But Drum makes a further observation that I think is worth unpacking:
With a few minor exceptions, racist sentiment was no stronger in 2016 than any other recent year. If you dial it up, you gain some voters at the bottom but lose at least as many from the middle.
In other words, Trump’s immigration message didn’t help him and, on net, probably actually hurt him. Outside of Trump’s base, I think most people understand perfectly well that anti-immigrant sentiment is basically driven by racism, and they want no part of it. Democrats should use this to their advantage by baiting Trump into getting ever louder and more putrid about immigration. The racist core of his base is already as fired up as it’s ever going to get over this, but the rest of the country becomes queasier the more he yells about it. In the Trump era, toleration for immigration isn’t just good policy, it’s almost certainly good politics too.Maybe, but I think he's overlooked the second part of the one-two punch here. No, the hardcore racist set that loves the anti-immigrant message isn't a voting majority. But there's also another group which doesn't exactly like Trump's message, but gets far more upset when anyone calls anything racist just because it obviously is. It's meeeeaaaan. It's even (gasp) "uncivil".
The former group is Trump's base. The latter -- sometimes called anti-anti-racists -- consists of such marginal conservative figures like five United States Supreme Court Justices. These are the people who were totally going to vote Democrat until all that incivility forced them back on the Trump train.
Put them together, and they're a powerful coalition. The racists love the racism, and the anti-anti-racists regretfully -- more in sorrow than anything else, you see -- must vote against any Democrat who calls it out by name.