Clashes at Trump events are a grow­ing con­cern for GOP

The Washington Post - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BYMARY JOR­DAN mary.jor­[email protected]­post.com

DAL­LAS — Don­ald Trump’s in­flam­ma­tory rhetoric is lead­ing to in­creas­ingly open anger be­tween his sup­port­ers and de­trac­tors, which hasn’t hurt the GOP fron­trun­ner’s poll num­bers but is rais­ing ques­tions about po­ten­tial long-term dam­age to the Repub­li­can Party’s hopes of at­tract­ing mi­nor­ity vot­ers.

In Dal­las on Mon­day night, Trump nearly filled the 20,000seat Amer­i­can Air­lines Cen­ter with wildly cheer­ing sup­port­ers, while out­side hun­dreds of protesters marched, hold­ing “Dump Trump” and “Stop the Hate” signs.

Tem­pers flared as the two groups met on the side­walk out­side the arena af­ter the rally. Po­lice on horse­back moved in to sep­a­rate them as peo­ple shouted at one another.

“Go back to Mexico!” yelled one Trump sup­porter, then another, then more, at Latino protesters.

“You can’t vote, any­way!” shouted another per­son.

Jen­nifer Moreno, a nurs­ing stu­dent and the daugh­ter of Mex­i­can im­mi­grants, shot back that she is a U.S. citizen and has ev­ery in­ten­tion of not only vot­ing against Trump, but also get­ting oth­ers to do the same. “This is our coun­try, too. Trump is stir­ring up hate.”

Out­side the pres­i­den­tial de­bate at the Ron­ald Rea­gan Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary in Simi Val­ley, Calif., on Wed­nes­day, protesters waved signs and chanted, “De­nounce the hate at the GOP de­bate.” The group, made up of mostly Lati­nos up­set about the harsh lan­guage around the immigratio­n de­bate, held up a gi­ant pinata of Trump.

The in­creas­ingly ugly tenor of such clashes has brought even sharper fo­cus to Trump’s rhetoric, which Repub­li­cans and Democrats alike have de­scribed as di­vi­sive and even racist. It has el­e­vated the anx­i­ety of Repub­li­cans try­ing to in­crease the party’s ap­peal — not shrink it. And it has left many of them won­der­ing whether the con­flicts will get worse be­fore they get bet­ter.

‘Sanc­tu­ary cities crap’

Trump drew sus­tained ap­plause Mon­day when he called poli­cies in cities around the coun­try that shield un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants from de­por­ta­tion “sanc­tu­ary cities crap.” He promised that if he is elected pres­i­dent, “they will be out of here so frickin’ fast!”

Ta­mara Estes, 54, a bus driver from Val­ley View, Tex., drove an hour and a half to Mon­day’s rally to see a can­di­date talk about what she cares about. She said she is fed up with thou­sands of “il­le­gals” hav­ing ba­bies in Texas hos­pi­tals and leav­ing hard­work­ing Amer­i­can taxpayers, in­clud­ing her, with the bill.

Trump is “will­ing to take the heat” that comes with talk­ing about race and immigratio­n, she said. And the way he does, she added, “shows a bold ar­ro­gance that is very ap­peal­ing.”

Estes said too many Mex­i­can im­mi­grants “are not as­sim­i­lat­ing.” She can’t even talk to the chil­dren of im­mi­grants across the street, she said, be­cause they say to her, “I no speak English.”

“I mean, these kids go to U.S. schools! For years! And don’t speak English,” she said. “Don­ald Trump calls a duck a duck. He is right that a lot of the il­le­gals are crim­i­nals, they are driv­ing the wrong way on highways and caus­ing crashes, and [they are] in gangs.”

Many oth­ers lined up for hours in 90-de­gree heat to hear Trump.

“I think white peo­ple think their sovereignt­y has been in­fringed on,” said Mark Jones, 65, a Dal­las-area res­i­dent who fixes air con­di­tion­ers. He said he works with many His­pan­ics who work hard. Some served in the U.S. mil­i­tary in Iraq, he said, but many Tex­ans see the huge num­bers of His­pan­ics mov­ing into their state and “they think their coun­try is chang­ing.”

Car­los Quin­tanilla, pres­i­dent of Ac­cion Amer­ica, a civil rights group in Texas and an or­ga­nizer of Mon­day’s anti-Trump rally, said the can­di­date’s re­lent­less talk about “an­chor ba­bies,” build­ing a huge wall on the U.S.-Mexico bor­der and de­port­ing mil­lions of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants has led to a flood of “ugly” anti-His­panic talk on the ra­dio.

Quin­tanilla said oth­ers are em­bold­ened to in­sult His­pan­ics when they see Trump eject Jorge Ramos, one of the most re­spected His­panic jour­nal­ists in the United States, from one of his news con­fer­ences, say­ing, “Go back to Univi­sion,” or they hear him be­lit­tle those who speak Span­ish. Trump re­cently mocked GOP ri­val Jeb Bush — a flu­ent Span­ish speaker who has ad­dressed re­porters in Span­ish — with this tweet: “Jeb Bush is crazy, who cares that he speaks Mex­i­can, this is Amer­ica, English!!”

“With him run­ning for pres­i­dent, racism has ap­peared more than usual,” said Gus­tavo Men­dez, 17, who at­tended another protest at Trump’s ap­pear­ance Tues­day in Los An­ge­les, hold­ing a sign read­ing, “I’mnot an an­chor baby.”

Less clear is whether Trump is in­cit­ing sup­port­ers on pur­pose.

