose re-election, remember this week as a key moment in the race, when his attempts to blame immigrants for all our troubles fell flat in the face of a national crisis and obvious signs of his mismanagement and unfitness for office.