“We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration. We will break the cycle. There will be no amnesty.” – Donald Trump in Phoenix, Arizona, August, 2016
“Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone.” – Donald Trump in Phoenix, Arizona, August, 2016
“AMNESTY DON” … “CAVES ON DACA” – Breitbart News, September, 2017
The Trump administration has broken the internet again, and possibly the spirit of some of Donald’s most ardent supporters, as word is out that his cozy dinner with new best friends Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer included the President’s insistence that amnesty for 800,000 or so people covered under Barack Obama’s DACA come swiftly and cleanly.
Illegal immigration and the wall were the two cornerstones of the Trump candidacy. Time and time again he has walked back from his promises, including some walkbacks during the campaign, but then turned around and amped up the rhetoric to appease the base that voted for him on those grounds. Along with “lock her up” and “repeal”, “build the wall” and “deport” were among the most critical vows he made to voters in order to get elected. It was his first big immigration speech, in fact, that sealed the deal for many devoted Trump voters. Voters who remained devoted to him through thick and thin thereafter.
Trump’s comments about Mexican rapists were one of the defining moments of his campaign, cementing the “he fights” image, the picture of the fearless truth-teller who refused to bend to political correctness.
When, in August of 2016, folks started doubting his commitment to his hard immigration stance after his meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, he gave a fiery speech in Phoenix reiterating his rehearsed rhetoric, winning back the fierce loyalty of any who began to doubt. That speech is quoted twice above, first on immigration broadly, second on “criminal illegal aliens” specifically. He also said this:
Because of Trump’s immigration hard line, pundit and loudmouth Ann Coulter professed her undying affection for him, wrote a book about him, and even said she would die for him.
All of which is to illustrate how deeply important his promises on immigration were, both to his success and to the hearts of his fiercest supporters.
Then this happened.
“We had a very productive meeting at the White House with the President. The discussion focused on DACA. We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.” – Statement from Pelosi and Schumer, Wednesday, September 13, 2017
“President Donald Trump had a constructive working dinner with Senate and House Minority Leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi as well as Administration officials to discuss policy and legislative priorities. These topics included tax reform, border security, DACA, infrastructure and trade. This is a positive step toward the President’s strong commitment to bipartisan solutions for the issues most important to all Americans. The Administration looks forward to continuing these conversations with leadership on both sides of the aisle.” – Statement from the White House, Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Short says WH is not committed to including border wall $ in DACA legislation if they feel "confident" it will be included in another bill.
— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) September 14, 2017
The President made clear he would continue pushing the wall, just not as part of this agreement. https://t.co/KD1SdLAnIF
— Matt House (@mattwhouse) September 14, 2017
As the backlash was kicking into high gear, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said this:
While DACA and border security were both discussed, excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) September 14, 2017
You will note she does not disavow any amnesty. Just the issue of border wall funding. Hey here’s a fun question, wasn’t Mexico supposed to pay for the wall?
Here’s a brutal summary via The Hill:
Indeed, said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), the president is already getting impatient.
“He says, ‘Oh, DACA, we want to move on this quick, we don’t want to wait six months,’” Cuellar said after the meeting. “He said, ‘It’s already been six days and nothing’s happened.’”
Cuellar said Trump didn’t propose a timeline, but voiced concerns that waiting until the March 5 deadline grows closer would only put a spotlight on the issue and make it more difficult for Congress to act. The president, Cuellar said, wants to move “when people are not expecting it.”
Democratic leaders have warned that they’ll opposed any new funding for Trump’s border wall. In response, the president told the lawmakers Wednesday that he’ll divorce the issue from a DACA bill.
“He said, ‘We don’t have to tie a wall to this. We can put a wall [in another bill],’” Cuellar said, emphasizing that other border enforcement measures would likely be included.
NOT an anonymous source. Trump can hardly wait, he says, to get this amnesty done.
By the way, it could be more than that estimate. You can see in the opening quote of this article that Trump himself put the number higher. So does Conservative Review’s Daniel Horowitz:
Per migration policy institute, Dream Act is 3.3 million. That will trigger an immediate drive for "DAPA" parents making it 5 million.
— Daniel Horowitz (@RMConservative) September 14, 2017
All this is reportedly in exchange for money for border enforcement. Drones? Agents? There’s some dispute about whether that money is for a wall. Even if that money were promised, Trump’s base supporters and pundit class types won’t believe Schumer’s and Pelosi’s promises to come through. Which won’t matter because they won’t consider it a fair trade in the first place. The deal is intolerable for this base, and moreover is simply not what was promised. He vowed a wall AND no amnesty.
Today we find out if he stands by this plan, or if he plans a Phoenix rally to regurgitate his old and popular talking points from last year. You know the ones, they’re the things he hasn’t acted on in any meaningful way. But whether he re-ups old rhetoric or not, one would have to be incredibly dense not to see what all this means.
Even if Trump flinches at the backlash, it doesn’t change that we now know he isn’t committed to his promises on immigration anymore, if ever he was. He has been swayed, he will be swayed again. Let us not forget it was only a week ago when he cut a deal with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, taking their first offer and negotiating for nothing and no wins for the GOP.
