And no, Trump almost certainly won’t win the nomination, but Republicans are rightfully concerned that today’s rhetoric will haunt them a year from now. America’s changing demographics further weigh against them, so simply beating up on Trump will leave the challenges posed by his candidacy unanswered. Resistance to immigration is not just about culture or ethnicity (although they are certainly factors), it’s also about economics, something Trump with his bar-stool political rhetoric understands.
Prospective Republican nominees must be able to say how they will re-ignite 3 percent-plus growth, while spurring wages upward. (For the record, since 2006 annual GDP growth has been below 3 percent. The 4 percent growth promised by Jeb was last seen in 2000, the final year of Bill Clinton’s presidency.)
Meanwhile, employee compensation as a percentage of GDP remains near an all-time low. Working-class Americans understand this in their gut and feel it in their wallet, so they can’t be blamed for thinking that liberalized immigration helps no one but illegal immigrants, their families, and employers across the board. Those are not only Trump’s people; they’re the Republican base.
So while Trump’s take is tart, he has a hit a nerve in this prolonged era of economic insecurity and froth. Labeling Trump a villain, or calling on Americans to labor for longer hours misses the mark. Rather, getting out from Trump’s shadow will require the Republican nominee to make America’s workers an offer they won’t want to refuse. As Trump would say, it’s all part of “the art of the deal.”