But on the airwaves and online, another story is playing out: an absolute torrent of ads designed to scare and irritate voters about immigration.
A new report from the pro-immigration group The Voice of America seeks to document this ongoing phenomenon. One of its key takeaways: “Republicans have made their nativist narrative a top messaging priority.”
In the world of Republican campaign ads, very little has changed since Trump’s xenophobic presidency, and some of what’s in those ads is truly repugnant.
Three themes dominate these ads, according to the report, and they’re all wildly inflammatory and deeply dishonest: the Biden administration created ‘open borders’, undocumented immigrants are responsible for fentanyl overdoses, and a real ‘invasion’ is In progress.
The borders are anything but open; the Biden administration prosecutes, arrests and deports people seeking to come to the United States by thousands. The large majority fentanyl entering is smuggled through ports of entry in cars, boats and planes, not transported by undocumented immigrants. And as for an “invasion,” that’s no more true now than it was when Trump warned that the caravans were about to invade the country.
But Republican ads portray horror and mayhem — usually with a non-white face. Some announcements show pictures young black men crossing rivers to “invade” America, with language suggesting this “invasion” brought “terrorists, drugs and crime”.
Other announcements Biden administration says is supposed to “import 20 million illegals and grant them amnesty” (the image of this one is people in Haiti), which can’t be stopped by “a declaration of invasion”.
In some announcements it is not just an open border but a “wide open border” – again, exemplified by pictures of haitians. In others we are told that “trafficking in people, sex and drugs is out of control because of Democratic governance”, while Democratic candidates “refuse to oppose Biden’s open borders policy.”
Sure, there’s no open border policy, but why should the fact that it doesn’t exist stop Democrats from opposing it? It shows how sinister they are, these ads saybecause they “want to destroy this country”.
All of this captures something essential about this political moment. For months, Republicans were certain they could sow fear of chaos in order to secure a midterm victory. They ran on crime and immigration, not only to excite the base, but also to scare off unstable voters.
Yet the dynamics have shifted unexpectedly, and now disorder and, dare we say, crime — as in the potential crimes of Donald Trump and many of the January 6 defendants — don’t necessarily work in favor of the GOP. The reversal of Roe vs. Wade unleashed another form of chaos and a host of new dangers threatening women. And all of these things energize Democrats.
Meanwhile, the GOP’s rantings about immigration — especially the more repugnant elements contained in these ads — may be receding toward what is largely a grassroots issue. Even if the GOP’s immigration messaging stays squeezed at peak intensity, and even if frontier Republicans ramp up miserable stunts like take migrants by bus to major citiesmomentum is turn to the democrats in the medium term, including among the self-employed.
“Republicans are indulging in the worst kind of white nationalist rhetoric,” Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, told us. “And an issue that they thought would win over swing voters is at best a grassroots mobilizer for voters they already have.”
What makes it all really ugly, though, is that the under-the-radar message — for which Democrats bear some responsibility, after being silent on the matter — allows it to go on mostly without scrutiny. . This, even though its worst incarnations – such as the “great replacement theory” – have inspired the recent mass shootings.
In this sense, it is worth keeping an eye on Blake Masters, the GOP candidate for the Senate in Arizona. He has is heavily trafficked in a big replacement theory and ran some really despicable immigration ads, including an which features machine gun fire on the border. Yet in a place where President Biden won by a hair’s breadth that is also a border statemastery is lagging behind by a significant margin.
As Sharry told us, the whole Masters “declare an invasion” line “doesn’t work, in a state where one-third of voters are independents and border security is a major issue.”
Yet whether it works with independents and swing voters, that foul sewage flows relentlessly. And he will surely continue to do so.