In short, it’s not so much showing bipartisan wizardry as it is showing that he’s not wedded to the ideas that his base believed he was. He’s not the true believer. And what he’s inspiring in those voters now is not fervor or confidence. Not this week. Quite the opposite, actually.
Regret is the word I would use to describe the mood among that group Wednesday night. Or perhaps “panic.”
Examples, you say? Sure thing, fam.
— Dagny Delinquent (@DagnyDelinquent) September 14, 2017
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) September 14, 2017
— Frans Frandsen 🇺🇸 (@fransfrandsen) September 14, 2017
One Twitter user had a great summary.
And now he's tweeting, bashing Hillary, to keep throwing that base red meat outta one hand, while using the other to shake hands w/Dems
— Will. Power (@KIR_bigg50) September 14, 2017
Remember Ann Coulter and her devotion? Yeah, times change …
Trump tells his audience what they want to hear. He told 63 million who voted for him he'd build a wall. Get used to it, Chuck & Nancy. https://t.co/UuxYFLLpok
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) September 14, 2017
Now, naturally, there were cautious warnings from Trump loyal politicians.
While others were cautious about using their names but not in voicing their anger.
Senior House GOP source texts me: R leaders were blindsided AGAIN on this DACA deal. Add it to the list. Trump going rogue w/bipartisan
— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) September 14, 2017
And some non-politician loyalists were less cautious and more Coulter.
“This a betrayal of the highest order. Donald Trump should be ashamed of himself." A Breitbart editor tonight, via phone
— Robert Costa (@costareports) September 14, 2017
Of course, some of the disillusioned aren’t ready to put the blame on the leader who can’t be swayed and maker of deals. Trump once said “I alone can fix it”, referring to … well, everything. (Actually, he’s said he “alone” can fix things dozens of times.) Trump was the solution, the panacea, the man with a plan, the visionary, the leader, according to people like Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity. But that was then. NOW he’s a hapless bystander, incapable of stopping the evil Republican, elite, establishment, deep state, more-buzz-words-here conspirators.
— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) September 14, 2017
If reports true 100%. I blame R's. They caused this. They wanted him to fail and now pushed him into arms of political suicide–IF TRUE. https://t.co/WTqe6jzfa9
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) September 14, 2017
It’s not his fault! Leave Trump Alone!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2016
Those are his words. We’ve quoted him from the August speech in Phoenix several times, but he repeated this vow over and over and over. It would be eliminated, there would be no amnesty, this would take place immediately. That was the promise, deep state or no, elites be damned. That was the sell. Clearly this is not the sell now.
It should be noted that there are, we all know by now, some who will never give up, or even doubt him. Not ever. They’ve sworn allegiance, drunk the flavor-aid, been baptized to the faith. He is theirs and, more importantly, they are his.
Exactly. He hasn't let us down. And he won't. Patience. Loyalty. We owe him that.
— 🇺🇸G Can👠 (@GCando1) September 14, 2017
— God's girl (@Godsgirl158) September 14, 2017
Scary. You can’t disillusion them, but they are not the whole or even the majority. The majority, you can see on social media and on blogs and even on Breitbart.com, are pretty well flipping out. The word betrayal is in the air.
They could have seen this coming, though. Even with all of the promises and pleasing rhetoric, you could have seen the signs. In that meeting with Mexico’s president, right before his bombastic Phoenix rally, the two reportedly discussed the wall and the fact that Mexico told him flat out they would not be paying for it.
Are they paying for it?
He said in that Phoenix speech that amnesty would go away immediately, that DACA would go away on day one. “We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties, in which he defied federal law and the constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants,” he said.
Did he terminate it?
In fact he started wavering on the wall’s certainty in August of last year. He wavered on DACA in January, right after taking office. He told Laura Ingraham deliberately, from his own mouth, that his position was “softening.”
Again, it’s certainly possible that Trump and his surrogates will try to turn things around today following the backlash. He may trot out his old rhetoric. He might make assurances. He could have a big rally. Who knows? But we know one thing.
The cat is out of the bag. We know he is movable. He can be courted. In fact he has been courted. He may sway back, but his lack of dedication is exposed and on display. This core issue is not a core issue. It can be traded away, and perhaps it has already been.
Incidentally, some people, especially in the pundit class, will be loathe to agree with what they perceive as “nevertrump” people. They are utterly repelled by the idea and will probably lament that this proves nothing right, that the Trump doubters were wrong to doubt before now because it was for the wrong reason. They are wrong, though. It is exactly this type of quavering and pandering to Democrats that so many warned of so many times. You want to say “nevertrump” wasn’t right because they only disliked Trump for silly reasons” but you are wrong. Check the record. It shows warning after warning about moments just like this.
His supporters in the pundit class are absurd about a great many things, and defend him beyond the point of reason, but they are actually right about one thing. The GOP at large has similarly talked big and failed to act on illegal immigration. Erick “told you so” on that point way back in 2014. In that respect, perhaps he’s not a RINO at all. Maybe betraying the voter base is just what Republicans do.
UPDATE: Well that answers that question.