Americans have become sadly used to Donald Trump’s tone-deaf and racially-tinged attack on Mexico and on Mexican-Americans. Unfortunately, this uncouth attitude is now spreading to the mainstream of the Republican Party.
From the notorious “rapists” line in Trump’s presidential campaign announcement speech, to demanding an Indiana-born federal judge recuse himself from the Trump University case for being “Mexican,” Trump has been the opposite of sensitivity and self-awareness toward Americans of Hispanic heritage.
A recent stunt from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, however, shows just how far the virus has spread. Officially chaired by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, the NRSC is the official party apparatus in Washington seeking to defend and expand the Republican majority in the upper chamber.
In practice, it is a powerful arm of the political operation of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
Mariachi music is now un-American?
It raised more than a few eyebrows, then, when the NRSC posted a truly strange video advertisement on August 22. At a campaign stop for incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, supporters and campaign staff were greeted by a mariachi band.
As the Senator gave the band a confused smile and onlookers watched bewildered, the band blared out mariachi music. When the video was posted, the only apparent explanation was the hashtag “#MexicoJoe.”
What was the point of this? That people who like Mexican culture are un-American? That only a devious traitor would have a mariachi band? That there aren’t American citizens who play in such musical entourages?
Ostensibly, the point of the attack was a tenuous connection between Donnelly’s family business – which he has no stake in – and the outsourcing of jobs to Mexico.
‘Was the minstrel show not available?’
However, nowhere did the video or the accompanying tweets make that clear. The only coherent message that it seemed to be present was: Joe Donnelly likes Mexicans, and that’s bad.
As one Twitter commentor put it: “Was the minstrel show not available?”
Beyond just Trump, the GOP’s efforts to outreach to Latinos has collapsed into unrestrained hostility fed by white identity politics. Long gone are the days when George W. Bush, with a dedicated effort, managed to win 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000 and 2004.
Instead, the prospect of anything Mexican is now just a caricature with which to attack Democrats.
Perhaps the hidden message in the NRSC fail is this: Racial and demagogic appeals by Trump work because he is at least funny. There’s a huge stand-up element to his rallies, including Tuesday’s in Phoenix.
But a sense is humor is one thing, alas, that doesn’t transfer from the GOP racialist in the White House to the GOP racialists in the Capitol.
(Screenshot of the NRSC “attack” ad involving Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana.)