Donald Trump is running his first campaign ad for the general election, and it offers all the proof you’ll need that, in a fundamental sense, no meaningful change of approach can or will ever emanate from his campaign.
Because this is an ad, it’s professionally done and well-considered in its language — it’s not an off-the-cuff remark or full of anything so crazy that it will make lifelong Republicans cringe. But there’s nothing in here about free markets or traditional family values or America’s role as the world’s indispensable nation and guarantor of liberty.
Instead it’s a pretty simple proposition — Hillary Clinton will let foreigners kill you and Donald Trump won’t:
NEW: @realDonaldTrump's first general election ad. Hits Clinton on "rigged system," touts Trump on immigration --> pic.twitter.com/oJrKgQIH8o— Hallie Jackson (@HallieJackson) August 19, 2016
Now, of course it wouldn’t be the Trump campaign without some questionable accuracy. For example, when describing how Hillary Clinton will leave our "border open" the ad shows this footage of a train full of menacing stowaways presumably sneaking across our unguarded border:
And, obviously, the border would have to be really poorly guarded for it to be possible for dozens of people to sneak across it in this fashion. But this isn’t a clip from the US border. Rather, this is footage from inside Mexico itself, which actually had a big crackdown on the practice back in 2014.
The important thing to note here, however, is what Trump is not arguing. He is not making an economic-based argument that immigrants will drive down wages — that George Borjas is right and David Card is wrong in their competing econometric analyses of the Mariel boatlift’s impact on the wages of native born non-Hispanic high school dropouts in the Miami area.
Instead, the anxiety being targeted here is anxiety about the physical threat posed by foreigners — precisely the sentiment of fear that has driven Trumpism from the beginning.
In the real world, Americans are safer today than they were 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, so it’s not entirely clear what basis there is for this kind of fear. But clearly many people are afraid, and Trump is their candidate.