If the presumptive Republican nominee would have changed his rhetoric after John Kasich and Ted Cruz dropped out of the GOP primary, he and his supporters may have been able to move past his bygone attacks on women, Muslims, and Hispanics, persuading voters that he’s a politically incorrect panderer, not a bigot. Indeed, many on the right deluded themselves into thinking that the Republican standard-bearer would transform into a different character when competing in the general election, taking advantage of America’s short attention-span en route to victory.
This week, Trump’s Republican endorsers are being forced to confront a different reality.
The electoral incentives have changed. But Trump’s rhetoric is as divisive as ever. He is attacking U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the jurist presiding over the Trump University fraud trial, even though doing so guarantees exponentially more press coverage of the fact that he’s being sued for defrauding working-class Americans.
And Trump’s attacks explicitly invoke and appeal to ethnic prejudice.
He calls Curiel a Mexican, as if being born in that country is a mark against a person, despite the fact the jurist was born in the United States; and he insists that a man of Hispanic origin cannot adjudicate the fraud allegations against him fairly, embodying the reductive identity politics that movement conservatives of principle abhor and which align Trump more closely with white supremacists on the “alt-right.”