President Trump’s recent decision to partner with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, of all people, has made a great many conservative and populist writers nervous. To give just one example, Ann Coulter has already suggested that she wants to impeach Trump for the heresy. Judging from her retweets, she’s far from alone.
I get it. When I heard about the whole business, I too began to doubt whether Trump had actually gone soft on the issue that won him the election. Upon review, however, I would caution against defeatism.
There are the obvious reasons for prudence: we don’t know whether there was a “deal” or what it might have contained. There is no reason to assume that when President Trump talks about “border security” and “technology,” he is using the phrases in the same duplicitous way as Marco Rubio or Jeb(!). After all, the man already drove down illegal immigration by 70 percent without new money or technology, so who’s to say what he could accomplish if he had both?
But I think all of this misses the real point, which is that Trump could easily use a DACA deal as cover to negotiate surrender from the Democrats on all his other priorities. He just needs our help.
To explain, let me call your attention to another hardball, results-first-and-principles-second president: Lyndon Baines Johnson. Specifically, look to a conversation between LBJ and Martin Luther King, Jr. Johnson told King that Congress wouldn’t do anything on civil rights unless King’s group brought real grassroots pressure.
At the time Johnson insisted on this, his own Democratic party controlled both the House and Senate by far larger—filibuster-proof—majorities than Trump’s Republican Party has in the current Congress. Yet, because of the influence of Southern Democrats, who had no particular affection for the civil rights plank of the Kennedy-era Democratic party’s agenda, LBJ still needed outside pressure to force the legislation through. LBJ coupled this with courting Republicans and he got results. Of the votes for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 136 came from Republicans in the House and 27 in the Senate.
To recap, a president notorious for his hardball approach saw that his own party was too hobbled by the adherents of an obsolete political vision. So he went around them and used both public pressure and votes from the opposition to get his way. Sound familiar?
It should. Pro-amnesty House and Senate Republicans are as determined to ignore their own voters as the Dixiecrats were. They haven’t been held accountable on immigration, and the comparatively favorable House and Senate map confronting them next year have lulled them into believing Trump has no leverage over them.
But if Trump has little pull with Republican leadership, he has tons of it with Democrats. After all, the Democrats are scared to death. A recent story in Politico quotes Democrats who feel panicked that their attacks on the president aren’t landing. Worse, the #Resistance has been exposed as a paper tiger, both inside the Democratic Party and out. Witness the dismal record of #Resistance candidates in red state special elections and in attempted primaries against Blue Dog Democrats. If you were Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, facing an electorally powerless base, what would you do? In Schumer’s case, you’d probably choose to work with your former friend in the White House. Hey, you voted for a wall in 2006, right? Turns out, the only reason the Democrats can fake leverage at all on this issue is that purposely skewed public polling shows DACA is popular, and because the biased national media is this president’s favorite barometer of public opinion.
Now, this president is a doer and was never going to let Congress make him a do-nothing, particularly on immigration. Especially not when, like LBJ, he has a chummy relationship with the opposition leader in the Senate. In short, President Trump is going to give the public what he thinks it wants. Right now, the media is dictating that. We have a duty not to let them.
Whatever he says about DACA, I believe President Trump still wants to give us The Wall and a nationalist immigration policy, just as Johnson wanted to give MLK civil rights. But Trump needs his power base to flex its muscles. MLK gave Johnson the March on Washington, and I recommend the immigration nationalists give Trump a similar show of mass support and muscle flexing as he negotiates over DACA. In fact, I can even recommend a name for it: the Million American March.