Is he too disgusting even for Republicans?

July 10, 2015

Donald Trump sickens anyone whose heart isn't made of stone--but that hasn't stopped the media from welcoming him to the Republican primaries, writes Elizabeth Schulte.

"THE U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems," declared Donald Trump in a speech announcing that he was running for the Republican Party presidential nomination. "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. 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. And some, I assume, are good people."

And so, the circus clown show that is the Republican presidential primary race got its biggest buffoon yet.

If an ordinary raving racist spewed this filth, you might not hear from them again. But because it was Donald Trump--a billionaire, and now a bona fide candidate for the GOP presidential nomination--the media asked him to make more appearances to clarify his position.

And clarify he did.

The next day, Trump promised Fox News' Sean Hannity he would build the biggest border wall that he could, adding, "I'm not knocking anybody. Hey, if I were doing Mexico, I would be sending the killers, the drug dealers, the rapists here."

Donald Trump
Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore)

Trump's sickening racism didn't just appear at conservative "news" outlets. He told NBC News' Katy Tur: "Mexico doesn't want these people they're forcing into our country, and we're taking them and putting them in our jails and our hospitals, and it's a disgrace."

Trump also exploited the recent shooting of a young woman in San Francisco, allegedly by a man who police say is an undocumented immigrant, as if this was proof of his argument.

And if anyone needed more clarification about his thoughts on Mexico, Trump took to social media on July 4, re-tweeting a message that said Jeb Bush "has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife." Bush's wife was born in Mexico.

A day later, Trump deleted that particular tweet, but he couldn't erase his bigoted remarks. Public outcry about the billionaire's disgusting anti-immigrant hate led several companies and organizations to pull their business from Trump.

The Professional Golfers' Association won't be holding its Grand Slam of Golf at the Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles, and ESPN said it was also moving a charity tournament off a Trump golf course. Univision announced that it wouldn't air Trump's Miss USA Pageant and would cut business ties with Trump, who owns the Miss Universe Organization. NASCAR is moving its end-of-season awards ceremony away from a Trump property where it was scheduled to take place.

After more than 700,000 people signed a petition demanding that Macy's cut ties with Trump, the retailer said it would no longer carry Trump's menswear line. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is reviewing its contracts with Trump.

TRUMP'S RAVINGS about immigrants forced the rest of the teeming field of Republican presidential hopefuls--many of whom built their career on whipping up hysteria over immigration, among other things--to address the issue.

Even former Texas Gov. Rick Perry--who falsely claimed in several interviews last year that immigrants were to blame for 3,000 homicides and almost 8,000 sexual assaults--was forced by the sheer bigotry of Trump's comments to say he disagreed with them. Perry said on ABC's This Week: "[T]o paint with that broad a brush that Donald Trump did is--I mean, he's going to have to defend those remarks. I never will. And I will stand up and say that those are offensive, which they were."

You know you're in trouble when the guy calling you "offensive" is Rick Perry.

Jeb Bush also criticized Trump's remarks as "incendiary"--but not the idea of protecting the border from a supposed uncontrolled wave of illegal immigration.

On the other hand, other Republicans rushed to Trump's defense and attacked his "liberal media" critics. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told Fox News, "I don't think you should apologize for speaking out against the problem that is illegal immigration. I recognize that the PC world of the mainstream media, they don't want to admit it, but the American people are fed up."

And of course, right-wing blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter were behind Trump from the start. "Donald Trump has single-handedly changed the debate in terms of electoral politics now," said Limbaugh. "There is a bunch of us who have been saying similar things, doing similar things. But none of us is running for president and none of us has been covered by the media day in, day out with every syllable that we utter."

Great. It was bad enough that Limbaugh had a radio show to spout his fringe views--now he has a political candidate to repeat them.

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton--whose senate campaign Trump contributed to in the past, but who he now says will usher in "a crime wave like you've never seen" if she is elected president--said she was "disappointed" in Trump, and used the opportunity to attack all the Republican candidates on their immigration policies.

Clinton, though, also made sure to comment, like Trump, on the shooting case in San Francisco involving an undocumented immigrant. Clinton joined the chorus questioning San Francisco's "sanctuary city" status and reprimanded local officials for not working with the federal government on its deportation and criminalization programs.

Clinton's own support for tough border enforcement and militarization is well known. As a senator, she voted in 2006 for the construction of a $7 million, 700-mile wall on the border with Mexico.

DONALD TRUMP isn't the first politician to use the immigration issue, or even xenophobic hysteria, for political gain. Nor is this the first time that the Republicans have allowed racism to go unchecked in their party in order to score political points.

In fact, new polls--national surveys, as well as polls in early primary states like New Hampshire--show Trump in second place, right behind Jeb Bush. According to a survey of North Carolina voters, Trump won 16 percent of the vote, the leader in a field of 16 Republicans, with Bush and Mike Huckabee a few points behind.

The fact that Trump should qualify to take part in official Republican presidential primary debates has some Republican strategists voicing concern about how his message reflects on the party. But so far, they aren't doing anything about it.

John Weaver, the chief strategist for Republican presidential hopeful and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, told the New York Times that Trump's remarks about Mexicans were "not healthy."

"So yeah, you're concerned about what harm can be done to the party," Weaver said. "But I don't know anybody who thinks they can control what Mr. Trump says or doesn't say, so I'm not going to worry about it."

"You've got to keep him in the tent," former Virginia House member and party "moderate" Thomas Davis told the Times. "He's Ross Perot as an independent. He just wreaks havoc, and every vote he takes comes out of our hide."

Conflicts like these over the Republican "message" are typically characterized as a struggle between the "official" Republican Party and ultraconservatives, like the Tea Party resurgence a few years ago. But the Republican establishment has no problems with exploiting fears about "law and order" or the economy--they just don't want the hard right wing of the party to alienate too many people.

The Tea Party gained a hearing during the 2010 midterm election campaign with the claim that its activists were returning the Republican Party to its true conservative base. While there was rhetoric about a grassroots movement for ordinary working-class Americans, there was also plenty of racism and anti-Muslim hate, which combined in the "birthers" accusation that Barack Obama was born outside the U.S. and remained a secret Muslim.

The people behind the Tea Party, like former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, were neither grassroots nor working class. And while party leaders registered their disapproval publicly, they allowed the Tea Party to flourish--because they understood that it would whip up support among the party's base.

The Tea Party was allowed to mobilize, along with their racist and anti-working-class ideas. So for example, when Tea Partiers gathered to protest health care legislation in March 2010, many hurled racist and homophobic epithets and carried signs that depicted Obama as Hitler.

Today, Republicans face a similar choice when it comes to the anti-immigrant ravings of Donald Trump. Is satisfying the ultraconservatives in the party worth the problems it causes for the party's public-relations image?

As for the Democrats, there's a different question to ask: Will they challenge Trump's hate and make a principled defense of immigrant rights, or will they stand back and watch the Republicans cause more problems for their party? Don't count on it being the former.

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