Trump Impact—Overblown?

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe & Doug Jeffe

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Communication, Sol Price School of Public Policy and Doug Jeffe, Communications and Public Affairs Strategist


As if politics weren’t crazy enough this year, Donald Trump has brought his unreality show to the 2016 Presidential race.   Trump’s buffoonery has captured the attention of the media and the hearts of more than a few grumpy voters, at least for a while.   But those who worry (Republicans) or hope (Democrats) that Trump’s antics will finally, totally, destroy GOP chances of winning a viable share of Latino voters in 2016 should take a deep breath.

Comparisons of Donald Trump in 2015 to then-Governor Pete Wilson in 1994, currently bouncing around social media and cable chat shows, aren’t valid. Pete Wilson was fighting for his re-election as California’s governor–and for his political life, when he embraced Proposition 187, which would have denied health and education services to undocumented immigrants.

Wilson was angry at the federal government for squeezing his state’s revenues, failing to pay the bills for California’s expenses relating to the undocumented,. His campaign also saw the immigration issue as a way to differentiate him from his Democratic challenger, then-State Treasurer Kathleen Brown, while moving closer to the GOP’s conservative base.

It is doubtful that the Wilson camp really thought that Proposition 187 would ever pass muster with the courts, but saw it as a way to send a message to Washington and California voters. With hard-hitting commercials, the ploy worked—in the short run, and Wilson was handily re-elected with 55% of the vote, while Proposition 187 passed 59percent YES to 41% NO.

Over the long run, the fall-out from the Wilson campaign and Proposition 187 has been a disaster for the GOP in California.   In the wake of Prop.187’s victory, Latinos, who have been the fastest growing population group in the state were awakened politically. And Latino voters turned their anger against the Republican Party.   Wilson was the last top-of-the-ticket Republican candidate to carry California (with the exception of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s out of the box victories).

California is now a deep blue state and the dramatic anti-Republican tilt among Latinos is one of the major reasons. Trump, however, has his own, singular brand that eclipses his party affiliation. As a matter of fact, Trump’s antics may be presenting an opportunity for other Republican candidates, particularly Jeb Bush, to have a “Sister Souljah moment,” by barking back at Trump and his outrageous statements about immigrants, veterans, et al. The danger for Republicans is that their candidates, in pre-primary debates, may start trying to out-Trump Trump. That’s what happened in 2012, when Mitt Romney talked about “self-deportation” as he tried to shore up his anti-illegal-immigrant bona fides against his more conservative primary opponents.

The bottom-line problem for the GOP, in their wobbly attempts to reach out to Latinos, is not Trump or any of their other presidential contenders; it is their party’s harsh rhetoric, their hardline approach to immigration reform and their opposition to social programs that benefit Latinos.

That’s what doomed the Republican Party in California after Prop. 187. Until that changes, Republicans can only hope to pick up a slightly larger share of the Latino vote and, more importantly, gamble that Latinos are not energized to come out and vote against GOP candidates.

In the meantime, the Trump circus will continue to provide a glitzy “Single-O” sideshow (A carny term for a show consisting of a single attraction) during the summer doldrums. For those who get their kicks out of absurdist theatre, it is great fun. The rest of us can turn off the cable news channels and just watch “Sharknado 3.”

Share this article: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Comment on this article


Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.