Real estate mogul and presidential candidate Donald Trump touted his business and dealmaking expertise in his campaign launch speech last month, saying, “I did a lot of great deals and I did them early and young, and now I’m building all over the world.” But remarks he made in that same speech are threatening his business empire as companies move to distance themselves from the candidate who said that undocumented immigrants from Mexico “killers and rapists.” On Monday, NBC cut ties with Trump and on Wednesday, Macy’s announced it would stop carrying merchandise from his brand.
“We are disappointed and distressed by recent remarks about immigrants from Mexico,” Macy’s said in a statement. “We do not believe the disparaging characterizations portray an accurate picture of the many Mexicans, Mexican Americans and Latinos who have made so many valuable contributions to the success of our nation.”
Trump responded on Wednesday, saying it was his decision to terminate his relationship with Macy’s and NBC because the corporations clearly “support illegal immigration, which is totally detrimental to the fabric of our once great country.”
One group that hasn’t yet cut ties with the real estate mogul is the Republican Party. While NBC, Univision and Macy’s have publicly denounced his beliefs, members of the Republican party have remained silent or have expressed their support for his anti-immigrant sentiment. On Tuesday, 2016 candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), whose father is Cuban, defended his opponent, saying, “I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific, I think he’s brash, I think he speaks the truth.”
The Republican Party has made it a priority for 2016 to reach out to Latino voters — an effort that was detailed in a report commissioned after its 2012 presidential election loss. The LIBRE Initiative, a group funded by the billionaire conservative Koch brothers, has launched initiatives in Nevada and other battleground states to connect with Latinos including driver’s test classes and tax preparation sessions. And Republican candidates like Jeb Bush have already hired campaign staffers to take on their Latino outreach effort. But at the same time, candidates vying for the party’s nomination like Trump have continued to make disparaging comments about Latinos in the United States, and the party has yet to condemn them.
“Donald Trump’s remarks are very racially charged and should have no place in the American political dialogue of today,” Arturo Carmona, the executive director of Latino advocacy group Presente Action, told ThinkProgress. “In a way, it’s good that we have somebody that’s actually speaking the truth like Donald Trump about what’s really motivating many of these [anti-immigrant] policies. I’d rather have somebody like Trump be honest about what the motivations are than have the GOP and Congress hiding behind political rhetoric, but at the same time, passing policies that are criminalizing immigrants and trying to take away executive action protections.”
While some members of the Republican party will attempt to distance themselves from Trump and his remarks to appeal to a wider swath of voters, Carmona said it won’t be so easy.
“[Trump’s remarks] show powerful racist undercurrents that are connected with very important sectors of the GOP and the Republican party,” he said. “Now many of its leaders try to distance themselves from that, but very often, as we’ve seen with Trump and many other right-wing leaders, we see that they often pop their head out and the GOP quickly wants to hide them and throw them under the carpet. Well they can’t do that anymore with Donald Trump running for president and it’s going to have a very important impact in showcasing the true colors of the Republican Party.”
Despite Trump’s belief that he does “great with Latino voters,” he is not making much of an effort to win their support. Even before he publicly disparaged Mexican immigrants, he spoke about the growth of the U.S. Latino population and his lack of interest in winning the group’s support. “But of those 11 million potential voters, which will go to 30 million in the not-too-long future, you will not get any of those votes no matter what you do,” he said at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.
A record 25.2 million Latinos were eligible to vote in the 2014 midterm election and as the fastest growing U.S. group, the population will be even larger and more crucial in 2016. While Trump is currently polling well among the GOP base in New Hampshire and Iowa, the demographics of the early primary states are not reflective of the population he would have to win over to get the nomination.
And though it appears like the controversy over his comments has not yet had a negative effect on his standing among the candidates — indicating that some of the Republican base takes no issue with anti-immigrant rhetoric — his high position in recent polls isn’t likely to last when voting moves to other, more diverse states like Nevada.
“The fact that Donald Trump is polling so high in some of these early voting states is because there is still a significant share of the population — a minority but a very influencial portion of the Republican Party — that is still anti-immigrant and anti-Latino and I would venture to say anti-communities of color,” Carmona said. “But they’re a minority and they drive an agenda based on fear, based on division and based on the superiority of one group. And I think that’s something that this country is quickly running away from. The electorate is rapidly changing and any candidate that is associated with that platform, as most of the GOPers are, is destined to lose.”
While most of the Republican presidential candidates do not support comprehensive immigration reform, Trump has been one of the more vocal on his opposition to giving immigrants a path to citizenship. He said during his announcement speech that he would “build a great wall” on the southern border and that he would dismantle President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive action that has shielded hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
If Trump is able to maintain his high support until the beginning of August, the GOP will have no choice but to let him participate in the first debate which will include the top ten candidates in national polls at the time. The move could end badly and would give the provocative real estate mogul more exposure than other more qualified candidates.
“The fact that Donald Trump is exposing a lot of the dirty truths of the Republican party is good in the sense that we want an honest debate,” Carmona said. “Latinos deserve to know what is fueling all of these anti-immigrant policies that have ravaged virtually every state in the country and at the national level that have led to deportation.”