News / John CassidyTech

How Many Supporters Do Trump’s Conservative Critics on DACA Have?

In parts of the conservative media, this is a day of outrage and
mourning. “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?” Ann
Coulter, the columnist and author, demanded on Twitter early in the day. Lou Dobbs, of Fox Business News, was also in high dudgeon. “Who stole
White House?” he demanded. “Morning tweets sound like Obama, maybe
Clinton, not #MAGA, not #AmericaFirst not @realDonaldTrump #TrumpTrain #DTS.”

These outbursts came in the aftermath of a Chinese-food dinner that
Donald Trump shared at the White House on Wednesday night with Nancy
Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. After the dinner, the two Democrats announced
that they and Trump had reached an agreement on maintaining legal
protections for Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who arrived in this
country as minors, with no concessions on funding the border wall with
Mexico that Trump has long called for. The White House and Trump himself
then sent mixed signals about just what was agreed to at the dinner,
spurring Breitbart, the right-wing Web site run by Trump’s former
adviser Steve Bannon, to run a headline calling the President “Amnesty
Don.” On Thursday morning, Trump issued a series of tweets in which he
denied striking a deal but added, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving
in the military? Really! . . . . .”

The best response to that tweet came from David Axelrod, Barack Obama’s
former adviser. “Uh . . . have you spoken with your AG lately?” Axelrod
wrote, referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who looked downright
giddy last week when he announced that the Administration was ending
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the federal policy that protects
Dreamers from deportation. As Trump departed for Florida later on
Thursday morning, he further enraged conservatives by telling reporters
that a bipartisan deal on preserving DACA was in fact “pretty
close,” and adding, “Mitch”—McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader—“is on
board, Paul Ryan”—the House Speaker—“is on board. Look, ninety-two per
cent of the people agree on DACA. But what we want is very, very
powerful border security.”

“Border security” hasn’t been enough to placate Trump’s sudden critics
on the right. Returning to the fray on Twitter, Coulter wrote, ”Let’s
play Jeopardy. ANSWER: An Easter egg. QUESTION: What’s the only thing
easier to roll than Donald J. Trump?” A bit later, she added, “Looks
like Bannon got it wrong. That shadowy force trying to nullify the 2016
election . . . is @realDonaldTrump.” Conservative news sites continued
to mock the President that they have hitherto supported. Breitbart led
with a headline that said, “THE WALL WILL COME LATER.” The Drudge Report
ran with “DREAM TEAM,” next to photographs of Trump and Pelosi.

As a spectator sport, this was all very entertaining. When things calm
down a bit, one question will be whether the views of Coulter and
Breitbart are representative of Trump’s ordinary supporters. Was Steve
King, the hard-line Republican congressman from Iowa, right when he said
that if Trump makes a deal that preserves DACA but doesn’t involve the
wall, his base will be “blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and
disillusioned beyond repair”? I very much doubt it.

For one thing, Trump insists that he isn’t talking about a legal amnesty
for Dreamers, which, as it is usually defined, would involve providing
them with some sort of path to citizenship. “We’re not looking at
citizenship,” he told reporters in Florida. “We’re not looking at
amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here.” There is
confusion at the White House on this point, however. On Thursday, a
White House spokesperson told reporters that while “there will be no amnesty,” the Administration was
considering “legal citizenship over a period of time.” Still, Trump
seems to be leaning toward providing the Dreamers with permanent
residency status, which would allow them to live and work in the United
States indefinitely but wouldn’t grant them full citizenship rights,
such as the right to vote.

Trump isn’t without his defenders on the right, either. The Koch
brothers and some other conservative G.O.P. donors have long supported
immigration reform. Last week, a spokesman for the Kochs’ political
network said it would support a deal to preserve DACA. For this and
other reasons, Trump may well be right when he says that the Republican
leadership in Congress will fall in line behind him. Earlier this week, Paul Ryan said, “I do believe that kicking these eight hundred thousand
kids out to countries they have probably not been to since they were
toddlers . . . is not in our nation’s interest.” On Thursday, Ryan said that Trump would have to “work with the congressional majorities to get
any kind of legislative solution,” which was only stating the obvious.
McConnell’s office released a statement that said, “We look forward to
receiving the Trump administration’s legislative proposal as we continue
our work on these issues.”

The most important thing to remember in all this may be the argument made by Chris Collins, the pro-Trump Republican congressman from New
York, who says that Trump’s supporters are capable of distinguishing
between Dreamers, who didn’t have any choice about coming to the United
States, and other undocumented immigrants. “For what it’s worth, I’ve
seen/done enough polling that suggests most Republicans are A-OK w DACA esp if they’re told Trump backs it,” Kristen Anderson, a Republican
pollster, tweeted. A recent poll that the research firm Morning Consult carried out for Politico backed up Anderson’s point. It indicated that
sixty-nine per cent of Republicans believe the Dreamers should be
allowed to stay in the United States, and fifty-seven per cent believe
they should be given work permits. Among Republicans who said they
strongly approve of Trump’s job performance, these figure were lower—but
even in this group, less than half of the respondents (forty-five per
cent) said that the Dreamers should be removed or deported.

Numbers like these suggest that Trump has more freedom to maneuver on
this issue than Coulter, Bannon, and their allies would like him to
have. Indeed, Trump may be moved to respond to his conservative critics
in the same way that Josef Stalin responded to a suggestion, from the
French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval, that he should ease up on
persecuting Catholics. “The Pope?” Stalin is reputed to have said. “How
many divisions has he got?”


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