In his presidential announcement speech, Donald Trump wasted no time in creating controversy. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” the Republican candidate said. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Offered a variety of opportunities to walk the comments back, Trump has, at least for now, refused. This week, he insisted his remarks were “totally accurate.”
As Rachel noted on the show last night, this has led a variety of businesses, including NBC/Universal, to end their relationships with the controversial candidate. But what remains striking is the degree to which Trump is facing very little blowback from his own party.
Fox’s Sean Hannity has defended Trump, as has Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific,” the Republican senator said, “I think he’s brash, I think he speaks the truth.”
Last night, Politico published a piece by National Review editor Rich Lowry on the candidate. The headline read, “Sorry, Donald Trump Has A Point.”
As for his instantly notorious Mexico comments, they did more to insult than to illuminate, yet there was a kernel in them that hit on an important truth that typical politicians either don’t know or simply fear to speak. “When Mexico sends its people,” Trump said, “they’re not sending their best.”This is obviously correct. We aren’t raiding the top 1 percent of Mexicans and importing them to this country. Instead, we are getting representative Mexicans, who – through no fault of their own, of course – come from a poorly educated country at a time when education is essential to success in an advanced economy.
As for Trump’s assumptions about these immigrants being drug-running rapists, Lowry didn’t dwell on these details while praising the candidate’s broader immigration argument.
This is not a wise strategy.
Even if we put aside the fact that Trump’s argument is factually wrong, and he most certainly does not “have a point,” the truth remains that the Republican Party has alienated immigrant communities in recent years, and the latest Trump fiasco offers the GOP an opportunity to distance itself from offensive, racially charged rhetoric.
But for many Republicans, it’s an opportunity better left ignored.
In fairness, Trump has not enjoyed universal praise among conservatives. Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s Chief Strategist & Communications Director, conceded two weeks ago that Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric is “probably something that is not helpful to the cause.”
Look, I’m not suggesting the onus is on Reince Priebus to pick up one of the Trump pinatas that have become popular in some circles, and destroy it on camera, but I am suggesting leading Republican voices show some courage and denounce offensive rhetoric from one of their own.
Trump, obviously, is pushing Latino voters away. But the more voices on the right defend Trump, and the more Republican voters express their support for his candidacy, the broader the damage will be to the party.
Indeed, as msnbc’s Amanda Sakuma noted yesterday, Trump’s antics raise “uncomfortable but genuine questions over how Republicans expect to make inroads with Latino voters in light of the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric.”