As the polls continue to widen the margin of a potential Democrat wipeout in November, President Trump needs an enthusiastic base now more than ever. As recently as early May, less than 4 percentage points separated Trump and Biden in Real Clear Politics’ Average. Now, it is 9 percent. In such an uphill battle, Trump needs high turnout of his supporters. In order to get that, they need to be energized and excited to vote. On the flip side, he should be working to demotivate Biden supporters and make them less excited to vote for him. The past few days have shown that he is not following this strategy.
Trump gained much attention in the 2016 election cycle for his views on immigration. This was the centerpiece of his entire campaign. The wall was vital, and Mexico would pay for it. His supporters would chant “build that wall!” at campaign rallies. The media would continually harken back to his June 16, 2015 press conference where he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best.”
Part of Trump’s immigration platform was ending DACA. In that same June 16th press conference, he promised to “immediately terminate President Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration”. Since then, he’s repeated that promise numerous times—which Forbes has documented. Now, all that is in question as Trump told Telemundo on Friday, “I’m going to do a big executive order. I have the power to do it as president and I’m going to make DACA a part of it.” When asked to clarify, he said that “[the] Supreme Court now, because of the DACA decision, has given me the power to do that.” This is a complete misrepresentation of the Supreme Court decision. As Justice Thomas wrote in his dissent, “the majority simply opts to excise the ‘unlawful policy’ aspect from its discussion.” In layman’s terms, they totally ignore the issue of the legality of DACA. Instead, “the majority declares that DHS was required to overlook DACA’s obvious legal deficiencies and provide additional policy reasons and justifications before restoring the rule of law.” The Trump administration’s justification for ending DACA was not good enough for Chief Justice Roberts and the 4 liberal justices.
Constitutionalists know that courts do not actually grant power; the constitution does. Even if the Supreme Court had said, “the President has the authority via executive order to change immigration law,” that does not make it so. Trump called DACA “illegal” from the beginning. Justice Thomas confirms this in his dissent explaining why DACA was unlawful:
To lawfully implement such changes [that DACA made to the immigration status of certain individuals], DHS needed a grant of authority from Congress to either reclassify removable DACA recipients as lawfully present, or to exempt the entire class of aliens covered by DACA from statutory removal procedures. No party disputes that the immigration statutes lack an express delegation to accomplish either result. And, an examination of the highly reticulated immigration regime makes clear that DHS has no implicit discretion to create new classes of lawful presence or to grant relief from removal out of whole cloth. Accordingly, DACA is substantively unlawful.
If this is Trump’s belief, that DACA is illegal and unconstitutional, then he would be violating his oath of office to promote it and pass an executive order protecting it. It is false that the Supreme Court has found DACA legal, so even under a view of judicial supremacy, it is still not allowed.
Trump’s language in his recent interview shows his clear disregard for separation of powers. He told Telemundo, “I’m going to be signing a very major immigration bill as an executive order…” Does he really plan to pass legislation with the stroke of his pen without any legislative approval? This is exactly what Republicans rightly criticized President Obama for doing. The White House later sought to clarify Trump’s statements by saying that the president will pass an executive order that simply “establish[es] a merit-based immigration system to further protect U.S. workers” and “is willing to work with Congress on a negotiated legislative solution to DACA, one that could include citizenship…” We’ll see what comes out of this. Hopefully, the president had no idea what he was talking about.
If Trump ends up signing a new order preserving or broadening DACA, that would be a major blow to his base (not to mention the Constitution). Trump and his supporters have been saying that DACA is bad policy. Now, he seems to be giving in to the New York Times Editorial Board, big businesses like Apple and GM, and the Democrats. That’s not a good look for someone who has been heralded as a fighter for what’s right. Even if the legislation is constitutionally enacted, meaning he gets Congress to pass such a bill, Trump will appear to have caved and the anti-Dreamers in his base are likely to lose enthusiasm.
Those who have followed Trump long enough know that he is pragmatic. Back in 2013, he met with a group of Dreamers and told them “you’ve convinced me.” There have also been reports about Trump employing dozens of illegal immigrants. When it’s convenient, he’ll attack illegal immigration. Since he thinks independents and other key demographics aren’t buying it, he now appears to be pivoting, but it’s at the expense of his base.
DACA isn’t the only problems Trump supporters have faced this weekend. On Sunday, Trump turned to Twitter to attack his supporters who funded and built a small portion of the border wall. We Build the Wall raised over $18 million to build a portion of the border wall after Congress refused to fund it in the December 2018 government shutdown. On their website, they report that they “constructed a state-of-the-art, 18-foot-tall, steel-bollard border barrier that blocked one of the worst human- and drug-smuggling corridors in the El Paso Sector” and that “the construction of this barrier immediately altered the entire region’s flow of illegal drugs and illegal migrants coming into the United States.” The project was supported by Trump’s long-time aid and former White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, and vocal supporter and Kris Kobach, an infamous anti-illegal immigrant Republican politician. Despite this being a grassroots effort from his supporters, Trump tweeted that the project was “only done to make me look bad” after reports of erosion.
Imagine being a Trump supporter who was promised that Mexico would pay for the wall, then took money out of your own pocket to fund the wall and protect your country, only to be told that you were being unpatriotic and unsupportive of the president who you had done nothing but support. As the Senate also seems to be in play, Republicans have a reason to be worried. Trump appears to be turning on his base. He must change if he has hope for anything less than decimation for Republicans come November.