Donald Trump and the Republicans have released what has been described as among the most racist political adverts in decades – an attempt to rally his base by portraying Central American migrants as police killers set to overrun the country.
The advert, which Mr Trump tweeted with the message “it is outrageous what the Democrats are doing to our country. Vote Republican now”, focusses on Luis Bracamontes, an illegal immigrant, twice previously deported, who in 2014 shot and killed two California police officers, and injured a third. The advert shows Bracamontes, who has been sentenced to death, laughing in court and vowing to kill more officers.
Words across the screen read: “Democrats let him into our country. Democrats let him stay.” It then shows migrants pulling on what appears to be a border fence.
The advert, which many have likened to the notorious “Willie Horton” attack advert that was used by Republicans to undermine and derail the 1988 presidential run of Democrat Michael Dukakis, has been widely denounced as racist, seeking as it does, to compare all migrants to a police killer.
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called it the “dog-whistle of all dog-whistles”.
“This has been Donald Trump’s playbook for so long, and when they go low, we go vote,” he told CNN.
Christina Greer, professor of political science at Fordham University in New York, told The Independent, the advert was clearly racist, and said part of the problem was the media was failing to correctly describe the president’s words and actions.
“Part of the problem is that we are using 2015 standards in 2018. When Trump lies, we say he say he uttered a falsehood. We dance around the issue and call things racially-charged,” she said.
“Trump has shown he has no desire to unify the country or protect it. But he will will pouring gasoline on issues.”
The advert, which includes footage of the Central American migrant caravan making its way northwards to the US-Mexico, is the latest effort by Mr Trump and the GOP to seize on the issue of immigration, just days before the midterm elections.
He knows that few issues energise his base more, than efforts to clampdown on immigration. In recent days, Mr Trump has ordered the dispatch of thousands of armed troops to hep secure the border, and floated the idea of ending birthright citizenship, something legal experts say would breach the constitution’s 14th amendment.
“As far as the caravan is concerned, our military is out,” Mr Trump recently said. “We have about 5,800. We’ll go up to anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 military personnel on top of Border Patrol, ICE and everybody else at the border.”
The video, was likened to a notorious advert used by supporters of George HW Bush in his 1988 presidential contest with Mr Dukakis. Mr Bush’s supporters seized on the programme that had allowed convicted prisoner Horton, who was African American, out furlough, only for him to rape a woman and attach her fiancee. It is unclear who made the video; The Independent understands that Jamestown Associates, a DC-based political PR and strategy firm that has worked for the president in the past, did not produce this video, despite CNN saying it did.
The White House did not immediately respond to questions. The Trump campaign organisation also did not respond.
While Mr Dukakis had not started the programme, he was the governor at the time of Horton’s release and a supporter of it. Mr Bush’s political supporters produced an advert “Weekend Passes”, using the Horton case to attack the Democrat. The advert, judged to be very damaging to Mr Dukakis, led Jesse Jackson, a human rights activist who contested that year’s Democratic primary, to accuse the Bush campaign of racism.
Mr Trump has insisted the media is underestimating the threat posed by the caravans. He earlier suggested they contained migrants from the Middle East, and others suggest there could be terrorists among them.
“You have caravans coming up that look a lot larger than it’s reported actually. I’m pretty good at estimating crowd size. And I’ll tell you they look a lot bigger than people would think,” he told ABC.
In truth, the caravan, which us now made up of fewer than 4,000 people, consists overwhelmingly of people from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, nations that are struggling with intense levels of violence and grinding poverty.
The Associated Press said on Thursday, the caravan was currently in the city of Juchitan, in Mexico’s Oaxaca state, at least 900 miles from the US border.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday praised Mexico for stopping the migrants from getting rides.
“Mexico has stepped up in an unprecedented way,” Ms Sanders told Fox News. “They have helped stop a lot of the transportation means of these individuals in these caravans, forcing them walking. They have helped us in new ways to slow this down, to break this up and keep it from moving as aggressively towards the United States.”