Republican Debate: Trump the Ventriloquist

Former President Donald J. Trump was not present at the first Republican 2024 presidential debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but the Republican base’s favored candidate set the tone of the event because he controls the Republican Party and his rivals like a ventriloquist with his puppets.

What’s more, on immigration Trump got out ahead of them after an Axios article detailed his migration plan if he is the nominee and is reelected, which is nothing more than a Machiavellian collection of his most nefarious policies, as well as others that are even worse.

Among them, reviving and adding more countries to the “Muslim ban” that President Joe Biden revoked after taking office in 2021; extending Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s illegitimate floating buoy wall across the entire Rio Grande, and completing his own border wall, a campaign promise that proved to be a fiasco during his first term. He also wants to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the United States to undocumented parents.

On top of that, he wants to use the National Guard and the Navy to institute a naval blockade in U.S. waters and those near Latin America, to stop drug traffickers. He wants to declare drug cartels “illegal enemy combatants,” thus permitting him to use military force against them in their territory. And he wants to intensify “ideological screening” to keep those who are considered “communists” or “Marxists” from entering the country. It’s unclear if that would apply to the Chinese communists with which Trump, as well as his children, have tight business relationships.

It surprises no one that, with his gaze focused on a second term in the White House, Trump aspires to go beyond his own barbarities on the immigration issue. What’s terrible is that these same ideas, or something similar, are embraced by other Republican figures intending to compete with Trump for the nomination and the title of “most anti-immigrant,” as in the case of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who signed into law the most restrictive immigration proposal in the country in recent years, SB 1718, which is affecting the state’s economy in various areas.

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In other words, if Trump is the King Momo of the decadent Republican carnival, the other GOP nomination hopefuls are his troupe.

Those other Republican primary candidates have their own anti-immigrant proposals and obviously, they are not condemning Trump nor his plans because at bottom they share them, or because they fear angering the most recalcitrant segment of the Republican base, which continues to favor Trump although he is facing ninety-one criminal charges emanating from four cases against him, two federal and two at the state level.

The thing is, although Trump was not present at the debate on Wednesday, like a good ventriloquist he controlled what his rivals said, especially on the issue of immigration.

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Trump’s tentacles have poisoned the political discourse with lies like the migrant “invasion” and “open” borders, using incendiary rhetoric and a language once reserved for marginal supremacist groups. What’s upsetting is that it has been normalized.

And those who thought that Trump’s defeat in 2020 would mean his political end should keep their ears to the ground, because in the run-up to 2024 we have to face the possibility that this figure could win the Republican nomination. Many predict that will not be the case, as the party wants a candidate who appeals to other voters and not only the MAGA base, in order to win the general election against Biden.

But one cannot forget what happened in 2016 when Trump ripped the presidency from a proven politician, Hillary Clinton.

And one also cannot underestimate the reach of Trump’s tentacles nor the control that he exercises over voters.

For example, I write from Puerto Rico and have a neighbor—an American —who has lived on the Island for decades and with whom I share a profound love of animals. But left me speechless upon confirming her support for Trump. Someone who I considered to be a reasonable person parroted the same lies Trump uses on various issues, including the migrant “invasion” at the border with Mexico. Although the Democratic and Republican conduct primaries on the Island, people who live here cannot vote in the general election.

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My neighbor assured me that although she cannot vote from Puerto Rico in the general election, she is mobilizing friends and relatives to support Trump in the United States. “Because a corrupt Biden cannot be reelected,” she said.

Just one more piece of evidence that both the Republican Party and the MAGA base are the puppets of ventriloquist Trump.

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Maribel Hastings is a Senior Advisor and columnist at America’s Voice and America’s Voice Education Fund. A native of Puerto Rico, Maribel is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico with a major in public communications and a history minor. She worked for La Opinión, and became La Opinión’s first Washington, D.C. correspondent in 1993. Maribel has received numerous awards, including the 2007 Media Leadership Award from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) for her coverage of the immigration debate in the U.S. Senate.

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