America's Voice En Español »
Last night’s ugly speech from President Trump in Pennsylvania featured efforts to scapegoat familiar targets, such as immigrants and the media, while seeking to divide and distract the electorate from substantive, kitchen table issues.
The Republicans’ ongoing “divide and distract” midterm strategy – heavy on race-baiting and xenophobia, light on the facts that real wages are declining and healthcare costs are rising – is being championed by Trump but embraced by candidates and elected officials throughout the GOP. Yet we have growing evidence that several of the most prominent Republican candidates running on the Trump approach are not gaining much traction in their races this cycle.
As Trip Gabriel writes in the New York Times, Republican Rep. Lou Barletta, who is challenging Senator Bob Casey, is running hard on anti-immigrant politics, but may be driving away broad swaths of the electorate in the process. As Gabriel summarized:
Mr. Trump’s strategy for keeping Congress in Republican hands has been to excite his base to turn out at the polls in close House and Senate races. That has meant — more than any other issue — pushing his hard line on immigration, whether by accusing Democrats of trying to “infest” the country with illegal immigrants, or by threatening to shut down the government over money for “the wall.”
But Mr. Barletta’s campaign is lagging far behind Mr. Casey’s in the polls and in fund-raising, even though he is one of the biggest immigration hawks in Congress. His struggles illustrate how Mr. Trump’s lightning-in-a-bottle victory may not be easy to duplicate this year in swing states like Pennsylvania.
…while Mr. Trump’s blessing can be crucial in winning a primary, hugging him closely in a general election race can be counterproductive for some Republicans, pushing away independent voters and firing up Democrats who are burning to rebuke the president this fall.
And a new Washington Post editorial blasts the continued racial animosity and anti-immigrant focus of Virginia’s gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart:
Mr. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors since 2006…likes to say that he was Trump before Trump was Trump. By that, Mr. Stewart means that he made his mark in local politics by vilifying undocumented immigrants in Prince William, where he pushed through a measure allowing police to check the immigration status of anyone they pleased, an invitation to racial profiling…
Last summer, Mr. Stewart was one of the few prominent Virginia politicians to leap to the defense of white nationalists who provoked violence in Charlottesville, blaming counterprotesters for “half the violence.” He made the preservation of Confederate statues the centerpiece of his unsuccessful candidacy last year for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
In the race for Senate, against incumbent Democrat Tim Kaine, Mr. Stewart vowed to “run a very vicious and ruthless campaign.” …he’s likely to fulfill that uplifting pledge.
If special elections are predictive, President Trump and his acolytes may be in for a rude awakening. In red, purple, and blue states alike, Republicans have made attacks on immigrants a key component of their political strategy: in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey; in the state legislative races in Virginia; in the PA-18 congressional special election; and in races as varied as the Alabama Senate special election, county executive races in New York, and the special election for Florida’s House District 72. Importantly, in all of these races, the anti-immigrant strategy failed.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Trump, Barletta and Stewart believe that the path to victory for Republicans this fall is to stoke fear, demonize immigrants and distract from increasing healthcare costs, declining real wages and threats to education, Social Security and Medicare. But based on special election results to date, it seems Americans are onto the GOP’s transparent and cynical strategy. Racism doesn’t increase wages; xenophobia doesn’t pay for healthcare; dividing America doesn’t protect the government investments Americans count on. The Trump strategy makes a lot of noise, blows a lot of smoke and throws sand in a lot of faces, but it doesn’t bring us together across racial difference to give hard working families the opportunities they need to get ahead. Come November, the American people will be able to express their views. We’ll see how successful the Trumpian strategy is versus the kitchen table issues strategy of their opponents.