You’ve probably noticed by now, but Donald Trump can be pretty damn racist. Between calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” using broken English to imitate Asian negotiators, and spending several months loudly questioning the citizenship of the country’s first black president, he’s demonstrated a knack for embracing and amplifying derogatory stereotypes about ethnic and racial minorities. One could almost be tempted just to laugh it off if he were still just a dirtbag reality TV performer, but Trump’s unguarded bigotry has helped – or at least hasn’t hindered – his ascent to the top of the 2016 Republican field. Per the latest polling, nearly three in ten Republican voters back Trump, who is quadrupling the support of establishment favorites like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. His anti-immigrant rhetoric inspired violence against a Hispanic man in Boston. When presented with the fact that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are backing his campaign, Trump responded: “People like me across the board. Everybody likes me.” Something is very wrong here.
To get a sense of how bad it’s getting, consider what has happened in the aftermath of Trump’s imbroglio with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, whom Trump ejected from a press conference after he asked some aggressive questions about Trump’s illegal and ridiculous plan to deport undocumented immigrants. Trump’s treatment of Ramos couldn’t have been more disrespectful – before booting Ramos from the room he snarled “go back to Univision.” After being removed from the press conference, Ramos was angrily confronted by a Trump supporter who told Ramos – a citizen of the United States – to “get out my country.”
You can brush that episode off as one misinformed bigot behaving terribly, but the reaction from conservative pundits to the Trump-Ramos fight has been pretty ugly as well. Laura Ingraham, one of the most influential voices for nativist immigration policies, went on Fox News last night and likened Ramos – who, again, is an American citizen – to an undocumented immigrant to argue that Trump gave him the treatment he deserved:
INGRAHAM: I think Ramos is an activist posing as a journalist and as he has been doing that he has been able to largely escape any critical commentary from others because he is Jorge Ramos at he is at Univision and he's one of the most celebrated folks in the cover of "Time" magazine one of the 100 most influential. So, everyone is like tiptoeing all the time around Jorge Ramos. And what I think what Trump did in this press conference is he was calling on someone else. And Jorge jumped the line, you know, much like illegal immigrants do. They jump the line. And I think people watching it, even if they don't like Trump all that much, they also don't like boorish journalists who constantly interrupt and don't wait their time.
That quip was an echo of what Fox News’ Jesse Watters said on the network earlier in the day. “I think Ramos acted like an illegal alien and he got treated like one,” Watters said. “He cut the line, was disruptive, and then was deported and then Trump let him back in. Isn’t that his policy?” Let’s not pretend that comments like these would be made about a non-Latino reporter who behaved in the same fashion as Ramos.
And then there’s talk radio screecher Mark Levin, who appeared on “Hannity” last night and lectured Ramos about American greatness before declaring that the Univision anchor – who is, once again, an American citizen – is “taking advantage of this country” and “has nothing to do with, as far as I'm concerned, what's good going forward for this country.”
LEVIN: Sean, I did a little checking. About three years ago, he was named one of the 100 biggest leaders or movers by Time magazine, and he -- and he wrote about himself, and he said, among other things, "But I've never ceased to be Mexican. I've two passports and I vote in elections in both countries. I'm deeply proud of this privileged duality. The best thing about America is its embrace of diversity."
No, the best thing about America is America, Mr. Ramos.
This is absurd and appalling behavior, and all of it is inspired by the fact that a Latino journalist questioned Trump’s draconian immigration policies and frequently racist attitude towards immigrants. Trump’s campaign is churning up all the rank nativism that has festered just below the surface of Republican and conservative politics for years, and now it’s just lying out there for everyone to see. Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi wrote last week that Trump’s campaign, once rightly viewed as a sort of campy joke, has ceased being funny. He’s right. It’s ugly and damnable and embodies the worst traits of American politics.