Rex Huppke: So much for a Trump pivot

Before a raucous crowd in Arizona, Trump returned to his natural center: angry, snarling, aggrieved and terrifying.

Let no one speak of Donald Trump pivoting ever, ever again.

The past couple weeks brought the speculation back: Maybe the bombastic GOP nominee was finally modulating his tone and recognizing he needs to appeal to a wider audience than the anti-immigrant, Breitbart-reading, borderline-bloodthirsty crowds that attend his rallies.

And indeed, a more reserved and serious-sounding Trump showed up to meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Wednesday, further inflating the belief that the reality television star might be pivoting from xenophobic showman to quasi-serious candidate.

But then Trump flew back to the states for a Wednesday night speech and all hell broke loose. Before a raucous crowd in Arizona, Trump returned to his natural center: angry, snarling, aggrieved and terrifying.

After spending time in Mexico praising the country’s “high-quality people,” Trump, just hours later, launched into a rant about undocumented Mexican immigrants who have killed and raped, spinning a dystopian tale that painted all immigrants as people to be feared, people to be rounded up and hauled out of this country.

He said immigrants would need an “ideological certification” that confirms they “share our values.”

He again approvingly referenced President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s deportation program “Operation Wetback,” a cruel and deadly disaster from the 1950s, suggesting that Trump’s version of that program would be even tougher.

The crowd cheered.

He claimed there are 2 million “criminal aliens” in America and then said, preposterously, “Day one, my first hour in office — those people are gone!”

The crowd ate that nonsense up.

Saying that some think the word “deport” is not politically correct, Trump mocked: “You can call it whatever the hell you want, they’re gone.”

Loud. Spewing insults and absurd claims. Red-faced and nationalistic. It was Trump as we know him to be.

He took the pivot some were predicting and ripped it to shreds, delivering a speech lavishly praised by white supremacists like David Duke and by wretched far-right opportunists like Ann Coulter.

It was a hate speech. That will prompt many of Trump’s supporters and alt-right fan boys to call me a PC liberal vermin or a “cuck” or whatever inane term they’ve reserved for those who diss their hero. (I’m white, male and not Jewish, so that keeps them from using many of their preferred insults.)

But there’s no reason to parse words when it comes to that bilious speech. It was hate-filled and hateful. You could see the hands of Steve Bannon, who runs the far-right “news” site Breitbart and is now CEO of Trump’s campaign, all over it, as if Trump was barfing out the comments section under one of the site’s white nationalist screeds.

Moderate Republicans who have been praying daily for their nominee to grow into a plausible candidate had to be sickened by what they saw Wednesday night.

That wasn’t a speech on immigration policy, as the campaign had promised. That was Donald Trump thumbing his nose at the establishment and at all the pundits who suggested he was “softening” his stance on immigration.

That was an angry man catering to a base that shares his anger, a base that mistakenly believes it constitutes an electoral majority.

Trump’s swoop from supposed statesman in Mexico to manic hate-monger in Arizona was jarring. Truly.

And it showed anyone who could stand to watch that the idea of a Trump pivot is dead for good.

And was probably never alive in the first place.

Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may email him at