Rice University offers liberal response to Trump campaign

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has released his first television ad of the primary season, and Rice University is making three scholars available to speak to the media about Trump’s ad and campaign.

Experts on their teaching staff available include political scientist Mark Jones, Mexico studies fellow Tony Payan, and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

The ad mirrors the billionaire candidate’s fiery rhetoric and will run in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. It proposes a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, promises to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and hits on the theme of terrorism.

Rice’s academics say the ad’s tone could stir up both controversy and the election itself. Jones said his view is that the ad will alienate a majority of viewers, while pumping up Trump’s minority base on the far right.

“A majority of Americans will consider the ad’s content to be simultaneously offensive (for example, a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.) and non-viable (for example, building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border),” Jones said. “However, these proposals do appeal to a significant minority of Americans, a group that Trump is counting on to turn out."

Payan, an expert on Mexican studies and director of Rice’s Mexico Center at the Baker Institute, said he sees the ad as essentially divisive. Targeting foreigners – both Mexican and Muslim – is a brand of divisive politics that Payan said he sees as hazardous.

“I think Mr. Trump is playing a dangerous game of politics,” Payan said. “I think he is being somewhat disingenuous about the importance of both Canada and Mexico to U.S. prosperity… I don’t think that he either understands the relationship that these three countries have among themselves… or he’s simply playing the dangerous politics of division within the United States. He’s finding culprits or scapegoats for the fears that Americans have today about terrorism and economic uncertainty.”

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley is also available to put the Trump candidacy and his new campaign ad in historical context. 

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