Donald Trump was supposed to moderate his stance on immigration Wednesday night. Over the past two weeks, the GOP nominee had finally accepted that he would need to win over more moderate Republicans and nonwhite voters to have any chance of winning the White House. And so, Trump began speaking of a “softening” in his policy toward the undocumented, suggesting that people in the United States illegally deserve “fair and humane” treatment, and floating the idea of a pathway to legalization for the best among them. Some of his surrogates even hinted that his big, beautiful wall might, in fact, be “virtual.”
While these trial balloons drew rebukes from some right-wing infotainers, polls suggested that “softening” his hardline immigration positions would actually increase the enthusiasm of his base.
Wednesday afternoon, Trump seemed to have taken heed of this finding, treating the Mexican president with basic courtesy during a joint appearance.
And then, last night in Arizona, Trump stepped up to the podium and delivered a jeremiad against the undocumented so reactionary, at least 15 of his campaign’s Hispanic advisers are now preparing their resignations.
“The ‘National Hispanic Advisory Council’ seems to be simply for optics and I do not have the time or energy for a scam,” Ramiro Pena, a Texas pastor and Hispanic adviser to Trump, wrote in an email to his campaign obtained by Politico. “I will pray over the next couple of days but it is difficult to [imagine] how I can continue to associate with the Trump campaign…I owe my national audience an explanation.”
Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, had organized a letter of support for Trump with other Latino conservatives earlier this summer. After Trump’s remarks in Arizona, Aguilar is starting to think his faith in the mogul may have been misplaced.
“It’s so disappointing because we feel we took a chance, a very risky chance,” Aguilar told Politico. “We decided to make a big U-turn to see if we could make him change. We thought we were moving in the right direction … we’re disappointed. We feel misled.”
CBS News’ Leslie Sanchez reported that at least half of Trump’s Hispanic advisory board felt the same way.
While Trump’s speech may have alienated 50 percent of his own Latino advisers, it did succeed in shoring up the support of David Duke.
Surely, the Republican Establishment can make peace with that trade-off.