(Washington Post–Greg Sargent) — Last night, Donald Trump delivered a speech in which he spoke in soothing tones about the need to unify the country and expressed “regret” about any remarks that have caused “personal pain,” though he didn’t specify which particular remarks he regrets. This led some commentators to suggest that another “pivot” is underway.
This morning, Trump released his first general election ad, an ugly and dishonest production which shows he isn’t changing a thing.
In fact, the new ad is filled with precisely the same sort of dark, dystopian themes and content — and even some of the same sort of grainy, dark footage depicting illegal immigrants as invaders — that marked one of the first ads he ran during the GOP primaries.
That says it all. Here’s the new ad:
NBC News, which first broke the story of the ad, reports that it is backed by a $4 million buy and will run for 10 days in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina. (It’s noteworthy that Trump is on defense in North Carolina and is spending sums there comparable to the amounts in these other must-win states. If he loses North Carolina, there probably is no path.)
Now note how similar this new general election ad is to the one Trump ran all the way back in January in Iowa and New Hampshire, setting the themes with which he would successfully appeal to GOP primary voters:
Trump’s ad in the primaries depicted the main problems facing the country as illegal immigration and terrorism, featuring dark, grainy footage of illegal immigrants streaming into the country while vowing to “Make America Great Again.”
Trump’s first general election ad depicts the main problems facing the country as illegal immigration and terrorism, featuring dark, grainy footage of illegal immigrants streaming into the country while vowing to “Make America Safe Again.”
In one respect, the new ad also goes further in its demagoguery than the original GOP primary ad did — it claims that the border is “open.” Broadly speaking, the new Trump ad echoes some of the ugliest elements of the picture Trump’s convention speech painted of what ails America and what must be done about it — a speech that may have further alienated some of the voter groups he needs to expand his appeal among if he is to turn around his slide.
Fun, revealing footnote: The new Trump ad, like the one he ran during the GOP primaries, has unmistakable parallels with the immigration ad that GOP Governor Pete Wilson ran in California in the mid 1990s that also depicted our borders overrun with dark hordes. As E.J. Dionne reports in his book on American conservatism, some Republicans see eerie parallels between the California GOP’s decline amid a failure to adapt to the state’s ongoing demographic changes, and the national party’s current failure to adapt to similar demographic changes sweeping the whole country — not to mention the impact they are having on national elections.
Now the GOP nominee is using a very, er, Wilsonian approach — two decades later, and in a general election.