As soon as someone let it slip that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner privately favored extending DACA, we should have known that DACA was dead. In case you’ve been camping out in the Unabomber’s old cabin, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is Barack Obama’s policy that has allowed some 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to this country as youngsters to live, work and receive education in the U.S. without fear of deportation. President Donald J. Trump revoked it on Tuesday, with a six-month window—just in case Congress wants to reaffirm Obama’s original executive order by passing legislation that leaves the program in place.
By now, whenever Jared and Ivanka let it be known that they deplore the latest inhumane and brutal thing that Dad is thinking of doing, it’s a virtually foolproof sign that Dad will do it. Nobody believes they’re seriously upset, much less that they worked hard to convince Trump to change his mind. Instead, they’re just trying to protect their social standing since they don’t want to be pariahs after they bail on D.C. and return to the chichi Manhattan libtard-land that Dad has so successfully demonized.
In a roundabout way, Trucky McTrumpface is trying to protect his social standing too. He thrives on adulation—the more credulous the better—and he’s so vastly unpopular in big swaths of the country that only his chauvinistic, immigrant-phobic red-state base still gives him the unconditional love he craves. Keeping the MAGA mob thrilled with a steady diet of rancor is all that matters, and this isn’t even primarily a political strategy, at least not anymore. It’s all about his neediness, his utterly unprincipled opportunism and his ego’s deep-seated appetite for tongue baths, even if he has to go to Phoenix to get one commensurate with the size of his golden rump.
But he’s been unable to deliver on his more substantive campaign promises, from draining the swamp—Jared, fetch me a straw—to bringing back chimerical Rust Belt jobs. That’s why Trump’s compensatory move in recent weeks, as his presidency grows more beleaguered, has been a series of increasingly naked appeals to the MAGA mob’s worst instincts. From defending both sides at Charlottesville to pardoning Joe Arpaio to now shutting out Dreamers, he’s cast himself as an ever more unabashed champion of bigotry at best, white nationalism at worst. He can’t do a damn thing to improve red-state America, but he can keep his most zealous fans doting on him by fanning the flames of division.
As his presidency grows more beleaguered, Trump’s compensatory move has been increasingly naked appeals to the MAGA mob’s worst instincts.
Around 70 percent of Americans wants DACA left in place. For that matter, almost as many of them don’t want Trump’s “fucking wall,” as former president of Mexico Vicente Fox immortally called it. But in Trucky McTrumpface’s odd math, if you aren’t rabidly cheering for him at one of his ridiculous campaign-style rallies, you pretty much don’t exist—unless you work for the media, of course. In that case, you’re a cockroach.
The only mystery is why Trump pretended to be conflicted by compassion for the Dreamers’ fate as he postponed a decision that was always a foregone conclusion, thanks to the imperative to pander to his base. (Whatever he ended up doing, he’d do it with “big heart,” we were told by Vice President Mike Pence, speaking with forked tongue as usual.) As his two visits to Harvey-ravaged Texas last week demonstrated, empathy suits Trump’s style about as well as tap-dancing suits your average anaconda’s. True, the six-month delay makes him seem less draconian, but it also cruelly prolongs Dreamers’ uncertainty about their status, which they have been facing since Election Day, especially since registering for Obama’s program makes it easier for ICE to find them.
At the same time, shoving responsibility for the final outcome over to Congress is ingenious. As it happens, the questions Republicans have raised about the constitutionality of Obama’s original executive order are valid in the abstract, no matter how tainted they are in practice by hyper-partisanship and anti-immigrant prejudice. They’d deserve to be resolved in court if legislation preserving DACA in some form doesn’t materialize. But what are the odds of this Congress getting its act together to do anything of the kind? In both the House and the Senate, a number of Republicans have said they want the Dreamers left alone. However, that was when they thought the onus of either preserving or dismantling DACA was on Trump. As we’ve all learned in recent months, nothing reduces this bunch to gibbering panic like the prospect of actually passing a law that backs up their sound-bite opinions.
That’s because they live in terror of Trump’s base and will continue to until it dissolves. The GOP’s Capitol Hill majority is hopelessly in hock to an identity-politics minority of voters, just as they used to accuse the Democrats of being. Even if only around one-third of the electorate is in Trump’s corner, that one-third is dominant in the gerrymandered House districts and under-populated red states that keep Republicans in power. Assuming that DACA-protecting legislation even comes to the floor between now and next March—which is a big if—any GOP legislator who votes in favor of it is almost sure to get primaried, quite possibly with Trump egging on the insurgents.
As for Trump himself, he can’t lose. If DACA lapses into oblivion as a result of congressional inactivity, he’ll be able to piously pretend his hands were tied even as his white-nationalist base rejoices in sticking it to the overwhelmingly Latino 800,000 illegals. But if Congress, by some miracle, does pass a law to keep DACA in place, he’ll turn on them furiously for thwarting the will of “the American people.” Since he’s already more or less openly at war with his notional party’s Capitol Hill leadership, whatever havoc this wreaks on the GOP in the 2018 midterms is a matter of no concern to him.
In other words, we’re confronting the latest proof that the country at large is being held hostage. One-third of the electorate is in a position to corral and gleefully thumb its nose at the wishes of the other two-thirds, thanks to a president who governs exclusively to please his own slice of the pie and a party too frightened of getting hit in the face with it to legislate coherently. Because Trump is now openly boosting the white-nationalist agenda the GOP has always contained without blatantly truckling to it, his and their best chance to stay in power is a large-scale disenfranchisement of nonwhite voters, and the machinery to do just that is already clanking away without attracting much notice, let alone outrage. For all we know, by the time 2020 rolls around, the Dreamers we’ve booted out could be feeling grateful that they’ve been exiled to countries whose elections are fair.