The Party of Trump, the party of white America

Republicans are in the midst of an identity crisis of serious consequence. With Trump, they are, to a greater extent than ever, declaring themselves the party for white Americans.

With Trump, Republican Party signals it's not interested in reaching minority voters

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to a question during an interview after a rally in Virginia Beach, Va., Monday, July 11, 2016. In presenting himself as the "law and order" candidate for president, Donald Trump portrays a nation of lawlessness and disorder. It does not, though, reflect a trend of declining crime that has been unfolding over 25 years. (Steve Helber/Associated Press)

Republicans are experimenting with a new delusion this week. They are indulging the fiction that all the internal bother about their nominee is just the usual grumbling you always hear from sore losers when things don't turn out for them.

It was the same when Ronald Reagan was the nominee; the same when it was George W. Bush, to paraphrase Trump's White House transition captain, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

That's transparently false.

Republicans are in the midst of an identity crisis of serious consequence. With Trump, they are, to a greater extent than ever, declaring themselves the party for white Americans.

To pretend Trump isn't fundamentally transforming the Republican brand in ways that are, to some, disgusting is plainly dishonest.  

A couple of weeks ago the intellectual conscience of conservatives for the past 40 years, columnist George Will, changed his voter registration from Republican to Independent — an explicit rejection of the Party of Trump.

Will's particular complaint was against Trump's comments about whether a judge of Mexican ancestry could rule impartially on the Trump University fraud case.

That's not the sort of question that would trouble the conservative columnist Ann Coulter, who can fairly be described as the intellectual lodestar of this new Republican Party, the Party of Trump.  

This might come as a shock if you've only ever thought of Coulter as a right-wing bomb-thrower from beyond the fringe who's not to be taken seriously. Read her last book, Adios, America: The Left's Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole, and you'll think differently.  

Many of Donald Trump's ideas may have come from the book Adios, America: The Left's Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole, by conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who sent him a copy at his request. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Adios, America reads like a blueprint for the Trump campaign right down to its catalogue of "immigrant rape culture."

"I never expected anything like this to happen," Coulter told me last week when we met in Los Angeles, where she is recording an audio version of her new book, In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!

Coulter had tried and failed last year to get some Republican presidential candidates to read Adios, America — she wouldn't say which ones — when out of the blue came a request from Trump to send him the book.

'Loud-mouthed lout'

It didn't seem like a particularly special moment to Coulter because, like most people, she dismissed Trump's impending presidential candidacy as just a punch line.  

"Probably, if you had asked me, I thought he was a loud-mouthed lout, and, I don't know, maybe he still is," she told me.

He won my heart with the Mexican rapist speech!- Ann Coulter

But a few weeks later, when Trump launched his campaign with the warning about Mexico sending its people to the U.S. — "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists." — Coulter swooned.   

"He won my heart with the Mexican rapist speech!" she said, enjoying the exquisite absurdity of that sentence.  

The speech would define the Trump campaign, but even a cursory read of Adios, America turns up much more that has blended into Trump's thinking: the wall, the deportation of undocumented Mexicans, the thesis that Mexico sends its people to America so they can send money back home to support the Mexican economy — and page after page after page of anecdotes about immigrant rape culture.  

"Look, his instincts were the right way; my book gives him the footnotes, the backup, the details — anchor babies, the Mexican rapist...nobody talks about the different kinds of cultures we're bringing in and the child rape thing in particular," Coulter said. "The drug problem, all of that's in my book. The Somalis, the Muslims, the immigration moratorium," she added proudly. 

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Featured VideoThe day after he swept five more states in the US primaries, Donald Trump unveiled his foreign policy.

Coulter takes credit for getting into Trump's head, but she is not the first to write about what she writes about.  

The so-called dissident right was at the forefront of the traditionalist conservative movement — immigration "restrictionists" like the late Laurence Auster, who one Conservative writer described as being among the first to see "the dangers ... from uncontrolled immigration, rampant diversity worship, political correctness and the encroachments of Islam via immigration and weak Western leadership."

Auster even wrote controversially about how "a pattern" of "black-on-white rape" is concealed by the mainstream media.

Coulter writes something similar about immigrant rape (pages of it).

But Coulter is an entertaining writer, and her gift has been to popularize extreme opinions in wider conservative circles.

Trump may well be her greatest triumph.

Bluntly speaking, Coulter would prefer an America that's whiter than the one she lives in. Her political advice to Republicans about how to get there is to forget about flirting with other voters and concentrate mostly on the white ones.

Ignoring the Hispanic vote

That challenges the conventional wisdom that the Republican Party needs to broaden its base and reach out to Hispanics if it wants to succeed — precisely the prescription the party intended to embrace after its 2012 defeat with Mitt Romney.

But Coulter points to Texas, which, like California, has a large Hispanic population, but where, unlike California, the white vote is solidly Republican.

"The only swing voters are white voters," she says. "Hispanics in California and Texas vote the exact same way, i.e overwhelmingly for Democrats. The difference is white people in Texas vote overwhelmingly for Republicans; white people in California split their vote."

And that's what Trump is up to.

In fact, with Trump as their nominee, Republicans can only follow the path Coulter advises because of how thoroughly and deliberately he has alienated Latinos.

A Trump pinata for sale at an east Los Angeles market. (Keith Boag/CBC)

But ignoring the Hispanic vote might not be doomed to fail, as so many have argued since 2012.

New data shows there were more white voters than previously thought, and that the Hispanic vote did not decide the outcome of the last election — the white vote did.

In any case, the Republican Party is no longer the party it was in any meaningful sense. No one really believes Trump cares much for the values Conservatives have traditionally claimed to care about like abortion, same-sex marriage, smaller government or getting rid of the departments of education, agriculture and the IRS.

If those were really the issues that drove Republicans, they would have nominated Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney.

Instead, Republicans nominated Trump because they believe what he says about immigration, Mexicans and Muslims. He's not some fair-weather xenophobe; he's the genuine article at last. And that's what they're in Cleveland this week to celebrate.  


Keith Boag

American Politics Contributor

Keith Boag writes about American politics and issues that shape the American experience. Keith was based for several years in Los Angeles and now, in retirement after a long career with CBC News, continues to live in Washington, D.C. Earlier, Keith reported from Ottawa, where he served as chief political correspondent for CBC News.