When Trump announced his candidacy, on June 16th, he vowed to build a two-thousand-mile-long wall to stop Mexico from “sending people that have lots of problems.” He said, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Three of the statements had no basis in fact—the crime rate among first-generation immigrants is lower than that for native-born Americans—but Trump takes an expansive view of reality. “I play to people’s fantasies,” he writes in “The Art of the Deal,” his 1987 memoir. “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.”
Trump’s campaign announcement was mocked and condemned—and utterly successful. His favorability among Republicans leaped from sixteen per cent to fifty-seven per cent, a greater spike than that of any other candidate’s début. Immigration became the centerpiece of his campaign. “Donald Trump has changed the entire debate on immigration,” Rush Limbaugh told his listeners last month. As the climax of events in Las Vegas and Phoenix, Trump brought onstage Jamiel Shaw, Sr., whose seventeen-year-old son was killed, in 2008, by a man who was in the country illegally. Trump stood by while Shaw told the crowd how his son was shot.
Before departing for Laredo, Trump said, “I’ve been invited by border patrols, and they want to honor me, actually, thousands and thousands of them, because I’m speaking up.” Though Trump said “border patrols,” the invitation had in fact come from a local branch of the border-patrol union, and the local, after consulting with headquarters, withdrew the invitation a few hours before Trump arrived, on the ground that it would not endorse political candidates. Descending the airplane stairs, Trump looked thrilled to be arriving amid a controversy; he waded into a crowd of reporters and described the change of plans as the handiwork of unspecified enemies. “They invited me, and then, all of a sudden, they were told, silencio! They want silence.” Asked why he felt unsafe in Laredo—which has a lower crime rate than New York City or Washington, D.C.—he invoked another “they”: “Well, they say it’s a great danger, but I have to do it. I love the country. There’s nothing more important than what I’m doing.”
This all ends eventually. Donald Trump will not be the Republican presidential nominee. There’s a room full of kingmakers in a really nice hotel somewhere who get the final say and they won’t let it happen. But it might not matter, because the damage will have already been done by then. No matter what side of the aisle you stand on, you owe it to yourself and to this country to read this piece. And if you consider yourself a Trump supporter, you really, really should read it, if only to find out who else is playing on your team.