Donald Trump warned everyone that this would happen. From the very moment he descended an escalator at Trump Tower and announced his presidency, voters understood, too. Not once did he ever disguise his intentions for the Mexican border: “I would build a great wall. And nobody builds walls better than me.” Folks were shocked at such an unapologetic stance, but many people were entertained. Was this guy for real? The real estate mogul then shamelessly told Don Lemon, “somebody’s doing the raping,” and he was dead serious. Trump told the world all about how Mexico sends their worst, including drug dealers and rapists, to America. People pointed and laughed, but no one bothered to worry until it was too late.
Trump ceaselessly championed his Wall, even while recently criticizing Judge Gonzalo Curiel. The distinguished legal scholar hails from Indiana, but Trump assumes he’s a “hater,” who “we believe, is Mexican.” This past weekend, Trump refused to answer a logical question from CNN’s Jake Tapper: “If you are saying he cannot do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?” Trump childishly repeated, “I’m building a wall.” Somehow, folks are still surprised by his unsavory views, even as he marveled, “Look at my African-American” last week. Major Republican players have remained fairly mum about that last statement, but they sure are embarrassed about Trump’s anti-Hispanic views.
Trump And The GOP Establishment’s Humiliation
Think about how Speaker Paul Ryan must feel. He only just stopped struggling long enough to toss out an endorsement, and Trump gleefully chomped upon his carcass. Ryan seemed truly shocked about Trump’s “Mexican” judge comments in a radio interview, where he said Trump’s newest controversy was “out of left field.” For real:
“Look, the comment about the judge the other day just was out of left field for my mind. It’s reasoning I don’t relate to. I completely disagree with the thinking behind that. And so, he clearly says and does things I don’t agree with, and I’ve had to speak up when that has occurred, and I’ll continue to do that if it’s necessary.”
None of this is out of left field. Trump would have been wise to adjust his tone when Ted Cruz left the race, but he chose not to do so. Without any more Republican rivals to distract his energies, he’s now punching himself in the face. But Trump’s in general election territory now. The primaries in California and other states are mere formalities, and it’s too early to tell how he’ll shape up against Clinton. So, this leaves a lot of uncertainty for Republicans. Newt Gingrich simply shook his head over Trump’s judge statements, calling them “one of the worst mistakes” and “inexcusable.” But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to be the most distraught.
Mitch McConnell’s Tour Of Trump Criticism
McConnell appeared on Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press. There, he dodged a question from Chuck Todd, who wanted to know if Trump’s judge statements were “racist.” Todd persisted in asking the question three times, and all McConnell could muster up was to repeatedly say, “I couldn’t disagree more with a statement like that.” McConnell couldn’t have acted more robotic here even if his eyes flashed red and steam blew out of his ears.
Late last week, McConnell also popped over to MSNBC, where things didn’t go much better. The guy is promoting his hot-fire memoir, The Long Game, and everyone keeps asking about Trump’s statements about Hispanics. How embarrassing! McConnell looks almost trapped by this line of questioning. He admits feeling saddened at Trump’s recent “unnecessary” attack on the Governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez. The real estate mogul slammed Martinez at an Albuquerque rally because she did not attend. Trump imagined she was busy importing Syrian refugees, handing out food stamps, and generally “not doing the job.” McConnell didn’t appreciate this madness, but he declined to comment further on Trump’s statements against Judge Curiel. He simply called Trump a “very different” kind of Republican candidate.
And McConnell visited Jake Tapper, where he talked about how Trump could produce a Barry Goldwater Effect. Although Goldwater was a member of the NAACP and helped desegregate the Senate cafeteria, the Arizona senator made a crucial misstep in opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Goldwater did so on constitutional grounds (protection of states’ rights) and only opposed certain provisions of the act, but he did vote against it. And the effects were lasting, as McConnell noted:
“It did define our party, for at least African-American voters, and it still does today. That was a complete shift that occurred that year and we’ve never be able to get them back. So I think it was a defining moment for Republicans with regard to the accomplishments that we had made for African-Americans going back to the Civil War.”
McConnell then voted against Goldwater, who had secured the Republican presidential nomination. Lyndon B. Johnson went on to win the election after running ads that portrayed Goldwater as an extremist. This notion was based upon an out-of-context interpretation of one line from Goldwater’s nomination acceptance speech — “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” — but the reputation stuck. McConnell isn’t the first person to liken Trump and Goldwater, but for him to publicly draw such a comparison speaks to the establishment’s discomfort. Here’s the video clip of McConnell telling Tapper how Trump could alienate Latino (and Muslim) voters from the Republican party for decades to come.
Trump’s Hispanic Voter Problem: How Bad Is It?
McConnell wishes Trump would unify the party, and he continued during the aforementioned interview with Chuck Todd to fret over how “concerned” he feels about Trump’s place with Latino voters:
“America is changing. When Ronald Reagan was elected, 84% of the electorate was white. This November, 70% will be. It’s a big mistake for our party to write off Latino Americans. And they’re an important part of the country and soon to be the largest minority group in the country.”
Back in 1964, the Goldwater Effect not only alienated African-American voters during the general election, but it cost Republicans a flurry of lost congressional seats, which took several terms to overcome. Goldwater’s reputation wasn’t as dastardly as Trump’s (not even close), and he eventually stood as a celebrated Republican figure. He received a statue at the United States Capitol in February, and McConnell was there for the unveiling. So were John McCain, Nancy Pelosi, and some others who find Donald Trump embarrassing. It’s difficult to imagine these politicians clustering around a Trump statue.
Considering how Trump’s rhetoric is a much more extreme example of what prompted the Goldwater Effect, it’s no wonder that Republicans are terrified. Many folks will pull out their tiny violins, for the GOP knew this was coming, and they didn’t try to stop him in time. Now, he’s the presumptive nominee, and the establishment is simply appalled that he’s still, you know, acting all Trumpish. Well, national Republican strategist Rick Wilson sent a message to the GOP in a weekend column:
“[Y]ou’re awake at night, staring at the ceiling wondering what the madman will tweet next … You own his politics. You own his policies, even the ones that only last as long as the next contradiction. You own the racial animus that started out as a bug, became a feature and is now the defining characteristic of his campaign. You own every crazy, vile chunk of word vomit that spews from his mouth.”
This imagined scenario seems fair. With that settled, the Republicans must now wonder how great the damage will be. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell because existing polls of Hispanic voters remain highly flawed. Many of them contain too-small sample sizes. Plus, many of these voters shun landlines, and their voting turnout is unpredictable. While Trump appears to be polling slightly better than Mitt Romney at this point, current predictions mean about as little as Trump’s taco bowl tweet. Analysts can only guess how Trump’s rhetoric will affect the general election. What does this mean? Many more sleepless nights lie ahead for Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and the rest of the beleaguered establishment Republicans.