Donald Trump is betting that his supporters are xenophobic bigots. Those supporters may not realize as much. But after Monday, the conclusion is hard to escape.
Every election, Americans rediscover their hatred of political hypocrisy. Candidates declare their beliefs. Those beliefs become politically inconvenient. And then they shamelessly abandon them, shapeshifting to appeal to an electoral majority. For Hillary Clinton, that meant years of opposition to same-sex marriage, then a flip-flop at the very moment when supporting gay marriage was clearly in her political interest. Barack Obama insisted that Iraq War supporters had bad foreign policy judgment. But when it was politically convenient to have Iraq War supporters as his vice president and secretary of state, he didn't hesitate to elevate them.
Although his fans don't yet see it, Trump is a shameless flip-flopper, too. His shifting positions suggest that he says whatever he thinks a winning coalition of voters want to hear. "I love the Muslims," he said back in September. "I think they're great people." Would he appoint a Muslim to his cabinet? "Oh, absolutely," he said back then. "No problem with that."
In 2012 he spoke glowingly about Latinos, declaring that Mitt Romney's “crazy policy of self-deportation” cost him the Latino vote. The GOP needs to “take care of this incredible problem that we have with respect to immigration," Trump said back then, "with respect to people wanting to be wonderful productive citizens of this country.”