Donald Trump goes Willie Horton on Jeb Bush

With a 21st Century take on one of the most iconic moments of racism in political advertising, Donald Trump hit Jeb Bush today with a video, posted to Instagram, juxtaposing Bush’s “act of love” comments on immigration with pictures of immigrants who have committed crimes:

This is no “act of love” as Jeb Bush said…

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

The ad is a video distillation of Trump’s brand of nativism, rehashing his claim that the majority of Latino immigrants are criminals, and that they and their families “have to go.” Trump isn’t at all troubled by the fact that he is now the self-described anti-love candidate, doubling down on a message of explicit hatred. His video is also weak on evidence; of the three “murderers” featured in the ad, only one was convicted.

But that doesn’t matter. All Trump had to do was find three scary-looking brown faces and throw them together, leaving them on the screen just long enough for you to see their faces and read their names. The video lasts all of fifteen seconds, and plays on infinite loop, allowing a passive viewer to associate Bush with brown criminals over, and over, and over again.

It’s mean. It’s low. It’s nasty. It’s racist. And it’s fittingly ironic. After all, Trump’s attack bears a striking resemblance to an ad from 1988 that helped put Bush’s father in the White House:

When Jeb Bush entered the race, his previous comments insinuating that undocumented immigrants were in fact people were perceived as his greatest weakness. But with Donald Trump having made illegal immigration the primary issue in the Republican primary, that’s even more true today than it was when Bush announced.

Trump’s attack on Jeb may be beyond offensive, but it’s also in keeping with his campaign’s narrative — that illegal immigration is such a dire concern that we need to take extraordinary steps in order to Make America White Again, and that the Republican elites just don’t get it — and it’s hitting all of the right emotional buttons with the GOP’s id.

The Willie Horton ad is widely remembered as being both racist and effective. In replicating the ad for the 21st Century, and turning it on the family who benefitted from it, Donald Trump has shown that he’s serious about the latter and unbothered by the former.

This isn’t funny anymore.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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25 Responses to “Donald Trump goes Willie Horton on Jeb Bush”

  1. AnotherLover says:

    Oh wow thanks for the reply. Well, these communication devices we have are really just vehicles for advertisements. Try to click on comments or try to watch a video and the screen refreshes, squaring you up with the same ad you just scrolled past. I had accidentally clicked the ad twice, and meanwhile other things are popping up across the page, until I was finally rewarded with a 20 second video loop. Sort of colored the experience for me.

  2. Jon Green says:

    When you embed an Instagram video, everything that happens in that box is on Instagram. I agree, it’s annoying. I even mentioned the infinite loop in the post. But there isn’t much I can do on my end to change it.

  3. AnotherLover says:

    Wow. Americablog. Thanks for running banner ads across the video. And that repeat. Really nice. Nothing like a 20 second ad on repeat. Your readers must have the attention spans of moths. Hope you make lots of money. Not coming back to find out.

  4. jim says:

    Jeb has too many obstacles to over come and will always be defending things his brother W did Jeb himself did the lists is a big one. Trump has so many things to throw at Jeb will look weak and has no answers for many things that is why his support is falling off. Jeb can run but can’t hide and Trump is loaded for bear. Jeb just a target for Trump and it will get worse.

  5. 2karmanot says:


  6. 2karmanot says:

    Bush is a Loser, he has no energy……etc. and so on…..

  7. hidflect says:

    Jeb! is getting mauled like a Rottweiler’s chew toy. If he fights back he risks The Donald going nuclear. If he does nothing he looks weak. It’s a bad month to be a Bush.

  8. honkychateau says:

    again, run that one by Lee Atwater, and for good measure, why don’t you take a few minutes to listen to Atwater being interviewed by Alexander Lamis.

    Ignorance is curable.

  9. honkychateau says:

    tell that to Lee Atwater, you apologist!

  10. honkychateau says:

    Gosh, it’s almost as if Trump is distorting the truth to suit his purposes…

  11. olandp says:

    I’ll bet that some of your best friends are black, or latino.

  12. goulo says:

    It would have been less effective (albeit still effective to some degree) if it had not mixed in fear of the Other with fear of Crime.

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  14. The Invisible Hand says:

    I’m talking about the Willie Horton ad, not the Trump one.

  15. Nicholas A Kocal says:

    If this was not racist, then why were ALL of the pictures used black men?

  16. nicho says:

    Nonsense. Nonsense upon stilts.

  17. The Invisible Hand says:

    Your logic: “Oh no, a convicted murderer on a weekend pass has broken into my house! I’m really scared– oh, wait, he’s white. Well, getting murdered by him isn’t so bad, then.”

  18. Nicholas A Kocal says:

    An ad like this will NEVER be used with a white person. This ad is targeted at ignorant racists in order to scare them into voting for a politician who does not give a fuck about the voter.

  19. lynchie says:

    In fact Latino’s are some of the most family oriented people living in the U.S. They certainly are hard working. Yes some are criminals as there are with all races. I ask again why they simply put the employers of illegal immigrants in jail with a big fine. Simple answer they want to scapegoat them but don’t want the cheap labor with shitty conditions to disappear. Frankly I have met more whites who I distrust than any minority.

  20. lynchie says:


  21. FLL says:

    People observing the current election cycle were having a justifiable laugh watching Trump play the fool. Jon, I have to agree with you that Trump has crossed a line with this decidedly unfunny political ad. As Becca noted below, any number of historical fascist leaders have chosen to demonize demographic groups in order to gain power. Trump’s ad is a dog whistle to those who scream blue murder when an American-born Hispanic sings the national anthem at public events. This happens on a regular basis, so let’s review the logic. The new nativist movement, which began in 2010 with the Tea Party, seeks to demonize Hispanics who are not entirely of European descent—whether mixed-race (mestizo) or pure-blooded Indian. Presumably, this leaves Hispanics or half-Hispanics like Mario Rubio and Ted Cruz off the hook. Is Trump taking a shot at Jeb’s Mexican-born wife, Columba? All I can see is the an anti-immigrant nativist movement whose last incarnation was the anti-immigration Ku Klux Klan during their heyday, the 1920s.

  22. The Invisible Hand says:

    There was absolutely nothing racist about the Willie Horton ad. It would have been exactly the same — and just as effective — if Horton had been white.

  23. Bill_Perdue says:

    Racism in this campaign comes from Republican candidates who agree with using the Willie Horton strategy against immigrant workers and from Democrat candidates who refuse to call for the federal prosecution of the hundreds of racist killer cops and who adhere to Obama’s mean spirited and racist call for a minimum wage of $10.10.

    Huge numbers of low wage workers are people of color. Many of them entered the ranks of the dispossessed because Obama busted the UAW, refused to use monies targeted for use to prevent foreclosures and continues to do nothing significant about unemployment, underemployment and low wages. On those questions the Republicans are just as bad.

    On November 8, 2016 vote Socialist or Labor, vote for good referendums and if there aren’t any Left candidates write in Chelsea Manning or join the majority in sitting it out.

    “It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.” – Eugene V. Debs

    It’s always better not to vote at all than to vote for our enemies, Democrats and Republicans.

  24. nicho says:

    Actually, as more immigrants enter an area, the crime rate goes down. Let’s face it, if you’re facing deportation, you want to keep a pretty low profile. You don’t even want to jaywalk. It’s just not worth it.

  25. BeccaM says:

    Scapegoating and eliminationist rhetoric are hallmarks of the would-be fascist leader.

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