Claudia Rank­ine, an English pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia who has writ­ten about so­cial jus­tice, says Trump is de­lib­er­ately “play­ing a game with lan­guage.”

He doesn’t use the most of­fen­sive words, but “the tone you take is in recog­ni­tion of your au­di­ence, and in this case, he is ap­peal­ing to peo­ple in our cul­ture who hold racist and sex­ist be­liefs. “The rest of us should un­der­stand it is a per­for­mance,” she said, adding, “He doesn’t care if it up­sets some peo­ple, be­cause those peo­ple are not his in­tended au­di­ence.”

Trump has said it is ab­surd to call him racist, and he in­sists he will win the black and His­panic vote. But on Tues­day evening, he also told the Chris­tian Broad­cast­ing Net­work’s “The Brody File” that “I think maybe I can some­times tone it down.”

He con­tin­ued: “When some­body hits, you can hit a lit­tle bit less hard. At the same time, that may be the kind thing that the coun­try needs be­cause we have to hit back hard. We have to fight hard be­cause we’re not go­ing to have a coun­try. You need a per­son of tremen­dous strength — but I think I could tone it down a lit­tle bit, and I’ll try.”

‘Di­vi­sive and mean-spir­ited’

One thing is clear: The rhetoric is mak­ing other Repub­li­cans un­com­fort­able at a time when the GOP is try­ing to ex­pand its ap­peal to African Amer­i­can and Latino vot­ers.

Bush said Trump is “di­vi­sive and mean-spir­ited.” Ac­cord­ing to Politico, he went as far to say in New Hamp­shire that “those are dog-whis­tle terms; he knows what he’s do­ing. These are very di­vi­sive terms. If we’re go­ing to win elec­tions, we need to be much more open, open and op­ti­mistic, rather than send­ing sig­nals that prey on peo­ple’s angst.”

Peter Wehner, a se­nior fel­low at the Ethics and Public Pol­icy Cen­ter who served in the past three Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions, said the clashes be­tween Trump sup­port­ers and protesters are harm­ful and dif­fi­cult to con­tain.

“The Repub­li­can Party, as rep­re­sented by Trump, isn’t an invit­ing and hope­ful party,” he said. “It’s an­gry, it’s vul­gar, it’s quasi-ni­hilis­tic. An­dit’s not a pretty sight.”

Added Austin Bar­bour, a GOP strate­gist who has ad­vised for­mer Texas gover­nor Rick Perry’s su­per PAC: “Trump is a mean-spir­ited kind of guy who isn’t for a big tent in any­way. Ob­vi­ously that men­tal­ity and ap­proach is spread­ing to peo­ple who are around him.”

There is good rea­son for the angst. Polls con­sis­tently show Trump lead­ing the pack of GOP can­di­dates in sur­veys of likely Repub­li­can vot­ers— but polling mis­er­ably with mi­nori­ties.

Eight in 10 African Amer­i­cans and His­pan­ics view him un­fa­vor­ably, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Washington Post/ABC poll.

Even more dis­com­fit­ing for some is the ap­peal Trump has among or­ga­ni­za­tions known to har­bor white su­prem­a­cist views.

Trump’s views on immigratio­n are res­onat­ing with many white peo­ple who fear that “Amer­ica is be­com­ing a His­panic coun­try,” said Richard Spencer, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Pol­icy In­sti­tute, a think tank “ded­i­cated to the her­itage, iden­tity, and fu­ture of Euro­pean peo­ple in the United States and around the world.”

“It’s real,” he said. “You feel like you are los­ing your home.”

David Duke, the for­mer grand wiz­ard of the Ku Klux Klan, praised Trump’s can­di­dacy as “a great thing” and sup­ported Trump’s call to de­port all 11 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants in the United States.

“He’s say­ing what no other Repub­li­cans have said,” Duke said re­cently on his ra­dio show.

Asked about Duke’s sup­port, Trump told Bloomberg News: “I don’t need his endorsemen­t. I cer­tainly don’t want his endorsemen­t. I don’t need any­body’s endorsemen­t.”

As more and more protesters show up at Trump events car­ry­ing signs with such words as “racist” and “hate,” the po­ten­tial for more con­flict re­mains. Aprotest sim­i­lar to the one in Dal­las, for in­stance, oc­curred Tues­day at Trump’s for­eign-pol­icy ad­dress in Los An­ge­les, where chants of “Don­ald Trump, he’s a racist,” re­ver­ber­ated across a park­ing lot.

The di­vide was il­lus­trated by two very dif­fer­ent at­ten­dees of the Trump event in Dal­las. Out­side with the protesters, Seth Gomez held a sign that read “Trump = Hate.” He said it was “not pres­i­den­tial” for a can­di­date “to stereo­type peo­ple and as­so­ciate crime with skin color.”

But Michael Oehlers, who took his eighth-grade son, Cody, out of school to hear Trump, said he ad­mired the busi­ness­man for “speak­ing his mind.” In an era when peo­ple take of­fense easily, he said, “I like that Trump calls illegal aliens ‘illegal’ and not ‘ un­doc­u­mented.’ ”

“He is his own man,” he said, adding, “He’d be even higher in the polls if he quit the name­call­ing.”

“He doesn’t care if it up­sets some peo­ple, be­cause those peo­ple are not his in­tended au­di­ence.”

Claudia Rank­ine, English pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, on Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign rhetoric

MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS

Protesters with a Don­ald Trump piñata stand out­side the Ron­ald Rea­gan Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary in Simi Val­ley, Calif., be­fore the GOP de­bate.

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