Trump tests loy­alty of his base

Pres­i­dent’s ef­forts to make a deal with Democrats doesn’t sit well with many Repub­li­cans, write Julie Pace and Steve Peo­ples

Weekend Herald - - WORLD -

ew i ssues have animated Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ar­dent sup­port­ers more than his pledge to build a wall along the na­tion’s South­ern bor­der. Now, Trump’s de­ci­sion to put that prom­ise aside — at least tem­po­rar­ily — while he pur­sues a deal with Democrats to pro­tect young im­mi­grants brought to the coun­try il­le­gally may test the lim­its of that loy­alty.

Some avid Trump back­ers praised the Pres­i­dent as a prag­ma­tist try­ing to make deals with whomever he can. But oth­ers re­coiled at the prospect of Trump join­ing forces with Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi on im­mi­gra­tion, and seem­ing to get lit­tle in re­turn.

“Many sup­port­ers of the Pres­i­dent won­der whether our king has been cap­tured and [ White House chief of staff John] Kelly and a clique of gen­er­als and their glob­al­ist friends are now gov­ern­ing,” said Roger Stone, a long­time in­for­mal ad­viser to Trump. His com­ments re­flected the grow­ing con­cern among some Trump back­ers about the diminished pres­ence of na­tion­al­ist advisers in the West Wing.

Amy Kre­mer, who founded the group Women Vote Trump, likened the Pres­i­dent’s deal- mak­ing with Democrats to one of his­tory’s most no­to­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal flip- flops: Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H. W. Bush’s bro­ken cam­paign- trail vow that he wouldn’t raise taxes.

“If the wall doesn’t get done and he gives amnesty, he’ll lose the base,” Kre­mer said. “You’re go­ing to see an ab­so­lute re­volt.”

The wor­ries were sparked by Trump’s startling ef­forts to forge con­sen­sus with Schumer and Pelosi — “Chuck and Nancy”, as the Pres­i­dent has co­zily re­ferred to the Demo­cratic duo — over the fate of nearly 800,000 peo­ple brought to the US il­le­gally as chil­dren. Trump, Schumer and Pelosi dis­cussed the mat­ter at a pri­vate White House din­ner on Thurs­day.

Yes­ter­day, the Pres­i­dent — a for­mer Demo­crat him­self — and the mi­nor­ity lead­ers ap­peared largely aligned. Trump said an agree­ment to al­low the young im­mi­grants to stay in the coun­try would have to in­clude “mas­sive bor­der se­cu­rity”. But he point­edly said a bor­der wall, which is staunchly op­posed by Democrats, could come later.

He’s out­lined no spe­cific path for ul­ti­mately mak­ing that hap­pen.

While al­low­ing young peo­ple who came to the US il­le­gally to stay in the coun­try i s broadly pop­u­lar, im­mi­gra­tion hard­lin­ers con­sider it an amnesty.

As a can­di­date, Trump vowed to re­peal the ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion signed by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama al­low­ing the young peo­ple to stay. But he’s strug­gled with the is­sue as Pres­i­dent, of­ten speak­ing sym­pa­thet­i­cally about the young im­mi­grants. Earlier this month, he an­nounced that he would re­scind their pro­tec­tions in March, but said he wanted Congress to pass leg­is­la­tion protecting them from de­por­ta­tion.

Trump has tested the lim­its of his sup­port­ers’ loy­alty be­fore, of­ten to find that they were un­shaken by his pol­icy re­ver­sals. He failed to ful­fil his pledge to re­peal Obama’s sig­na­ture health­care law. He’s backed off his tough talk on China, de­clin­ing to la­bel Bei­jing a cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tor. The US is still a party to the Iran nu­clear deal, de­spite Trump’s prom­ise to rip up the agree­ment.

But im­mi­gra­tion, and the bor­der wall in par­tic­u­lar, hold spe­cial res­o­nance with Trump sup­port­ers. Some of Trump’s ap­peal to the white, work­ing- class vot­ers who formed the ba­sis of his vot­ing bloc stemmed from his prom­ises to crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. At his rau­cous cam­paign ral­lies, vot­ers of­ten broke out into chants of “build that wall”.

Once in the White House, Trump’s na­tion­al­ist- minded advisers, par­tic­u­larly strate­gist Steve Bannon, of­ten pressed the Pres­i­dent on the im­por­tance of ful­fill­ing his prom­ise on the bor­der wall.

But Bannon, who kept a tally of Trump’s cam­paign prom­ises in his West Wing of­fice, was pushed out last month as part of Kelly’s takeover of the White House.

The head­lines yes­ter­day on Bre­it­bart News, where Bannon re­turned after leav­ing the Ad­min­is­tra­tion, were un­for­giv­ing. One panned the Pres­i­dent as “Amnesty Don”. An­other said Trump got “rolled” by the Democrats.

With his poll num­bers sag­ging, Trump has spent re­cent weeks al­ter­nat­ing be­tween be­ing deeply wor­ried about dis­ap­point­ing his base and deeply frus­trated with Repub­li­can law­mak­ers’ strug­gles to pass sig­nif­i­cant leg­is­la­tion. The GOP’s fail­ure to pass an Oba­macare over­haul in par­tic­u­lar soured Trump’s view of Repub­li­can con­gres­sional lead­ers, ac­cord­ing to advisers, and opened him up to the prospect of part­ner­ing with Democrats in­stead.

Some of Trump’s sup­port­ers praised the Pres­i­dent for what they see as prag­ma­tism.

“He’s to the point he needs to get some­thing done. The Repub­li­can Party has failed him mis­er­ably,” said Jeff Jor­gensen, the GOP chair­man in western Iowa’s con­ser­va­tive Pot­tawat­tamie County. “Hats off to him. If you need to cross the aisle to get things done, then cross the aisle.”

There’s no guar­an­tee that the com­mon ground Trump found this week with Democrats on im­mi­gra­tion will re­sult in leg­is­la­tion. Repub­li­cans still con­trol which leg­is­la­tion comes up for votes, and nei­ther Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell nor House Speaker Paul Ryan ap­peared ea­ger to sign on. The scope of the bor­der se­cu­rity mea­sures that would be in­cluded in an even­tual bill could also un­der­cut Demo­cratic sup­port.

Trump, try­ing to tamp down crit­i­cism that he was ac­qui­esc­ing to his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, in­sisted he would even­tu­ally make good on his prom­ises to his base.

“Ul­ti­mately, we have to have the wall,” he said. “If we don’t get the wall we’re not do­ing any­thing.”

Pic­ture / AP

Protests have been held around the United States this month, in­clud­ing in San Fran­cisco, over plans to dis­man­tle the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gramme, or Daca.

Don­ald Trump

Chuck Schumer

Nancy Pelosi

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