The always excellent Greg Sargent makes a great point this morning at the Plum Line: Republicans have no one to blame but themselves for the quandary Donald Trump is putting them in.

Just as Southern conservatives could have saved themselves from looking like racist neanderthals desperate to keep a symbol of hate and slavery flying over their governments by taking action of their own accord, so too could the GOP have stood up for immigration reform and put the kibosh on a xenophobic huckster like Trump. But it was not to be:

Really, now — nobody could have predicted that if Republicans failed to pass immigration reform when they had the chance in 2013 and 2014, it would become a major issue in the 2016 race, in ways that are alarming GOP strategists. Yet, shockingly, here we are.

Donald Trump’s foray into the immigration debate has now sparked a flare-up between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. And some Republicans are openly warning that Trump’s comments threaten to do severe damage to the GOP brand among Latinos.

Of course they will, and for good reason. Trump is merely saying in front of a microphone what millions of Republicans across the country say behind closed doors and anonymously in online comments sections. That Trump’s vicious beliefs are widely shared among conservatives is precisely the reason why otherwise business-friendly Republicans eager to win back a greater share of the Hispanic vote could not see their way to passing immigration reform, for fear of Tea Party challenges from the right.

Republicans in leadership could have simply told their nativist base to pound sand, but that might not have been an option: after all, merely sneezing the wrong direction on the issue may have cost Eric Cantor his seat. Either way, the GOP has only itself to blame for the Trump debacle. They had the opportunity to nip this in the bud and take the tough stand to pass immigration reform. They chose not to, and now they’re reaping the whirlwind.

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Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.