Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pivotless Trump

Donald Trump is catching a lot of preemptive flack over rumors that he may be backing away from his deportation plans. It's politics so it's not that strange that people are sensationalizing things that aren't that sensational, but I have to say that I'm surprised that this would be a surprise to anybody. For it to be newsworthy, shouldn't it be news?

After getting his campaign off the launch pad by highlighting the negative effects of illegal immigration, promising to build a wall and promising to be tough on immigration enforcement, he's now being accused of pivoting on his signature issue. My challenge to those making the claim that supporting legalization is a pivot for Trump is, -prove it-. What are the examples from this election cycle of Trump publicly stating that he did not support legalization for illegal immigrants currently living in the US?

One of my gripes with Mr. Trump has been that he is nebulous (to be generous) on policy. He frequently makes contradictory position statements on a variety of issues, but his position on legalization is one of the rare exceptions to this rule. In this area he actually has a conviction and that conviction doesn't align with the idea that legalization should be off the table. The incongruity in his rhetoric has always been the deportation talk.

Whether it was statements last year about having an expedited way to get illegals back to their jobs after deportation, or his response to the deportation question in the June Bloomberg interview stating "I think people are going to find that I have not only the best policies, but I will have the biggest heart of anybody," it should have been clear to everyone that his call for a "deportation force" was campaign trail rhetorical nonsense.

In that June Bloomberg interview he also said he wouldn't do mass deportations and leveled the accusation that Obama "...has mass deported vast numbers of people — the most ever, and it's never reported.". Seriously. I'm probably as staunchly opposed to legalization as anybody, but even I wouldn't see any point in deporting 11 plus million people if you're just going to bring them right back in. The point of the exercise isn't simply to create massive amounts of bureaucratic busy work for DHS. And even Donald Trump understands that.

When it's all said and done, I have complete confidence that Trump's "biggest heart of anybody" immigration reform would look a lot like "compassionate conservative" GW Bush's and John McCain's immigration reform plus a wall, or part of a wall, or a metaphorical wall. But after listening to Trump talk about immigration for the entire campaign cycle, I don't really see that as any pivot at all.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


In 2007 G.W. Bush and John McCain led an effort to provide amnesty to millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States. That action would have led to long term democrat majorities at the national level and at lower levels in some regions of the country. Conservative Americans burned up the Washington DC phone lines and crammed the in-boxes of elected officials to stop Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The outcry was so intense that the CIR effort was stopped, and has not been able to gain traction for nearly a decade.

That effort to oppose the 2007 Comprehensive Immigration Reform was a harbinger of what would become the TEA party movement. The movement brought together a number of frustrated factions of Americans that were fed up with an unresponsive, and entirely self-absorbed political ruling class that spanned both major US political parties. Among the groups that would unite within the movement there was never universal agreement on policy or even principle. But the movement found success in its focus on areas of agreement.

Like a lot of folks that were cynical about the prospects of America's political future I was encouraged by the TEA party movement. I've long held the conviction that the solutions to our nation's political dysfunction must come from the bottom up, from the broad base of the American people. The fantasy of the politician hero, or champion, is an obstacle to getting the nation on the right course. A movement motivated by a few common principles, or simply goals, rather than teams and personalities held great potential for overcoming the wrong-direction-momentum dragging the nation down.

Today the future of that movement is unclear to me. The divisions among prior allies seem to deepen every day - a growing schism between Mark Levin and Alex Jones wings of the movement. These factions were formerly able to unite to defeat CIR, and to achieve off-year election victories in 2010 and 2014. To a surprising extent the divide is presently not respectful, constructive, or amicable. The antipathy between the wings is increasingly based on the willingness to support a specific politician.

This is not a post about the GOP nominee, but it is about the affect that nominee may have on the future of the conservative movement. Will the movement that coalesced around stopping CIR in 2007 find the will to do the same if Donald Trump supports some form of amnesty as President? Or will this simply be accepted as a non-politician's "common sense" solution to the illegal immigration problem, just part of a negotiation to get a wall built.

We just watched a GOP National Convention in which the nominee's daughter introduced her father with a speech that praised the moderate political center, decried the "gender pay gap", demanded a solution for student loan debt, and pined for universal child care. Within days of that speech Trump himself reaffirmed his support for increasing the minimum wage. The TEA party movement would have excoriated Mitt Romney or John McCain for these positions when they were the GOP nominees. But today much of that movement is silent on these topics. So what  gives?

I'm daily looking for reasons to be confident that the TEA party movement will be there to hold a President Trump accountable when he promotes these ideas from the White House. When the next TARP, or CIR, comes along will former allies oppose them together even if President Trump supports them? Will there be a new view of accountability based on relativism? Bad policy is bad policy even if the democrat's policy is worse. After months of hearing "conservatives" talk about cuckservatives and Constitution preachers while using the idea of electing a "pastor" as an epithet, my confidence that the movement hasn't accepted the promise of a wall as down payment on some Faustian bargain is pretty low.

One thing that a Trump presidency is likely to do for us is reveal the depth and persistence of the divide in the conservative movement. Tim Huelskamp lost his Kansas primary for US Congress yesterday. There is no way to characterize this loss as anything but a tragedy for conservatism, Americanism, or the conservative movement in general. There is no question that his opponent was a less conservative, establishment, candidate. Yet today I've seen a lot of celebration about Tim's defeat from people that have identified as conservatives - celebration based on nothing other than the opinion that Huelskamp waited too long to support Trump. That's a tough divide to bridge.

I'm looking forward to more battles where conservatives are united by principle, rather than divided by politicians. But for now, the silence from not a few that have previously spoken out is saying a lot.