It looked, at first, like Donald Trump’s campaign was handling his latest spectacle of offense-giving—saying a federal judge’s Mexican heritage made him incapable of fairly ruling on the Trump University fraud case—the way any normal presidential campaign would.
“The best possible response is ‘the case will be tried in the courtroom in front of a jury—not in the media,'” said a memo sent by a Trump campaign staffer, coaching a team of high-profile Republican Trump evangelists on how to respond to press questions.
But since we are all living in bizarro-world, Trump dismissed his staffers’ advice in a follow-up with his surrogates, calling it “stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”
And we really shouldn’t be surprised.
Trump’s increasingly artless slurs—which he and his campaign have since extended to say that women and Muslim judges couldn’t rule impartially on his dealings, either—are core to Trump’s case for the presidency, which is dispensing with the dog whistle and making it plain that his candidacy is about restoring the primacy of white men.
Being “right” has little to do with it. If Trump’s lawyers really wanted to get rid of judge Gonzalo Curiel, they would be calling for his recusal. Instead, Trump is using the case to opportunistically spread his message.
It’s no coincidence that Trump repeatedly accused Curiel of prejudice “because I’m building a wall.”
His border wall is a totem that promises to protect his supporters from mainstream culture’s inequities. It promises to keep out the undeserving—those who would take his supporters’ jobs, drive down their wages, and cadge off their tax dollars.
As a fringe benefit, Trump’s supporters delight in the fact that the wall enrages the media, the Democrats, the establishment—even the Republican party leaders that Trump supporters despise.
As if on cue, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus, and all the other hapless Republican leaders started freaking out about Trump’s racism.
Moral outrage coming from… Little Marco? That’ll keep Trump rally-goers giggling for a while.
This only solidifies their belief that he is the cure for what ails America. So behold, yet again, Trump’s propagandist genius. A few sly insinuations about a judge’s biases won him an enormous dose of free advertising reminding his supporters they’re the real Americans—and that he alone isn’t afraid to say so.