New York Times (Editorial)
July 21, 2016
The unrelenting whiteness of the Republican National Convention — perhaps the whitest in 100 years — is stunning in itself. Donald Trump has tried to mask its segregationist flavor by strategically featuring African-American speakers to colorize the hall and validate the pronouncements of white speakers like Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor, who have ceaselessly lectured black people on criminality. Among these was David Clarke Jr., the Milwaukee County sheriff, who denounced the Black Lives Matter campaign and applauded the acquittal of a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray.
But after the lights go down in Cleveland, when the yelling subsides, the balloons go limp and the delegates go home, the party will be alone with its message and its nominee.
What next? Why, minority outreach, of course. “Donald Trump’s going to be doing a Hispanic engagement tour coming up soon,” said the party chairman, Reince Priebus.
Donald Trump’s Convention: Day 3
Arguments, provocations and observations from Times Opinion writers.
“Engagement” doesn’t seem likely, given public reactions to the Trump campaign’s message of suspicion and disgust. In some states, Mr. Trump is polling at zero among black voters. A new Latino Decisions survey has 83 percent of Latino voters saying Mr. Trump is a racist, and 71 percent saying he has made the Republican Party more hostile to Latinos. Those results track closely with other polls this month, one conducted by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News and one by Univision.
Still, Mr. Priebus insisted on Sunday that Mr. Trump “understands we need to grow the party, party of the open door, tone, rhetoric, spirit — all those things matter when communicating to the American people.”
His loose syntax suggested he was just tossing words out, knowing they were meaningless. What else could they be, given the wretched rhetoric of the convention? All week, speaker after speaker has painted a vision of a country imperiled by black anarchists, cop killers, immigrant murderers, Muslim terrorists and criminal Democrats.
But let’s take Mr. Priebus at his word, and accept that he and other party operatives — despite their support for Mr. Trump — recognize the limits of a presidential campaign based on chauvinism and fear. What might it take between now and November to win over nonwhite voters, especially Latinos?
For Mr. Trump, who began his campaign by dehumanizing Mexicans as a nation of criminals and went downhill from there, there is nothing to be done. To reverse the damage, he would have to renounce everything he has said about rapists, murderers, mass deportations and walls, and disown the nature of his entire campaign. That’s not going to happen.
If the Republican Party wants to escape the Trump undertow, it will be up to others to repair the distrust and anger. So far they have been profiles in cowardice. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, plus Republican senators and Senate candidates — John McCain in Arizona, Joe Heck in Nevada, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Rob Portman in Ohio — are all supporting Mr. Trump while strenuously trying to change the subject. Marco Rubio, in Florida, is running for re-election talking about algae blooms.
The Latino electorate, meanwhile, isn’t going away or shrinking. Neither is the challenge of confronting immigration. Instead of a “Hispanic engagement tour,” which is almost sure to be a farcical gesture, Republicans could stop demonizing immigrants and start thinking about actually fixing the immigration system.
This means getting back to where they were only three years ago, when an ambitious bipartisan plan handily passed the Senate. That bill was blocked by hard-core House Republicans fanning the same border hysteria and cultural anxieties that Mr. Trump exploits today. Republicans will eventually understand — even if their nominee does not — that there is no future in being the party of white grievance and racial exclusion. Not in these diverse United States. Whether that insight is reached through reflection and self-correction, or an autopsy of yet another failed presidential campaign, remains to be seen.
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