Thursday, August 25, 2016

Trump Hints At Flip-Flop On Illegal Immigration

If you pick an issue, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has probably been on two or more sides of it. He has explained this as growth and as good business. For Trump, business exigencies require that you really do run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. Fundamentally Trump seems to be about doing whatever is best for Trump. He doesn't appear to have very many fixed ideological commitments. Fame, fortune and adulation seem to be what motivate him. Still when you enter the political arena, Hillary Clinton's "I'm not Trump" campaign notwithstanding, it usually helps to have a few key issues where you put your foot down and define yourself. This will hopefully animate your base. If done properly a politician's strong stance on an issue can even win grudging respect from the other side and/or attract independents to his team. For Trump and his successful quest to become the 2016 Republican nominee for President this defining issue was illegal immigration. Illegal immigration in today's environment is also a magnet or pointer for a host of other associated themes such as ethnic and economic nationalism, fears about the browning of America, crime, disdain towards cosmopolitan bi-coastal elites, anger over the hollowing out of good paying middle class jobs, deindustrialization, declining male status, nostalgia over the loss of the "good old days", and many others, some of which Trump didn't have to say out loud. Some of his supporters certainly picked up on what he was putting down. One such supporter was writer and media critic Ann Coulter, who was, to put it mildly, in support of Trump's heretofore, strong stance against illegal immigration.  But like the song says, everything must change. Recently speaking to Fox News personality Sean Hannity, Trump gave himself a little, well a LOT, of wiggle room regarding his intentions towards the illegal immigrants who are currently living in the US. 

Trump earlier this week said he may be open to some "softening" in the immigration laws."There certainly can be a softening, because we're not looking to hurt people," Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity during a town hall earlier this week. During that event, he raised the idea that people living in the country illegally would pay back taxes, "but we work with them."  
Questions have been raised about Trump's stance on immigration after his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said last weekend it was "to be determined" whether Trump's plans would include a deportation force to remove the 11 million people living illegally in the country.
“They’ll pay back-taxes, they have to pay taxes, there’s no amnesty, as such, there’s no amnesty, but we work with them,” Trump said. Trump claimed that his supporters have urged him to soften his stance on immigration, even though he has staked much of his campaign on his tough stance on immigration and portraying immigrants as “rapists and criminals.” 

“When I go through and meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject, and they’ve said, ‘Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who’s been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it’s so tough, Mr. Trump,’” he told Hannity. “I have it all the time! It’s a very, very hard thing.”
From Trump these statements are akin to Hillary Clinton going on MSNBC to muse that Planned Parenthood gets too much government funding or to say that National Right to Life occasionally makes a good point. It's not what the base wants to hear. Coulter has stated (paraphrase) that if Trump loses the election America is over. She's commenced a tour in support of her new book In Trump We Trust. So you might guess she wouldn't be too thrilled with the timing or content of Trump's comments. And you'd be correct.  Coulter said Trump was making a mistake. Coulter made a series of sarcastic tweets attacking Trump and retweeted a picture from #NeverTrump Republican consultant Rick Wilson. This Coulter retweet was surprising because Wilson had previously attacked Coulter in an extremely scurrilous manner

As Trump has been all over the place no one should have been surprised by his seeming new found "flexibility" on the immigration issue. That is, no one except the true believers. Heck by the time this post appears Trump and/or his surrogates may well have put out new statements disavowing what was previously said and/or saying that everyone misunderstood what was said. Because we're all stupid losers. Or so on. The question going forward is will Trump voters see this signal towards a softer stance on illegal immigration as a betrayal most foul or merely as their guy making the noises he has to make in order to get elected. Remember that Trump once boasted that he loves the poorly educated. He claimed he could shoot someone in the middle of NYC and not lose a vote. Well we shall see. All of the current polls show Trump losing badly to Clinton. There are red leaning states which have become competitive for Clinton that probably wouldn't be competitive to a different Republican.  Trump could lead the Republicans to an electoral beatdown of Biblical proportions. So Trump could be belatedly trying to turn to the middle and win over moderate Republicans, Republican women and/or conservative leaning independents. Most people, even most conservatives, Coulter notwithstanding, don't like angry or mean political leaders. Trump's positions are very easily understood as such. There are not enough angry white nationalist voters in the US to give Trump a victory. He must expand the bloc Republican voters. I think that (1) Trump may have underestimated how important this illegal immigration issue is to the ethno-nationalist primary voter who initially flocked to him and (2) how toxic he is (because of this issue) to the Democratic base voter and several left leaning independents. 

Although it's not too late for Trump to win the election it probably is too late for him to change his stripes on illegal immigration. People who disagreed with him about his hardline stance won't believe him or vote for him. And people who agreed with his hardline stance would be so disgusted that they would stay home.  If Trump does try to find a kinder, gentler policy on illegal immigration I will respect those conservatives who don't drink the Kool-Aid and instead stand up for their beliefs.  Trump is likely gambling that he has little to lose at this point and can afford to reach out towards the middle because his base hates Clinton so much.

What's your take?

Is Trump turning over a new leaf?

Or is this just a clumsy attempt to get some moderate voters?

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