Donald Trump announced his campaign with a broadside against Hispanic immigrants. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” he said. Soon after, he added Muslims to his roster of threats. By the time he’d captured the Republican presidential nomination, Trump’s platform was clear: He would bring state power to bear against unauthorized immigrants, Muslim Americans, Syrian refugees, and black protesters.
We are hours from the end of the campaign, and Trump is ending it the way he started: demonizing immigrants, nonwhites, and religious minorities, and blaming them for America’s problems.
The first swing came on Saturday, when Trump released the closing ad of his campaign. “The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election,” warns Trump in the video, which quotes from an address he gave last month in West Palm Beach, Florida. “For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind.” Trump’s speech in Florida was roundly condemned as anti-Semitic for its use of anti-Jewish tropes. With his latest ad, Trump leaned into those tropes, interspersing this slam on “global special interests” with photos of George Soros, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, all Jewish. The message is clear—Jewish elites threaten American sovereignty—and blatantly anti-Semitic, with a lineage that includes Henry Ford’s The International Jew and the even more infamous The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Not content to end his campaign by just indulging the ur-prejudice of the Western world, Donald Trump made a Sunday campaign stop in Minnesota to spread a different message of xenophobia and hate. “She wants virtually unlimited immigration and refugee admissions, from the most dangerous regions of the world, to come into our country and to come into Minnesota, and you know it better than anybody,” Trump said, referring to Clinton. “Her plan will import generations of terrorism, extremism, and radicalism into your schools and throughout your community. You already have it.”*
Trump’s last line was a reference to Minnesota’s substantial Somali population, which includes many refugees. “Here in Minnesota,” he said, “you’ve seen firsthand the problems caused with faulty refugee vetting, with large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state with your knowledge, without your support or approval. … And with some of them then joining ISIS and spreading their extremist views all over our country and all over the world.
“You’ve suffered enough in Minnesota,” Trump said, promising to block further refugees.
The problem with Trump’s rhetoric—the problem with almost all of his rhetoric—is that this isn’t true. The United States has strict procedures for vetting refugees, with a process that can last up to two years. As for Somali Americans, the vast majority are ordinary, law-abiding citizens and residents. While there is a problem with radicalization among some younger members of the community, they represent a distinct minority. And joint efforts between local groups and the federal government have had some success in combating the factors that foster extremism. Trump undermines those efforts with his message of fear and hostility. Worse, he stokes the kind of atmosphere that turns refugees into targets for domestic terrorists, such as the three men in Garden City, Kansas, who were recently arrested for an alleged plot to bomb an apartment complex with a number of Somali American residents.
As if to emphasize this closing message of prejudice and xenophobia, the Republican presidential nominee also announced a campaign stop in Michigan with Ted Nugent, a musician and right-wing political activist known for extremist positions and violent, racist rhetoric. Earlier this year, Nugent said that President Obama and Hillary Clinton should be “tried for treason and hung” for the deaths in Benghazi, Libya. “You can’t vote for liars,” said the musician while stumping for Trump on Sunday. “You can’t vote for scam artists. You can’t vote for people who take from producers and give it to the blood-suckers anymore.”
Trump kicked off his political career with birtherism. He inaugurated his presidential campaign with xenophobia. He grew his base with the promise of a ban on Muslims and a wall with Mexico. Yes, he brought a kind of free-form economic populism to the Republican Party. But his passion has always been this vision of a whites-only America, defined in opposition to racial enemies. Now, with the end of the campaign in sight, his promise is simple. If elected, he will redeem the country from the illegitimate presidency of Barack Obama and restore the pride and dominance of white Americans. He will punish his opponents—Lock her up!—and protect American “sovereignty” from “globalists.” This is the message that defeated his opponents in the Republican primary. This is the message that brings the crowds and the adoration. This is the message that will define his presidency.
Donald Trump’s closing tour is an affirmation of his entire political movement. It is churlish; it is misogynist; it is racist. And thanks to our partisanship and our polarization, he and his movement are just a stone’s throw from the White House.
*Correction, Nov. 7, 2016: This post originally misquoted Trump as saying Clinton’s plan “will important generations of terrorism, extremism, and radicalism.” He said that it will “import” those issues. (Return.)