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Sea Change on Immigration: Trump’s Racism and Nativism Consign Him to the Cul-de-Sac of the GOP Base

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Trump’s naked appeals to white grievance on race and immigration may excite his core supporters, but the backlash effect is even stronger. Need evidence? A confident Joe Biden is advertising on family separation. Democrats down ballot have staked out pro-immigrant policy positions. Trump and Republican attacks are falling flat. A pro-immigrant multiracial majority is emerging.  

Below are relevant and recent excerpts from Greg Sargent, Paola Ramos and Ron Brownstein: 

Greg Sargent in the Washington Post, “A harsh new anti-Trump ad flips the script on his biggest issue.” 

For many years, Democratic strategists have generally seen immigration as a tough issue for them — not necessarily because Democrats can’t win the argument about it on the merits, but rather because it motivated hardcore Republican voters far more than anyone else. That’s why it’s particularly noteworthy that in the final stretch of the 2020 race, Joe Biden’s campaign has launched a blistering new ad hitting President Trump over his family separations. 

The ad speaks to a broader trend: These days, Democrats believe they have less to fear from the issue. By this calculus, in Trump’s hands, immigration has both lost its power as a wedge issue among white voters and has become a motivator for other constituencies increasingly aligned with Democrats, not just the GOP base.

… ‘In my 40 years as an advocate, I’ve never seen a Democratic presidential nominee lean into the immigration issue with an ad like this, especially one that touches on the border, which Democrats usually shy away from,’ Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, told me.

Paola Ramos on MSNBC: “Immigration was Trump’s 2016 ‘best weapon.’ It’s now backfiring.

Through the lens of immigration and through the lens of family separation you can truly see what the heart of this administration has been for the past four years. You can truly see the heart of the decision making in the Trump administration is intentional cruelty: separating children at the border is cruel, not knowing where their parents are is cruel, and closing the border to desperate asylum seekers is cruel.

…One of the traits of this Administration is that they are reckless and incompetent, at least 7 migrant children died under ICE’s watch. This will go to any undecided Latino voter who wasn’t thinking of casting their ballot. 60% of swing voters are against family separation…immigration was once the Trump campaign’s best weapon that they started with in 2016, and now it’s backfiring.

Ron Brownstein in The Atlantic on the political costs of GOP transformation into “white-identity party.”

With Trump solidifying the GOP’s transformation into a ‘white-identity party … a nationalist party, not unlike parties you see in Europe, … you see the Democratic Party becoming the party of literally everyone else,’ as the longtime Republican political consultant Michael Madrid, a co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, told me.

…This belligerence has helped bond Trump to his base. But the price of this approach has been clear in elections throughout his presidency. The first warning came in 2017, when a sharp recoil from Trump in the suburbs of northern Virginia and Richmond swept Democrats to control of the governorship and state House of Representatives, despite continued GOP strength in rural areas. 

In 2018, that revolt expanded nationwide, as Democrats recaptured the U.S. House behind sweeping gains, not only in suburban areas that were already trending blue, but also in Sun Belt metros where Republicans had not previously been vulnerable. The backlash was measured in more than votes: Democrats benefited in 2018 from an enormous surge in campaign contributions and volunteer activity. Those elections proved only a prologue to a 2020 mobilization against Trump that may be unprecedented in its magnitude.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Trump and Republicans have run as the party of white grievance and racial backlash, an ugly and cynical strategy that works for some 40% of the country. But 40% is not a majority. A multiracial majority is poised to reject the demonization of immigrants and people of color, and to vote for Democrats who fully embrace racial and immigrant justice. 

Immigration as a wedge issue is losing its edge. For the past 30 years, Republicans have used racism and xenophobia in the service of plutocracy. They stoke racial resentment to their core supporters while putting trillions in the pockets of the donor class. America is about to say ‘enough.’