Monday, July 27, 2015

A New Kind Of Feel-Good Candidate

If we didn't know any better, we would have thought, having read this in The Washington Post three weeks ago, that Donald Trump is a hypocrite because

Despite his recent statements about the types of undocumented Mexicans who come over the border, and his stubborn refusal to walk those statements back as he’s seen business deals crumble, a Washington Post article on Tuesday revealed that Donald Trump may be reliant upon undocumented-immigrant labor to construct his latest real-estate development.

The Post interviewed several construction workers and day laborers working on Trump’s new $200 million Washington, D.C., hotel, and discovered that some were undocumented immigrants, afraid for their jobs in light of Trump’s announcement. Others, who agreed to be interviewed on the record, said they were once undocumented immigrants who obtained legal status, and expressed “disgust” at Trump’s disparaging comments.

“The majority of us are Hispanics, many who came illegally,” Ivan Arellano, a mason who originally came from Mexico and eventually gained his legal status through marriage, told the Post. “And we’re all here working very hard to build a better life for our families.”

Inadvertently, one interviewee explained why the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests are so accepting of illegal immigration.  A naive "Daniel Gonzalez, an El Salvadorian who was granted asylum, worried that Trump’s anti-Hispanic sentiment would jeopardize their jobs: 'He might come one day and pretty much tell us to get the heck out of here.'"

Not a chance, Trump, his contractor and that company's subcontractor has Daniel right where they want him: working cheaply and scared of losing his job.

Another fellow, Ramon Alvarez, reportedly asked rhetorically “Do you think that when we’re hanging out there from the eighth floor that we’re raping or selling drugs?”  Of course not, but neither does Trump or either of the others, who wouldn't care if he were raping or selling drugs, as long as he keeps quiet and adds to the bottom line.

The likes of Gonzalez and Alvarez are not working for Mr. Trump, but for a subcontractor.  The contractor is Lend Lease, which agreed in 2012 to pay $56 million to settle a huge fraud scheme in a case handled by then-Brooklyn District Attorney Loretta Lynch, who might otherwise actually have prosecuted the company for having carried on the practice for decades. That was fortunate for both Lend Lease and Ms. Lynch, the latter of whom went on to be rewarded by President Obama by a nomination for Attorney General.

Revelations in the article didn't hurt Trump at all, and neither will he be hurt now that

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Friday, host Joe Scarborough asked Trump what he would do about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country once America secured its southern border. After arguing the real number of illegal immigrants is much higher and saying the first thing America needs to do is “take the bad” illegal immigrants and “get them the hell out,” Trump sounded like he was open to providing some type of pathway to legalization for the remainder.

“And then the other ones — and I’m a very big believer in merit system, I have to tell you,” Trump said. “Because some of these people have been here, they’ve done a good job, you know, in some cases sadly they’ve been living under the shadows.”

“We have to do something,” he continued. “So whether it’s merit or whether it’s whatever, but I’m a believer in the merit system. If somebody’s been outstanding, we try and work something out.”

Because it appears he was talking about legalization rather than citizenship, a President Trump wouldn't have to worry about those pesky employees from South America or Latin America voting or raising a stink about their working conditions.

However, even if the candidate actually had broached the possibility of citizenship, he probably wouldn't have been hurt much.  Steve M. asks

Can it be that Trump's fans don't really care whether he's an actual immigration hard-liner, just so long as he says racist things about Mexicans and threatens to make the Mexican government pay for a border fence? Do the Trumpites care less about implementing hard-line immigration policies than they do about hating brown people?

I think Trump could possibly be damaged if someone in the first debate goes after him from the right on immigration, throwing these statements back in his face. But it might not matter. Trump might just start trash-talking Mexico again, and the Trump believers will respond more to the nastiness than to the actual policy.

Most conservatives usually react less to actual policy than to how something feels, thus being freed from the responsibility of acquiring, and analyzing, facts.   It feels great when he boasts "I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me."  When he adds "I'll build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall," nobody asks why Mexico would pay for  a wall to keep the people they now are (allegedly) pushing out to the USA.

It wouldn't matter, however. Trump will  have Mexico pay for that wall- and not only will he kick them in the rear, he'll make them love it. And ask for more.   When Donald Trump concludes "mark my words," it feels like a 2015 version of  "read my lips- no new taxes," which helped get GHWB elected president. In the video below, Trump cab be seen vowing "I will find... the guy who will take that military and really make it work. Nobody will be pushing us around." Even knocking the military- an institution sacred to many conservative Republicans- is acceptable as long as "nobody will be pushing us around."

"Thanks to his machismo and his wealth," Elias Isquith finds, "Trump becomes, at least in the eyes of many of his backers, a symbol of the kind of individualism they see as integral to their identity as conservatives."  He comes across as a tough guy and in the short term, that works just fine.

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