A key line from last night’s rally in … Washington state, which went for Obama by double digits in the last two elections and will certainly go for Hillary by that margin this time. Why Trump’s bothering with campaign stops there, I have no idea, but oh well. I’m highlighting the bit about “aspiring Americans” because Fox News highlighted it last night in a tweet that spread quickly on Twitter to chuckles (me included). Given Trump’s flirtation with legalizing illegals over the past two weeks, the bit about “aspiring Americans” sounded suspiciously like the left-wing talking point about bringing illegal immigrants — sorry, “aspiring Americans”! — out of the shadows. In context, though, it seems clear that isn’t what he meant:
If he was describing illegals there, “aspiring Americans” would be an amnesty euphemism worthy of Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer. But watch the clip below. He’s talking about “children of color, any color,” but he’s focused mainly on black children who are stuck in subpar public schools. By “aspiring Americans,” I think it’s obvious he means “Americans who aspire to a better life,” not “foreigners who aspire to become Americans.” This isn’t a wink at amnesty — although it potentially opens him up to new pressure from amnesty shills on legalization. (If we need to help children of color who are American citizens, why not also help children of color who were brought here illegally when they were young and have spent most of their lives in the U.S., i.e. DREAMers?) The point of this speech wasn’t to soften up his base on immigration, it was to try to rebut Hillary’s charge that Trump is the candidate of the white-nationalist alt-right. The five minutes below are among the least alt-rightish of Trump’s 15 months as a presidential candidate. Who he sounds like, ironically, is Paul Ryan, who’s spent the past few years following the example of his mentor, Jack Kemp, in pitching opportunity measures (including school choice) to black constituencies.
My guess is that public opinion on both nominees is sufficiently fixed that this won’t help Trump much, including among the white college grads he badly needs to win over. Look no further than the alt-right itself to see why: If any other candidate demanded that America do more to help black children, they’d laugh and call him a “cuck.” They’ll give Trump a pass, though, because they’re convinced he doesn’t mean it and is simply saying what he needs to say to improve his chances of winning. (The same may be true of his “softening” on immigration.) If alt-righters have come to the conclusion that this is a meaningless pander, go figure that swing voters might too. If Trump wanted to make a strong point about inclusiveness towards minorities, he could have and should have begun much earlier to prove his good faith. He had an easy angle to do so too: As America’s favorite nationalist, he could have drawn a bright line at citizenship early and coupled greater exclusion of foreigners at the border with greater inclusion of struggling Americans, especially black Americans, here at home. If nothing else, a consistent message on that point would have made it much harder for the media to demagogue him as the candidate of “white identity politics.” But that leaves you with a question: If Trump had pushed that message hard, with consistent attention to improving black citizens’ lives, would he have gotten the same traction in the primaries? It certainly would have complicated his alt-right support. Other right-wing voters might have concluded that, although they like parts of his agenda, his focus on black economic improvement was too “politically correct.” Either way, he’s trying to make up for lost time.