This week, Donald Trump clarified the stakes in the midterm elections. Speaking on behalf of the Republican Party, he urged his followers to back its congressional candidates at the ballot box in a demagogic video. It opens on a demented murderer speaking Spanish in court and segues to footage of the caravan of Honduran migrants entering Mexico, portraying them as barbarian hordes at the gates.
No responsible political actor would select and juxtapose those video images. No charitable or exculpatory account of its intent is even plausible. It was a naked effort to stoke bigotry and exploit ethnic anxieties.
And no Republican Party message is more prominent.
If the GOP succeeds next week at the ballot box, politicians all over the country will conclude that they can advance their careers by vilifying minority groups, frightening voters predisposed to xenophobia, and dividing Americans. No incentive structure is more dangerous to a multiethnic nation. Politicians in other nations marshaling similar tactics have sparked sectarian violence, campaigns of ethnic cleansing, and civil war. Trump happens to preside over a country where such extreme outcomes are unlikely. But that does not change the character of his tactics or the moral obligation to stand against them.