Even before he shot himself in the mouth by denigrating Sen. John McCain, the obnoxious mogul Donald Trump had done for the national Republican Party in 2015 what former Gov. Pete Wilson did for the California Republican Party in 1994: poisoned it among Latino voters for decades to come.
In case you’ve been face-planted on the beach in Puerto Escondido after one too many mezcales, Trump’s signature immigration statement is this:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. 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.
Just over two decades earlier, an unpopular Wilson linked his re-election campaign to the drive for Proposition 187, which sought to prohibit undocumented immigrants from obtaining health care, public education and other services in California.
It worked: Prop. 187 – fueled by TV ads of Mexicans sneaking across the border with a narrator intoning “They keep coming” – won with 59% of the vote and Wilson, who had trailed in early polling, beat former Democratic state Treasurer Kathleen Brown 55-41%.
Pedro pendejo: Despite Wilson’s personal, short-term triumph, Prop. 187’s provisions were later overturned by the courts – and Latino voters, who had been warming slightly toward the Republican Party, turned sharply away. Wilson became known as hijo de puta on the streets of Mexico City and the Republican brand name was mierda de perro among Latinos throughout California.
The California Republican Party ever since has tried in myriad ways to “reach out” to Latino voters. But their problem is not a failure to communicate: with a party platform that still opposes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the GOP brand remains reviled among Latinos.
Ironically, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – fluent in Spanish and married to a Mexican woman – or with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio –himself a Cuban – as potential nominees, there was an outside chance that some Latino voters might actually consider voting for a Republican for president.
Of course neither of them supports the one issue that’s of overriding importance to Latinos – a pathway to citizenship for those without documentation. As Calbuzz has explained many times (see here, here, here and here for example), while immigration is not the No. 1 issue for Latino voters, it is the threshold issue: if a candidate is opposed to a path to legal status for immigrants, Latinos don’t even want to know his or her position on the economy, jobs, defense or anything else. That candidate is disqualified.
As Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, the most famous Latino journalist in the U.S., explained in an open letter to Republicans:
The Republican Party has been complaining lately about how some Latino journalists, including me, only ask them about immigration. That is correct, but what Republicans don’t understand is that for us, the immigration issue is the most pressing symbolically and emotionally, and the stance a politician takes on this defines whether he is with us or against us.
Fun with numbers: A recent survey by the non-partisan Pew Research Center shows that 72% of Americans say immigrants here illegally should be allowed to stay if they meet some requirements. That includes 42 percent who say those immigrants should be allowed to become citizens and 26 percent who say they should only become permanent residents.
Even 56% of Republicans support a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants. In other words, a majority of Trump’s own party disagrees with him on his most basic contention about immigration.
But the damage Trump has done to his party’s image among Latinos is gigante. A recent poll fielded for Univision tells part of the story:
Univision’s exclusive interview reveals that Hispanic voters overwhelmingly reject Donald Trump’s derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants and give him bad grades as a presidential candidate. 79% of respondents consider Trump’s comments offensive. Only 18% don’t consider them that way. As a result, 71% have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, only 17% have a favorable opinion, and 12% have no opinion of him.
If the Republican primaries and caucuses were held today, Trump would receive just 7% of Hispanic Republicans’ votes, way less than Jeb Bush’s 38% , Marco Rubio’s 22% , and Ted Cruz’s 12%.
And if presidential elections were held now, Hillary Clinton would easily beat Trump among Hispanic voters. She would get 70% of their votes and Trump 16%.
Bottom line: Things will only get worse when it becomes apparent to Latino voters that attacking John McCain caused other Republicans to denounce Trump but that attacking Mexican immigrants was OK with them.
Calbuzz predicts that when future polling examines Latinos’ views about the Republican Party, they will have deteriorated even further.