The New York Times saw Red-state racism everywhere it looked, in Tuesday’s “Attacking Immigrants, Trump Keeps His Base Fired Up for the Midterms.” Reporters Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman went beyond the current border controversies to lump in the national anthem as a racist issue.
As Republicans try to keep their midterm election strategy focused on the economy, tax cuts and falling unemployment, President Trump sent his clearest signal yet on Monday that he intends to make divisive, racially charged issues like immigration central going into the campaign season.
Facing bipartisan criticism over his administration’s family separation practice on the border, Mr. Trump renewed the sort of bald and demagogic attacks on undocumented immigrants that worked well for him politically in his 2016 presidential campaign. He inveighed against “the death and destruction that’s been caused by people coming into this country” and vowed that “the United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility.”
The text box underlined the paper’s thrust: “Spoiling for a fight over divisive, racially charged issues.”
This fear-oriented approach reflects the degree that Mr. Trump has put his anti-immigration imprint on the Republican Party. The same raw appeals Mr. Trump made in 2016 about immigrants illegally crossing the border have not abated among most of his Republican supporters.
Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant remarks are aimed at the conservative base of the party that elevated his candidacy and is dominant in red states and House districts, especially those with largely white populations. The Republican grass-roots were already hawkish on immigration, while the president’s takeover of the party has further diminished its pragmatist wing. And while hard-line Republicans are a minority of the country’s voters, the G.O.P. cannot retain its grip on Congress without this bedrock of its base going to the polls.
The president’s pugnacity on immigration took flight in 2015 when his vows to build a border wall drew an enthusiastic response at his rallies and soon became his signature proposal. But stoking fears about “the other” has always been appealing to Mr. Trump, going back decades to his early days in New York real estate.
The reporters lunged for race cards, warranted or not:
Mr. Trump’s broadsides against Hispanic migrants, like his criticism of black athletes who will not stand for the national anthem, may resonate in the deeply red states where the battle for control of the Senate is playing out. But such culture war attacks will likely alienate voters in the affluent, heavily suburban districts Republicans must win to keep control of the House.
The paper overdosed on hostile “hard-line” labeling of those opposed to illegal immigration, while keeping its eumphemism of "undocumented immigrants" (not illegal ones).
Further, some in the party believe that by pursuing a hard-line approach to families at the border -- a policy that is deeply unpopular among independent voters, according to polls -- Mr. Trump is handing Democrats the high ground on immigration instead of making them defend their support for less popular immigrant protections like sanctuary cities.
The unease with a hard-line approach on immigration is strongest among House Republicans who hail from diverse districts.
Many of these lawmakers signed a discharge petition that would have forced a vote offering legal status for Dreamers, children brought to the country by undocumented immigrants.
“I think it’s pretty clear that this is not a winning issue in the form that some want to take it,” said [GOP strategist Liesl] Hickey, alluding to the hard-line approach.