by Cinzia Croce
For months I have been wondering why Donald Trump was not aggressively pursuing funding for his big, beautiful border wall. Even setting aside the question of whether Mexico will pay for it — Trump could have pushed for legislation taxing remittances to Mexico, or demand that a down payment on the wall be part of the continuing resolution funding the government last spring — Trump seemed quite happy to delay the appropriation for his signature issue until “a later date”. The same is true of DACA. Despite promising to end it on Day One of his presidency, the administration kept issuing new work permits for over seven months. It was also baffling that Trump filled the White House with individuals who do not agree with his campaign stance on illegal immigration, while those who did left the administration (except Stephen Miller). After the events of the last few days, I believe I finally have my answer: Trump was never serious about building the wall or having illegal immigrants leave the country. He only used his immigration stance to win the election, and ever since he reached the White House, he has been buying time while working to find a way to ditch his campaign commitments without losing his base.
I am quite certain that by now Trump thought he would have Obamacare repealed, plus infrastructure and tax reform finished. He would then have enough points on the board to begin persuading his voters to forget about the wall and instead settle on something like “massive border security”. Trump wants his supporters to dismiss as harsh rhetoric his calls for illegal immigrants to leave the country, and instead embrace amnesty for the vast majority of them, DACA being the first step. I can visualize Trump, the great salesman, at work. He would say to his supporters: “True, it’s not exactly what I promised — but it is very close! Besides, look at all the winning that’s already taken place. Obamacare is gone, thousands of great new working class jobs have been created, and taxes are lower. It’s not exactly the deal I promised. It’s a better deal!”
Unfortunately for Trump, he hasn’t been able to put any points on the board. By August, the walls (no pun intended) were already closing in. Attorneys General from several red states threatened to file suit against the administration unless he ended DACA, and his supporters were getting restless about the lack of progress on the wall. So Trump made some noise about shutting down the government if the wall was not funded and reluctantly went ahead with rescinding DACA. Then, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, and unexpectedly, Trump had a respectable way to back down from his empty threat to shut down the government and buy himself an additional three months. After all, he couldn’t shut down the government while thousands of people lost their homes and life’s possessions. He then struck a deal on the debt ceiling with ‘Chuck and Nancy,’ and, surprisingly, most of his supporters didn’t seem to mind. Even more surprisingly, his base seemed to mostly blame McConnell and Ryan, for forcing the president into the arms of the Democrats. It went so well that Trump decided he didn’t have to wait for legislative victories to begin the process of ditching his campaign promises.
So when Trump says there wasn’t a deal with Chuck and Nancy on DACA without funding a border wall, I believe him. No deal is necessary. Trump and the establishment of both parties are not interested in building the wall, and desperately want to enact wholesale amnesty for everyone except violent criminals. The problem has merely been how to deliver the bad news to Trump supporters. Having Chuck and Nancy announce the Harvey-debt ceiling deal, thereby giving a chance to Trump to gauge the reaction of his base before confirming it, was so successful that they decided to employ the same approach again. Chuck and Nancy floated the trial balloon on DACA deal, too — except this time it burst, and the branding king found himself branded ‘Amnesty Don’.
I am sure I will get an earful from fellow Trump supporters who will say that I should have more faith in the president, and that the DACA announcement was a dirty trick on the part of the Democrats or the fake news media. But they should ask themselves: why didn’t Trump immediately take to Twitter and deny Chuck and Nancy’s claim? Instead, he sent a couple of tweets about Crooked Hillary, clearly trying to distract his base. Moreover, he spent the next day parroting the old lines suggesting it would be heartless to deny DACA “kids” legal status and talking about repairing the existing barriers. These are not the actions of someone who is being tricked by the sneaky Democrats or the victim of fake news. The only logical conclusion is that he wants amnesty and is not interested in building a big, beautiful wall. Trump is not negotiating with the Democrats. He’s negotiating with his supporters, trying to sell them a different agenda on illegal immigration.