On immigration, the Republican and Democratic conventions were as different as pit bulls and collies.
In Cleveland, the GOP lined up behind presidential candidate Donald Trump’s nativist crusade to deport undocumented immigrants and build a wall along the Mexican border.
The Democrats, in Philadelphia, gave their podium to undocumented families and pledged again to revive immigration reform.
The Pakistan-born father of a fallen Muslim-American soldier told Trump to read the U.S. Constitution.
Most pundits are scoring this one for the Dems, if only because the party has woken up and smelled the demographic café.
After all, in this century the white conservative vote — most of which considers immigrants a drag on America, according to surveys — has shrunk while the immigrant-heavy Latino vote has ballooned in key swing states.
In fact, it played a big role in President Obama’s 2012 re-election.
If the 2016 race between Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton boils down to the immigration issue — and experts say it could — Clinton’s got it sewed up, right?
Hardly. And that’s because Trump and the Republicans have reached back to the 1980s — when, you know, America was last great — and a page from the politically incorrect, but politically effective, campaign playbook of that era.
They’ve turned immigrants into this election’s Willie Horton. A convicted murderer, Horton was temporarily released from a Massachusetts prison in 1987 as part of the state’s weekend furlough program. Horton then raped a woman and brutally assaulted her fiance. When then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis became the Democratic presidential nominee,
the GOP made the black convict a symbol of white fears — the bogeyman that helped Republican candidate George H.W. Bush win the 1988 presidential election.
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Tim Padgett is WLRN’S Americas editor.