Trump Goes There: It’s Willie Horton 2.0 For the Final Week of the Campaign

Everyone is outraged by the latest video from the GOP. There’s no point in linking to the whole thing; I think this screen cap tells you all you need to know:

The ad is all about Luis Bracamontes, who was in the country illegally when he killed two cops, followed by images of mobs allegedly tearing down flimsy fences in order to storm into the United States. I have two comments:

First: The racist underpinnings of the ad are obvious, so there’s hardly any need to belabor them. This is Willie Horton 2.0 except worse, because it’s an official production of the Republican Party, not some outside Super PAC. It’s worth noticing, though, that the point of the ad isn’t to take down any particular Democrat, but to ruin the entire Democratic brand. The ad may be loathsome, but it’s smart.

So why aren’t Democrats doing the same thing to Republicans? Hell, Democrats don’t even have to be racist to do it. They don’t have to lie. The subject could be pre-existing conditions or corporate tax cuts or DACA or tearing infants away from their mothers. There are loads of totally legitimate subjects that could be dramatized and stuck squarely on the back of the entire Republican Party. So where are they?

Second: Gustavo Arellano wrote an op-ed in the LA Times yesterday repeating the common point that Latinos may not turn out in huge numbers for Democrats this election. “Do not assume Latinos will show up, despite your hard work,” he says. Why? Well, sure, it’s true that Republicans are racist and proud of it. “Nationally, on the other hand, the Democrats haven’t done Latinos any favors. The North American Free Trade Agreement, courtesy of President Clinton, helped to destroy Mexico’s economy and forced millions to migrate to el Norte. Obama couldn’t get any immigration reform passed and cracked down on undocumented immigrants in such record-breaking numbers that activists labeled him the deporter-in-chief.”

This drives me nuts. The peso crisis had nothing to do with NAFTA and was resolved quickly with plenty of help from the Clinton administration. NAFTA, for its part, has been a boon to Mexico. As for Obama, he did crack down on undocumented immigrants, but Arellano surely knows why: it was an effort to show that Democrats could control the border and make it OK for Republicans to pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill. But even that wasn’t enough, as the Republican base quickly revolted and prevented anything from being passed.

No ethnic group is obligated to vote for a candidate or a party, regardless of how well they’ve been treated. But in the real world of real politics, what more could Latinos realistically expect? On the one hand, we have a Republican Party that’s all but promised to swoop up every Latino in the country by helicopter and then toss them into a moat on the other side of the border. They accuse them of being rapists and criminals; they tear infants away from their mothers; they fearmonger over caravans a thousand miles away; they refuse to support DACA.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party could hardly do anything more for Latinos. They support DACA. They support immigration reform. They support driver license laws. They refuse to fund the idiotic wall. Their economic policies favor the working poor. They campaign endlessly in Latino neighborhoods and knock on hundreds of thousands of doors. Putting aside a dream world of unicorns and dandelions, the Democratic Party could hardly be more friendly toward Latinos and their issues.

And yet, it’s not clear if Latinos are going to turn out in big numbers to vote for Democrats and give Trump a black eye. I get that, in the end, it’s always up to the party to do the persuasion. Nobody owes them anything. But how much more can Democrats do? I’m a clueless middle-class white guy. Educate me.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.