Why Pres­i­dent Trump’s top sup­port­ers are right to panic

Pawtucket Times - - OPINION - Greg Sar­gent

With the chat­ter in­ten­si­fy­ing about the pos­si­bil­ity of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump cut­ting a deal to pro­tect the "dreamers," The Post re­ports Fri­day that his loud­est sup­port­ers are in a fury. They are warn­ing that "the base" will desert him if he com­mits such a mas­sive be­trayal.

But the Post re­port also tells us some­thing else: His top sup­port­ers are let­ting the mask slip and re­veal­ing doubts about whether this will ac­tu­ally end up hap­pen­ing. And this un­der­scores why this mo­ment is so im­por­tant. Hope­fully, it will shed much­needed light on the true na­ture of Trump's na­tion­al­ist ap­peal to a large swath of the Amer­i­can public – and how deep the ugly side of that ap­peal re­ally runs.

The most vo­cal im­mi­gra­tion hard-lin­ers who backed Trump in the me­dia and Congress - peo­ple such as Ann Coul­ter, Rep. Steve King, RIowa, and Stephen Ban­non and his merry Bre­it­bart war­riors – are warn­ing Trump that his vot­ers won't tol­er­ate it if he agrees to leg­isla­tive pro­tec­tions for hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple brought here il­le­gally as chil­dren, as part of a deal with Dems. But the Post re­port shows ap­pro­pri­ate skep­ti­cism to­ward this no­tion, and tells us this:

"Yet the last­ing po­lit­i­cal cost of Trump's en­gage­ment with top Democrats on im­mi­gra­tion re­mained am­bigu­ous. While Coul­ter and oth­ers vented, sev­eral con­ser­va­tive lead­ers Thurs­day re­mained hes­i­tant about break­ing with the pres­i­dent pub­licly given his con­tin­ued grass-roots sup­port and their de­sire to fo­cus Repub­li­can ire on the lead­er­ship in Congress.

"'The jury is still out on whether the base starts to leave him. And I'm not sure what the truth is,' Rep. Steve King, RIowa, said in an in­ter­view. 'If this stands and we end up with amnesty, the base that was pulled to­gether be­cause of im­mi­gra­tion will start to peel off in sig­nif­i­cant ways.'

"But, King added, 'No one is quite sure about how this will play out and whether it's truly what we worry it'll be.'"

That is a strik­ing ad­mis­sion: Trump's top sup­port­ers – and, heck, the rest of us – sim­ply don't know whether Trump vot­ers will be alien­ated by a deal pro­tect­ing the dreamers. They might stick with him if he blesses such a deal, par­tic­u­larly (as I've sug­gested) if it's pack­aged with in­creased bor­der se­cu­rity.

It is of­ten pointed out that the press is overly ob­sessed with what Trump vot­ers think. That's true. But in this case, it's worth some at­ten­tion. If it turns out to be true that Trump vot­ers will ac­cept a deal pro­tect­ing the dreamers, that would sug­gest that Trump's na­tion­al­ism – as de­fined by the likes of Ban­non, Bre­it­bart, White House ad­viser Stephen Miller and the rest of the "pop­ulist eco­nomic na­tion­al­ist" con­tin­gent around Trump – might not have quite the pull with his vot­ers that we thought. This is clearly what King and oth­ers fear – and for good rea­son.

Re­mem­ber, when At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions an­nounced that Trump would re­scind pro­tec­tions for the dreamers, he con­spic­u­ously claimed th­ese "il­le­gal aliens" steal jobs from Amer­i­can work­ers. Ban­non has come out for get­ting them to "self de­port." Miller is pri­vately schem­ing to un­der­cut any deal to pro­tect them. The "pop­ulist eco­nomic na­tion­al­ist" con­tin­gent con­stantly pushes the line that un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants are a de­struc­tive, in­va­sive, crim­i­nal pres­ence – the dreamers in­cluded. But Trump Thurs­day un­der­cut this nar­ra­tive by tweet­ing that the dreamers are blame­less for their plight and are mak­ing pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions to Amer­i­can life. What if a lot of Trump vot­ers end up agree­ing with him? That's bad news for the pop­ulist-eco­nomic-na­tion­al­ist-snake-oil pur­vey­ors.

Will Wilkin­son ar­gues that pro­tect­ing the dreamers shouldn't ac­tu­ally be at odds with pop­ulist na­tion­al­ism, be­cause the dreamers are cul­tur­ally Amer­i­can, and keep­ing them here does not un­der­mine the na­tion­al­ist con­tin­gent's vi­sion of cul­tural na­tion­al­ity. Wilkin­son the­o­rizes that those scream­ing about this deal are re­ally try­ing to in­duce Trump to in­sist on other dra­co­nian mea­sures as part of it. That is true: The mo­tive here is also to get poi­son pills in­serted into any deal, driv­ing away Dems and killing it.

But if Trump were to agree to a deal that is not loaded up with a lot of hate­ful non­sense, and many of his vot­ers sup­ported it, that would not be in­signif­i­cant. MSNBC's Chris Hayes ar­gues that, even if you ac­cept Trump's vic­tory as fun­da­men­tally an as­ser­tion of white na­tion­al­ism, if he, the white guy who is in charge, makes the deals pro­tect­ing the dreamers, his vot­ers might be fine with it. This would still have hor­ri­ble im­pli­ca­tions. But at least it would mean there is not wide­spread sup­port for car­ry­ing out this na­tion­al­ist agenda by in­flict­ing a hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter on this par­tic­u­lar vul­ner­a­ble group, i.e., the dreamers.

That is not what Ban­non and his fel­low trav­el­ers want you to be­lieve. They want you to be­lieve the coun­try is cheer­ing on the en­act­ment of that na­tion­al­ist agenda and that the only ones ob­ject­ing are squea­mish "elites." Put it this way: If Ban­non is cor­rect and there is wide­spread sup­port for a na­tion­al­ism that in­cludes in­duc­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of young peo­ple who were brought here through no fault of their own to re­turn to coun­tries they don't even know, then surely all of the pri­mary chal­lengers to GOP Se­nate in­cum­bents he in­tends to back will run on that, right?

To be sure, even if there is a deal on the dreamers that Trump vot­ers ac­cept, all of his other hor­rors would still be pro­ceed­ing apace.

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