Ahead of last year’s midterms, President Trump telegraphed his electoral strategy. “Hard to believe that with thousands of people from South of the Border, walking unimpeded toward our country in the form of large Caravans, that the Democrats won’t approve legislation that will allow laws for the protection of our country,” he tweeted in mid-October. “Great Midterm issue for Republicans!” To that end, he held rallies across the country, fomenting fear with racist claims about a migrant caravan that was largely made up of families fleeing violence in Central America. Trump also tweeted a veiled warning to his party: “Republicans must make the horrendous, weak and outdated immigration laws, and the Border, a part of the Midterms!”
They got the message. As the Times reported less than a week after that tweet, “Trump has not been alone in seeking to divide the electorate along racial lines this fall: As the congressional elections have approached, a number of Republican candidates and political committees have delivered messages plainly aimed at stoking cultural anxiety among white voters and even appealing to overt racism.”
The strategy failed spectacularly. The party’s anti-immigrant rhetoric may have motivated the GOP base, but not as much as it motivated Democrats and independents. The Republicans got shellacked, losing 40 seats in the House in the worst midterm defeat in history. The results can be read as nothing short of repudiation of Trump’s immigration policies.
And yet, here we are today: The Republicans have let Trump lead the country into what will soon be its longest-ever government shutdown, all over an immigration policy that voters roundly rejected last November. The party’s leaders, notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, could break this impasse by