BOSTON, UNITED STATES — No one’s surprised or disappointed that Trump reneged on his promise to deport illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors (so-called ‘Dreamers’). It was one of the handful of truly cruel policies he suggested during the 2016 campaign, like the proposed ban on all Muslim immigration. It wasn’t going to happen, nor should it have. Instead, the President took the correct course of action: He repealed the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals order instituted by President Obama and handed the issue over to Congress.
It was odd, however, that also he threatened to reinstitute DACA if they didn’t act quickly. ‘Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA,’ he tweeted on September 5; ‘If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!’ Stranger still is how Trump’s taken up a full-throated defence of Dreamers against… well, it’s not clear whom exactly. He took to Twitter again on the 14, asking: ‘Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?’ Well, no, Mr President. I mean, you did, a few months ago. But everyone thought it was a terrible idea.
This transparent virtue-signalling – this lame, useless pandering to the Twitterati – is becoming a new theme of the Trump presidency. Earlier this month, he crossed the floor to broker a deal with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling for three months, completely bypassing his Republican colleagues. Chuck Schumer, the Dems’ leader in the Senate, told The New York Times that Trump called him the next day saying: ‘Do you watch Fox News? They’re praising you! And your stations [MSNBC, CNN] are praising me! This is great!’
As Jonah Goldberg wrote in National Review: ‘Despite his “fake news” refrain, Trump doesn’t hate the mainstream media the way his most ardent supporters do. They sincerely believe it’s a hostile opponent in the culture war, while Trump’s anger is more that of a jilted lover. His whole life has been marked by an obsession with publicity.’ It’s hard to say exactly how he’s wrong.
Of course, there are plenty of hardened apologists who’ll defend anything Trump says or does, however inane or hypocritical. That’s true of any President, but this one has them in spades. One of them is Fox News’ Lou Dobbs. Dobbs interpreted Trump’s defection as an ingenious ploy to derail the GOP establishment, and Speaker Paul Ryan in particular. ‘President Trump not only took RINO Ryan to the woodshed,’ said Dobbs, ‘but eliminated any need for any Republican to pretend Ryan is a real Republican.’ In fairness, he’s half right. Trump has made the Republican congressional leadership obsolete. If he wants to pass Democratic legislation, he can just go to the Democrats. But why Ryan’s commitment to fiscal restraint makes him a RINO isn’t quite clear. That’s been a plank of the GOP platform since at least 1912.
Of course, until a few months ago, you might’ve argued that Trump’s nationalism is roughly equidistant between the two parties, and so occasional floor-crossings are wholesome and necessary. That doesn’t quite pan out, however, now that the President’s gone about systematically knee-capping the MAGA brigades Several key boosters, including Paul Joseph Watson and Milo Yiannopoulos, loudly exited the Trump Train after the President ordered his strike against Syria. Ann Coulter seriously considered retiring when she realized the US-Mexico border wall isn’t going to be built. Steve Bannon was fired in the wake of the Charlottesville attack; Sebastian Gorka resigned shortly thereafter. And so on.
This leaves a question of how many Chuckservatives there are in the GOP. ‘Chuckservatives’ is a portmanteau of a portmanteau (if you don’t get it, God bless you – just roll with it) coined by The Weekly Standard referring to Republicans who hate their own Congressional leadership so much they’d rather work with the Democrats’: Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, etc. It’s a gutsy play to anti-establishment sentiment, the lowest common denominator of the Trumpian movement.
Lou Dobbs is a Chuckservative. So is Kelli Ward, whom Trump’s supporting in a primary race against incumbent Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. ‘I absolutely trust President Trump,’ she told the Standard. ‘He ran on and he was elected on the promise of securing the border and building the wall.’ Again, Ms’ Ward is half right: he was elected to secure the wall. But how that excuses Trump for not building the wall in exchange for not deporting illegal immigrants isn’t immediately obvious.
Anyone who’s read my dispatches in the Speccie over the last few years (hi mom!) will know I called the election for Trump in January 2016. I tried to explain how the party that nominated John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 could suddenly realize they hate all of their elected officials and want them run out of DC. It wasn’t a rational choice, but an emotional one: ‘When he took some of my favourite commentators like Charles Krauthammer to task, I didn’t get mad. When he said Hillary Clinton got “schlonged” in the 2008 Democratic primary, I laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks. This is what it’s like to be in the thrall of a demagogue.’
Well, the thrall’s been broken. What’s left is a functionally Democratic president working with a Democratic minority in Congress to pass Democratic legislation, all while trying to oust moderate conservatives Ryan and Flake. Like Pilate, I’d prefer to wash my hands of this whole debacle. And, like Pilate, I’m afraid it’s much too late.
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