Wake up.

Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Getty Images

Trump Builds a Wall Between GOP and White House

Francis Wilkinson writes editorials on politics and U.S. domestic policy for Bloomberg View. He was executive editor of the Week. He was previously a national affairs writer for Rolling Stone, a communications consultant and a political media strategist.
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The Republican Party is the big business party. It almost invariably takes the side of capital over labor and coordinates closely with business allies such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and an ever-expanding roster of billionaires seeking low taxes, deregulation and other familiar items on the Republican policy menu.

In recent days, however, a remarkable divergence became apparent: In the matter of Donald Trump, Republicans went one way as the business world sped off in the opposite direction.

In announcing his candidacy last month for the Republican nomination for president, Trump characterized Mexican immigrants as "rapists" who are "bringing drugs" and "bringing crime." Some people took offense. Later, Trump clarified his remarks by saying that Mexicans were not the only awful people coming over the southern border. "I do business with the Mexican people, but you have people coming through the border who are from all over. And they're bad," Trump told CNN. "They're really bad."

The response from the business world has been illuminating. Univision, the Spanish-language television network, dropped Trump's Miss USA beauty pageant. NBC, Univision's parent company and the network that airs Trump's show "The Celebrity Apprentice," ended its business relationship with Trump. Macy's announced that in light of Trump's "disparaging characterizations," the largest department store chain in the U.S. would no longer sell Trump's menswear collection.

In the space of two weeks -- and in the face of Trump's inevitable threats to sue! sue! sue! -- large businesses with formal contracts and longstanding relationships with the mogul told him to get lost.

And Republicans? Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said that Trump's comments were, um, "not helpful." Last weekend, Jeb Bush did a bit better on the subject: "I don't agree with him. I think he's wrong," Bush told an audience in Nevada.

The other leading Republican candidates haven't joined Bush in expressing even tepid distaste for Trump's immigrant bashing, according to a spokesperson for America's Voice, a pro-immigrant lobbying group. But Texas Senator Ted Cruz told Fox News: "I like Donald Trump. I think he's terrific. I think he's brash. I think he speaks the truth."

About 40 million people in the U.S., including undocumented immigrants, are foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census. Mexican immigrants alone account for more than a quarter of them. They have friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances, some of whom are undocumented and others of whom are voters who might not consider Trump's views worthy of a national political party.

Republicans keep looking for a way to enter the 21st century without offending the 19th century. They keep looking for a way to modernize and diversify their party without discomfiting bigots, cranks and reactionaries.

There are people running for the Republican nomination who can help the party succeed. There are others running who will help it fail. It's a long campaign, with plenty of twists in the story before November 2016 arrives. But for the past two weeks, Trump has been registering solid support in Republican primary polls while attaching another leg iron to his party as it prepares a race for the future.

American business understands how to handle a situation like this. You isolate the problem, cauterize the wound and move on. Republicans have taken billions in donations over the years from big business. Can't they also take a hint?

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Christopher Flavelle at cflavelle@bloomberg.net