Trump: Illegal Immigrants Taking Murder Jobs From Hard-Murdering Americans
The latest appalling thing Donald Trump has done -- honestly, who can even keep count these days? -- is the release of a racist attack ad that depicts illegal immigrants as the single greatest threat to America other than Democrats. I'm not linking to the ad because I'm not helping drive up Trump's engagement numbers, but you can find it pinned to the top of his Twitter page with the following absurd proclamation: "It is outrageous what the Democrats are doing to our Country. Vote Republican now!" It's basically a less subtle version of the "Futurama" PSA advising horny teenagers against sex with robots: "The next day Billy's planet was destroyed by aliens. That planet was Earth! DON'T DATE ROBOTS!"
Trump has taken time from his busy schedule of hate-mongering to remind voters just days before the midterms about Luis Bracamontes, a twice-deported Mexican immigrant who killed two police officers in 2014. When convicted, he expressed no remorse for his crimes and even vowed to "kill more" cops. Bracamontes was executed in April, so he now poses at least 20 percent less of a threat. Democrats apparently support an "open borders" policy with hell, so let's not get too comfortable.
People are already comparing this to the 1988 "Willie Horton" ad, which George H.W. Bush's campaign manager, Lee Atwater, died regretting. Horton was a black convicted murderer serving a life sentence when he was temporarily released from prison in 1986 as part of Massachusetts's weekend furlough program. He escaped and later raped a white woman and stabbed her fiancé. Bush's Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, had supported the furlough program as governor. Back in the day, presidential candidates and certainly sitting presidents would distance themselves from these types of attacks. Trump has no such concerns. Also, there was at least some reasonable connection between Horton and Dukakis's policies. Trump instead just slimes Democrats in general as responsible for Bracamontes's heinous actions: "Democrats let him into our country . . . Democrats let him stay." Which Democrats? What specific policy?
The hardly namby-pamby liberal Cato Institute published a study in February that revealed native-born residents, with our fancy birthright citizenship, are more likely to be convicted of a crime than either legal or illegal immigrants. But Trump is obsessed with scaring his supporters into locking the door to America and forgetting that the true threat to them is already inside the house.
Since Trump took office, there have been mass shootings at music festivals, churches, schools, more schools, and in a synagogue. That last one took place just a few days ago, which is after 2014. (I double-checked my calendar.) Trump has no interest in addressing the lax gun laws or even his own hateful words that contribute to the ongoing slaughter. All he has is fear to sell. He based his racist campaign and now his racist presidency on the cynical belief that white Americans secretly wish all their problems came from an external, ideally browner, source. Two black cops in South Carolina were killed just last month by a natural-born American psycho. Trump hasn't released any spooky Birth of a Nation-style Halloween ads about him.
Retiring Arizona Senator Jeff Flake described the Bracamontes ad as "a new low in campaigning. It's sickening." Jamie Weinstein of the National Review Online tweeted, "This is, without question, a racist ad." It's interesting how conservatives have flipped the script from 30 years ago. Shadowy "independent" groups used to sound racial dog whistles and the president would retain a plausibly deniable distance. It certainly worked because even a few liberals now claim Ronald Reagan was some model of racial tolerance. Now, though, the president waves his hate flag high and Republicans distance themselves while still ultimately supporting his every move. If Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, she'd probably gladly accept Flake criticizing her on the Senate floor in exchange for supporting her policies and court nominees 84 percent of the time.
John Sides of the Washington Post wrote that Willie Horton as a campaign tactic became less effective in 1988 once its racist appeals were called out explicitly. He said this in January of 2016, though, before Trump won the GOP primary and later the presidency. Blatant racism isn't as embarrassing to Republicans as it once was.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.