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Leading political observers are pointing to Trump’s cruelty towards immigrants as a major factor in his sinking poll numbers and the GOP’s sinking prospects in the midterms.
A front page article in Sunday’s New York Times by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, entitled “The Economy Is Humming, but Trump Is Tweeting. Republicans Are Worried,” includes the following assessment:
“To the dismay of party leaders, the healthy economy and Mr. Trump have become countervailing forces. The decline in unemployment and soaring gross domestic product, along with the tax overhaul Republicans argue is fueling the growth, have been obscured by the president’s inflammatory moves on immigration, Vladimir V. Putin and other fronts, party leaders say. These self-inflicted wounds since early summer have helped push Mr. Trump’s approval ratings below 40 percent and the fortunes of his party down with them.
Julie Pace’s recent Associated Press story, “High Stakes as 2-month Sprint to Election Day Begins,” had a similar take, referencing internal Republican polling that found that the cruel family separation policy had hurt Trump and the Republicans’ standing among moderates and independents in congressional battlegrounds.
These analyses echo the sharp observation from earlier this year, at the beginning of public outrage at the family separation crisis. In July, Republican consultant and leading “Never Trumper” Rick Wilson, in a Daily Beast column entitled, “This Was the Week That Finally Broke Trump’s Spell” wrote:
Once a president who stood astride the media narrative like an orange god, simultaneously captivating and revolting the nation’s press corps, Trump was no match for images of crying children torn from their mothers. His seemingly magical ability to change the subject vanished, and the arsenal of his weapons of mass distraction were duds. Everyone in Washington noticed. One House member spoke to me on background Wednesday night and said, “This mistake broke the spell.”
Worse for Trump, the hated mainstream media flooded the zone, drilled into the story, and found sources to tell the horrific tales of the Trumpkampf against 2,500 immigrant children … The stories and the coverage combined two things; first, they exposed how gleefully the Trump Administration viewed the pain and fear of children. Second, they made Americans face what was being done in their name.
Of course, despite the fact that ugly immigration policies are playing a role in the GOP’s current political predicament, Republicans are doubling down on xenophobia as a centerpiece of their their midterm strategy. GOP candidates and party leadership PACS are spending millions on ad buys that stoke fears of immigrants in a desperate attempt to whip up their base, peel off swing voters, and distract from the Republican record on kitchen table issues.
As the front-page New York Times piece captured:
… instead of attempting to highlight positive economic news like the 3.9 percent unemployment rate, Republicans have turned to a scorched-earth campaign against the Democrats in a bid to save their House majority and salvage their one-seat edge in the Senate.
But as Frank Sharry counseled in his recent Medium piece, “As the GOP Revs Up its “Divide and Distract” Strategy, How Should Democrats and Progressives Respond?”:
Democrats should be proud to stand up for immigrants and stand for workable solutions. Thanks in part to a backlash to Trump’s racism, support for immigrants and pro-immigrant policies is at record highs. Strong majorities — including significant swaths of independents and Republicans — believe immigrants strengthen America, want Dreamers to remain here, oppose a border wall, and back immigration reform that combines targeted enforcement with a roadmap to citizenship. More recently, there’s been a torrid public backlash to the policy that led government agents to rip kids from the arms of their parents without any plan or interest in reuniting them. Six weeks after a court-ordered reunification deadline, hundreds remain separated…Trump and Republicans are on the wrong side of this issue, not Democrats.