Just when it seemed the 2016 contest couldn't get any more caustic, the Donald Trump Show has taken another turn. In this week's episode, we witnessed the spectacle of a Trump security guard escorting a widely respected Latino reporter out of a news conference in Dubuque, Iowa. "Go back to Univision," goaded the leading Republican candidate to the journalist, Jorge Ramos, as he was escorted away.
What's gotten less attention is what happened when Ramos was eventually allowed back in to question Trump, who has said repeatedly that he doesn't have time for political correctness. Rebuking the suggestion that his calls for removing birthright citizenship enshrined in the 14th Amendment, deporting 11 million people and their children, and building a 'beautiful wall' along the US-Mexico border were cruel, Trump told Ramos "I've got a bigger heart than you." He then went on to blame gang violence on undocumented Mexicans, remarks inline with previous references to Mexican immigrants as murders and rapist.
The impact Trump's candidacy is having on the race cannot be understated. Dwarfed by the real-estate-mogul-turned-reality television star in poll after poll, Trump's competitors can't decide whether to attack Trump or latch on to his aggressive style as best they can. Jeb Bush, who entered the race amid expectations that he would be the candidate most able to appeal to moderate voters, appears to be trying both tactics. On one hand he has decried Trump's immigration plan as unrealistic, on the other he's used the slur "anchor babies" to refer to children of undocumented immigrants and told a reporter in McAllen, Texas this week, "I think we need to take a step back and chill out a little bit as it relates to the political correctness, that somehow you have to be scolded every time you say something."
Trump was quick to spot the imitation game Jeb was playing. "Sounds a little familiar," he told the New York Times. Meanwhile, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has boasted that he thought up mass deportations and a giant wall before Trump did.
More on Donald Trump from the VICE network:
Why Silicon Valley Is Fuming at Donald Trump's Immigration Policies What Actual Mexican Criminals Think About Donald Trump
Explaining Donald Trump to the Rest of the World The Noisey Editorial Board Is Proud to Endorse Donald Trump for President
Political analysts are wondering what will be left of the Republican Party once Trump is through with it, even as they marvel at how the candidate can be both divisive and appeal to a broad swath of GOP voters. Writing for his web magazine The Federalist last week, conservative blogger Ben Domenech fretted that Trump is pulling his GOP away from the core principles—free markets, limited government, et al.—that could broaden the party's appeal to a wider swath of the electorate, turning it instead toward what Domenech refers to as "white identity politics."
"It's interesting how broad Trump's appeal is across factions and I suspect that at least a portion of that is just attitudinal, because he is saying what people think about the political and media elite," Domenech said in an interview with VICE. "That's not toxic or dangerous. What is toxic and dangerous is wedding that populist frustration to the ethnic blame game, blaming the differently colored immigrants for the problems in your life and career without basis.
"There's a small but significant part of the country that has held to the view that mass deportation is a good thing," he added. "They have not had representation on the presidential stage—the political elites have ignored them for ages and when that happens, someone like Trump has a window."
Political elites likely have ulterior motives for opposing the eviction of 11 million people from US borders and building a 1,954-mile border wall. Like, say, practicality— Trump's deportation could cost upwards of $100 billion—or a desire to win the general election. Still, along with a broad swath of voters—including women, evangelical Christians, and college grads, not to mention Dennis Rodman and Sarah Palin—it appears that there are quite a few outright racists for President Trump.
Like Craig Cobb, for instance, a white supremacist who been trying to buy up land in Antler, North Dakota with the goal of establishing a white-only enclave called "Trump Creativity." And those Trump supporters who chanted "white power" during The Donald's mega-rally in Mobile, Alabama last Friday. And then there's Scott and Steve Leader, the two Southie brothers who were arrested last week for beating and urinating ona homeless Hispanic man near a Boston train station, and later told police "Trump was right" about the need to deport "all these illegals."
"White supremacists all over this country see Trump as their best hope in many, many years," said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been tracking Trump's support among white nationalists. "We are seeing this all over their online forums and their websites, as well."
In an interview with VICE, Potok attributed some of Trump's appeal to white angst over growing cultural pluralism in the US. "There's a large chunk of the population who think the country is lost," Potok said. "We were 90 percent white from the colonial-era right up until the 1950s. Now we're about 62 [or] 63 [percent] white and there's a huge group of people who believe that the country they grew up in has somehow been taken away from them."
Enter Trump, promising to "Make America Great Again." And while his remarks regarding immigrants (or women for that matter) might just seem like part his shoot-from-the-hip, tell-it-like-I-see-it style, the New York Times has pointed out that the real-estate mogul has used this divide-and-conquer strategy to his advantage before. In 2000, Trump secretly funded newspaper ads in upstate New York, warning that the Saint Regis Mohawk tribe, who represented potential competition for his casino business, had a "record of criminal activity" that was "well documented." When he was sued for housing discrimination by the Department of Justice in 1973, Trump argued "the government was trying to force [his company] to rent to welfare recipients."
Trump, for his part, has repeatedly insisted that he is not a racist, and doesn't condone racism. After the hate crime arrests in Boston last week, Trump immediately renounced their attack, calling it a "shame," and adding on Twitter: "We need energy and passion, but we must treat each other with respect. I would never condone violence."
But Potok warned that Trump's immigration remarks may continue to be used as fodder for hate crimes.
"A lot of especially young hate criminals see themselves as somehow standing up for their community in a heroic way, doing what everyone behind them really wants them to do but won't quite say," Potok said. "We see a direct correlation between the type of remarks Trump has made in the public square that get a lot attention and hate violence. Trump running around the country calling immigrants rapists and murders inevitably translates into hate violence against those people."
As for the fate of the Republican Party after it emerges from his vitriolic immigration swamp, Trump doesn't really seem to care. He's made it clear, after all, that he might still run as a third-party candidate should he lose the GOP nomination in 2016. In the meantime, though, he's building a firewall against level-headed political discourse—kinda like that wall he wants to build along the border.
Follow Pete Rugh on Twitter.