Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

As it became increasingly clear that Donald Trump would win the election, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews of MSNBC began examining what role the immigration debate played in the election:

Immigration was the most-searched election issue in the week leading up to November 8th according to Google News Lab. Trump won 64% of voters who said immigration was the "most important issue." No presidential election is a referendum on a single issue but immigration was a core issue of both Donald Trump's and Hillary Clinton's campaigns and it does seem to have been one of the determining factors in the outcome of the election, just not in the way that many pundits predicted. Chris Cilliza of The Fix noted with interest that "Trump actually performed better among Hispanics than Romney did -- 29 percent to 27 percent. More tellingly, Clinton underperformed Obama's 2012 showing among Hispanics by six points (71 percent for Obama, 65 percent for Clinton.)"

The New York Times saw immigration as one reason that the white, blue-collar base of the Democratic Party "from the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt to Mr. Clinton’s....move{d} so drastically away from their ancestral political home..."

But if immigration played a significant role in electing Donald Trump, what was the motivating factor? Like Maddow, Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine strongly implied that Trump was successful in using immigration to unleash the latent bigotry within the ignorant masses of fly-over country, mocking them for not even realizing that "Even a complete halt to all of illegal immigration and a total deportation of every undocumented immigrant will not prevent the growth of nonwhites into an eventual majority."

Chait was right about the demographic reality, but this theory about nearly half the country is wrong and (thankfully) not shared by everyone in the media. Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post wrote:

"...leaning primarily on racism, bigotry or sexism to explain what happened Tuesday is too facile by half. Missing from the audiences that television cameras focused on were millions of others - Republicans, independents, libertarians and maybe even some Democrats - who would rather be horse-whipped than attend a Trump rally but were compelled to vote “R” against the likelihood of a more liberal Supreme Court, laxer immigration laws and an increasingly costly health-care system, among other concerns."


Mark Shields warned his liberal friends in the press against using the "race card" to explain what was, in part, "a revolt of working-class Americans...a revolt against us in the press..."

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

Updated: Fri, Dec 2nd 2016 @ 2:30pm EST

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