What looked like the cloud no bigger than a man’s hand only weeks ago has become a dark and threatening cloudbank on the horizon. Nobody any longer says that Donald Trump can’t win the Republican nomination. Some pundits are even saying maybe he could even be elected president. His lead in the public-opinion polls seemed to have solidified at about a third of the Republican primary vote, a remarkable number. The Trump phenomenon proves once more that it’s wise to never say never.
Mr. Trump’s appeal is largely due to his willingness to talk tough about the politically correct. He’s the only candidate who will. The others are afraid to say anything real about immigration, everybody’s hot button. Until now the other candidates have been afraid to challenge him on his “factoids,” the novelist Norman Mailer’s clever name for something that bears resemblance to a fact, is offered as a fact, but in fact is not a fact. The official Republican fear is that saying anything in defense of the nation’s borders will drive the critical Hispanic voters into the arms of the Democrats. Such fears are not exactly racist, but such fears assume that Hispanic voters won’t listen to a reasonable, fair argument. Polls have shown that many Hispanic immigrants who played by the rules to get here resent those who cheat to get here.
Mr. Trump, in fact (and not factoid), has become more disciplined on the stump, more careful in what he says and how he says it. He’s subject to slipping up, and calling him on his mistakes and exaggerations is the duty of the other candidates. His persistence on the issue and his staying power in the fight reflects the realization of many Americans that the politicians, whether in fear or in ignorance, are ignoring the wave after wave of migrants entering the United States illegally, taxing social services, stealing jobs, and swamping the nation’s ability to absorb them.
Anti-immigrant sentiment is always highest during periods of economic distress and Barack Obama hasn’t done much to get the American economy moving again. The participation in the labor force is the lowest since Jimmy Carter’s famous “malaise” encouraged a recession. Many Americans have given up looking for work, having lost all hope for Mr. Obama’s promised change. The Republican elites are dismissive of the base, and the base is disgusted with the elites. That makes the harmony necessary to win elections difficult to achieve.
The Tea Party groups around the country that organized themselves to fight Obama spending, and to block Obamacare, are devoting a lot of time now to immigration and the border. They’re flocking to the Donald because his vague promises to protect them, to save them from being overrun, sound better than what the other candidates are saying.
The way to turn a liability into an asset is for the elites to grab Congress by the scruff of the neck and demand performance. The Grand Old Party, assuming it can be grand again and not just old, could craft border security legislation that would halt the illegal masses rushing over the border. Such legislation should include a way for temporary workers to enter and exit the United States in an orderly way. This wouldn’t please the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, most congressional Democrats, and the AFL-CIO. President Obama would no doubt veto it if it makes it through Congress. But this is what America wants. Every time the president vetoes the legislation, it should be tweaked and returned to the president’s desk. The public would soon see who’s blocking the solution. The way for the Republican elites to stop Donald Trump is to offer something better.