In a new column in The Atlantic, Ron Brownstein analyzes one of the most important takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries. Brownstein captures that Republican candidates across America – even the so-called “mainstream” candidates in contentious GOP primaries – have embraced the Trump agenda on immigration:
In several key races, GOP primary voters rejected candidates who presented themselves as the most ardent acolytes of Trump, in terms of style, political agenda, or both. But the relatively more mainstream alternatives triumphed in those contests only after embracing much, or all, of Trump’s hostility toward immigration. That dynamic underscores Trump’s success at eroding resistance in the GOP toward his racially infused nationalism. And that could prove a defining gamble for the party in a nation inexorably growing more diverse.
After citing Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine’s embrace of anti-immigrant politics – a contrast to DeWine’s former pro-reform pragmatism on immigration – Brownstein notes:
These maneuvers confirmed a pattern established in earlier Trump-era Republican contests. In last year’s Republican gubernatorial primary in Virginia, Ed Gillespie narrowly beat anti-immigration firebrand Corey Stewart. But during the general election, Gillespie—who years earlier, as the Republican National Committee chairman, had championed a more inclusive party—swerved toward nativist themes, with ads darkly warning of threats from the Central American gang MS-13.
However, Gillespie’s anti-immigrant attacks backfired last November, both energizing progressives and voters of color and driving suburban white voters away from the intolerance coming out of the Republican campaign. As Brownstein assesses, the Republicans’ embrace of the politics of fear and stoking anti-immigrant sentiment is out of step with much of the electorate:
All of these choices reflect the magnetic pull Trump is exerting inside the GOP coalition. But in the broader electorate, roughly three-fifths of Americans have opposed building the border wall and an even higher share has supported some legal status for the undocumented. While sanctuary policies can be more difficult ground for Democrats to defend, polls consistently show that significantly more Americans believe immigration strengthens, rather than weakens, the country; the margin was greater than 2 to 1, for instance, in an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey released last September.
The solidifying hostility to immigration evident in this week’s GOP primaries places the party on a collision course with that consensus. The impact may prove more damaging in the Sunbelt than the Rustbelt, but on both fronts the party has now clearly surrendered the wheel to Trump.
Matt Hildreth, Political Director of America’s Voice, said,
“Based on what we saw in the 2017 Virginia and New Jersey Governors’ races, the Republican strategy of anti-immigrant fear mongering, to date, has backfired. With GOP candidates, including traditionally “mainstream” Republicans, embracing the toxic brand of politics championed by Trump, we will find out whether their reliance on the politics of fear proves to be a loser in 2018. As Brownstein notes, this strategy is on a collision course with the growing and majority support for immigrants in America.”