Politics

DACA Debacle Demonstrates Power of Trump’s Base

Ardent supporters of the president flex political muscle over key campaign pledge

Many of the voters, activists and influencers who form President Donald Trump’s base of support sprung into action late Wednesday night and into the day Thursday, outraged over claims by Democrats that the president had cut a quick deal on amnesty for so-called “dreamers.”

So swift and intense was the backlash over beneficiaries of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that it sent Trump scrambling to reject the Democrats’ narrative and reaffirm his commitment to immigration and border security campaign pledges.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi claimed Wednesday night they had agreed on the outline of a deal with Trump to grant permanent legal status to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in exchange for a commitment to border security — but not including a wall.

“The president is still 100 percent committed to the wall,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders in an email to LifeZette on Thursday after outrage from Trump’s base dominated morning news coverage.

A staffer for a congressman in the conservative Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 House Republicans, told LifeZette GOP lawmakers in Congress were told there is no deal with the Democrats.

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It was a sign that Trump’s loyal base, which confounded 16 Republican rivals in the 2016 presidential primaries, is ready to put the pitchforks to their own man.

What brought down this wrath? The compromise in question would grant amnesty to about 800,000 illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

But what really outraged Trump’s loyal base was the use, or non-use, of the southern border wall as a bargaining chip. The Democrats quickly left the White House after a Wednesday night meeting, and posted press releases claiming that the wall had been “excluded” from the compromise.

All hell broke loose. Trump was seen as folding yet again before Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But the use of Trump’s biggest campaign promise, to “build the wall,” was the ultimate insult to Trump’s loyal base.

“People aren’t getting JUST HOW F****** MAD MAGA IS RIGHT NOW,” tweeted David Alvord, who then quoted Trump from a 2016 campaign stop: “There will be no amnesty.”

“MAGA” refers to the loyal Trump base. It is short for Trump’s 2016 campaign theme, “Make America Great Again.” Trump’s base was also known as the “Trump train.”

That base stayed roiled throughout Thursday, and appears to have caused Trump to retreat from a “clean” or mostly clean legalization of President Barack Obama’s executive order creating DACA, which Trump rescinded last week.

To Trump’s base, the deal was not an equal trade.

“Doing a deal for DACA is a great move politically, but not if he gives up the wall,” said Eddie Zipperer, an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College. “It will be very damaging for him politically if he can’t secure the border wall. His campaign slogan may as well have been ‘great, big wall.’ He talked about it everywhere he went, in every debate, from the primaries to the last debate with Clinton. There are always campaign promises that don’t come to fruition, but Trump’s reliance on the wall to win the primary and general elections would make it more than just a campaign promise that didn’t work out. It would be more like a con job.”

“I’ll wait to see the wall,” Coulter told LifeZette. “If he builds it, I will welcome him back to the Trump train.”

So what did Trump try to get for not including the wall? Democrats promised Trump “border security” items, including what Trump described on Thursday morning as “new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built.” Congress and President George W. Bush actually passed a fence program in 2006, called the Secure Fence Act. It was widely seen as a failure, as hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens have made their way over the U.S.-Mexico border since 2006.

Trump defended his rationale for a deal on DACA children — who are now adults — some of whom are “dreamers.”

“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning. But the idea that a renovation of existing fences and walls was traded away for something the Democrats want desperately, amnesty for dreamers, was met with ridicule from Trump’s top supporters.

Ann Coulter, the conservative columnist, joked she now supported Trump’s impeachment.

Laura Ingraham, the editor-in-chief of LifeZette and the host of “The Laura Ingraham Show,” ridiculed the idea of secure fencing.

“‘Repair the fence! Repair the fence!'” Ingraham tweeted Thursday night, joking about the famous chants at Trump rallies about building a wall. “Crickets,” said Ingraham, indicating the base does not care about “border security” and fencing.

Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, said Trump’s reported deal was akin to the broken pledge of former President George H.W. Bush, who famously said, “Read my lips. No new taxes.” That was in 1988. In 1990, he signed a deal with the Democrats that raised taxes, and Bush went on to lose re-election in 1992.

Perhaps more troubling, immigration critic and writer Mickey Kaus posted pictures of burning Trump hats, set ablaze by angry supporters.

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Trump’s move was seen as a miscalculation by his Republican supporters and foes alike.

Andrew Malcolm, a conservative columnist for McClatchy, said people will now be more confused about Trump’s motives.

“This move could be part of Trump’s pivot toward political pragmatism: Get something now and why hold up other things for something he knows won’t really be built,” said Malcolm, in an email to LifeZette. “Now he appears to be backtracking on that to soothe some. You can never make final judgments on Trump’s strategies because, well, they’re never final. Reality show teaser: Next week, will he or won’t he?”

For Coulter, failure could mean Trump could be excluded from his own base.

“I’ll wait to see the wall,” Coulter told LifeZette. “If he builds it, I will welcome him back to the Trump train.”

(photo credit, homepage and article images: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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