In the wake of last week’s tragic shooting of a San Francisco woman by an undocumented immigrant, front-running GOP candidate Donald (“The Duck”) Trump is fanning the flames of racism and xenophobia among his Republican base. His strategy is to use anti-immigrant hysteria in order to win the White House next year.
Why does the issue of immigration resonate with the GOP base, and what will the GOP candidates be pushing this election cycle?
The primary divide within the GOP on immigration is primarily between two factions. One faction consists of xenophobic populists (such as Trump and Cruz) who want to keep immigrants out altogether. They express fear that immigrants are coming to steal jobs, commit crimes, and reduce the power and influence of white people.
On the other side is the traditional GOP bastion, Big Business, which prefers to see the creation of pathways to legal residency for cheap labor pools. One GOP hopeful who favors this approach is Florida senator Marco Rubio, himself the offspring of Cuban immigrants. Two years ago, he was the GOP’s golden boy. After supporting legislation providing illegal immigrants a way to achieve citizenship, however, he became persona non grata.
Current runner-up Jeb Bush – himself married to a Mexican immigrant – is treading a thin line. Originally, he favored legislation making it easier for immigrants to become U.S. citizens, but has since backpedaled into a more “moderate” position. Lately, he’s decided that assisting illegal immigrants to become legal, non-citizen residents was more practical – and politically expedient. Most recent, he said, “[For the GOP] to win, we better start figuring out ways to message our beliefs in a way that gives people hope that everybody will be included in the progress that comes.” Note that Jeb Bush said the GOP needed to change its message and rhetoric, not its actions. Meaning, “we simply need to get into office, and then do what we want, not what other’s want.”
GOP candidates siding with Bush include Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul. Standing in Trump’s camp is, ironically, Ted Cruz – himself an immigrant from Canada, born to parents from Cuba. Others, like Chris Christie and Scott Walker aren’t talking about it at the moment, waiting to see which way the political winds are blowing.
The immigration issue is not of great significance to Democrats and Progressives, compared to the far more pressing matters of income inequality, growing poverty and the environment. However, it could very well wind up becoming the final nail in the GOP’s coffin. George W. Bush got a whopping 44% of the Hispanic vote. Romney got only 27%. Currently, the Hispanic community is growing, particularly in battleground states such as Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico. Trump’s rhetoric is not endearing the GOP to that demographic.
But by all means, Donny – keep shooting your mouth off. Progressives standing with Bernie Sanders will be riding your paranoia and racist bombast all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next year. To quote one of the worst lines ever written for a feature film screenplay (allegedly cut from the 1949 classic Sampson and Delilah), “Your tongue shall dig your grave.”