WASHINGTON – Fighting to preserve the all-Republican government, President Trump and his party have wielded a closing election message of fear.
But the upstairs-downstairs split within the Republican coalition requires more than hype about imagined threats of "invasion" from a bedraggled immigrant caravan. GOP strategy involves two distinctly different kinds of fear.
For the party's base of conservative white voters – especially older, less-educated ones in small-towns and rural areas – it's fear for their personal safety. So Trump and his allies warn baselessly that impoverished Central American immigrants may bring crime, terrorism and exotic diseases into the U.S.
The crudest expression is the nakedly racist video Trump tweeted this week linking Democrats with a chortling Latino murderer. But Republicans aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan deploy less-raw versions of the same idea against various Democratic candidates, portraying an ex-CIA agent as a teacher of Islamic jihadis, a black Rhodes scholar as a frightening hoodie-clad rapper and an Ohio county official of Indian-Tibetan descent as linked to Libyan terrorism.