Opinion writer


It could not be more fitting that only 24 hours after scrapping protections for 800,000 young immigrants brought here illegally as children, President Trump is set to deliver a big speech extolling the need to cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations. The juxtaposition captures the massive lie at the very heart of Trumpism as perfectly as anyone could ask for.

Two of Trump’s new tweets neatly bracket this big lie. In one tweet, Trump announced he will give a speech today in North Dakota calling for “tax reform and tax cuts,” arguing that “we are the highest taxed nation in the world.” This is itself a repeatedly debunked falsehood that Trump employs to push an agenda in tune with the trickle-down GOP economic orthodoxy he used as a foil during a campaign in which he portrayed himself as an economic populist.

In the other tweet, Trump asserted that Congress has six months to act to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals “dreamers” via legislation and hinted that if Congress fails, he might renew the executive protections he just rescinded. But Trump has not told us what legislation along these lines he’d be willing to sign. There’s a reason for all this vagueness: Trump cannot come out squarely for protecting the dreamers, because that would reveal another side of his alleged economic populism — the demagoguing about immigrants threatening U.S. workers — to be hollow.

Two Republican senators have aptly called out Trump on this point. The Post reports that Trump’s call for Congress to protect the dreamers has thrown Republicans into “chaos,” partly because nobody knows what Trump wants from such legislation. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) urges Trump to show “where your heart’s at” on the dreamers. Marco Rubio (Fla.) adds that Trump “needs to show what he’s willing to support.”

Trump needs to decide what he really wants for the dreamers. He is widely being described as “conflicted” on their fate: We are told that he empathizes with their plight — he says he has “great heart” for them — but that he felt pressure to end DACA because the immigration hard-liners insisted he must deliver for his base.

But let’s be clear on what this conflict is really about. Trump isn’t wrestling with a dilemma made difficult by two valid competing moral imperatives. He’s torn between (on one side) the reality of what it actually means to scrap protections for hundreds of thousands of people who know no other country, are thoroughly American and just want to contribute positively to American life; and (on the other) the need to continue propping up his campaign lies about how deporting these people will boost American workers. The conflict is between the inescapably awful truth about the real-life consequences of ending DACA and the imagined need to continue making empty gestures to his core supporters.

Consider that in announcing an end to DACA, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was tasked with delivering the message Trump would not, claimed that the presence of these “illegal aliens,” as he described the dreamers, “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans.” As Paul Krugman explains, the idea that the dreamers constitute an economic threat is nonsense on multiple levels. But reality aside, if Trump believes this, then how can he be calling for legislation that would make their presence in this country — and their alleged theft of U.S. jobs — permanent?

Thus, Trump cannot flatly say he will sign legislation protecting dreamers without revealing that whole story line to be a sham. Instead, Trump will insist that any solution for the dreamers come packaged with either tighter immigration restrictions or spending on his U.S.-Mexico wall or on other border security measures to prop up the fiction that he is fighting for U.S. workers by protecting them from the swarthy invaders who have been scapegoated for the workers’ complex, multicausal economic woes. And that may end up meaning that no solution for the dreamers is reached, leading to untold numbers of them being deported or driven underground.

Trump campaigned on an agenda of economic populism that included not just the promise of an immigration crackdown, but also massive infrastructure spending, revamped trade deals, a protected safety net and a confrontation of elites while getting the wealthy to pay more. The first two addendums are nowhere in sight, and Trump sold out the third with his failed health plan. But the anti-immigrant hostility is shaping policy in a major way: Joe Arpaio has been pardoned, and now the dreamers may join the ranks of those getting caught up in Trump’s mass-deportation dragnet. It is perfect that Trump will cap this whole episode with a speech calling for tax cuts that will inevitably lavish their largest benefits on the rich.

* NOT EVEN TRUMP VOTERS WANT THE DREAMERS DEPORTED: A new Morning Consult poll finds that 58 percent of Americans think the dreamers should be allowed to stay and become citizens, and another 18 percent say they should be legalized. Only 15 percent favor removing them. And:

The same holds true for Trump’s electoral base. Two-thirds of self-identified Trump voters think the Dreamers should stay; only 26 percent think they should be deported.

It turns out that even Trump’s base doesn’t want to see dreamers’ protections scrapped. As noted above, this is really nothing more than an empty gesture at this point, albeit one with enormous humanitarian consequences.

* DREAMERS BRACE FOR POSSIBLE DEPORTATION: The New York Times talks to a number of dreamers who have suddenly learned that their lives could be upended in six months. Note this, from Safir Wazed, a Bangladesh-born graduate student raised in California:

Since receiving DACA status, Mr. Wazed, 27, has held a job and bought a car and a condominium. He is now a graduate student at the University of Southern California. “Am I supposed to plan to reset my life in six months?” he asked. “This isn’t over,” Mr. Wazed said, “and we’re not going to be pushed out of our country in six months.”

And it is their country. Many know no other. As the Times notes, “after five years of living legally in the United States,” they are “fully integrated into American colleges, workplaces and civic life.”

* WILL DREAMERS GO BACK INTO HIDING? The Post also has some compelling reporting on the fear and uncertainty that grips the dreamers. This is suggestive:

Fatima Coreas, 24, said Obama’s program allowed her to go to college and buy a car. She urged dreamers not to go back into hiding. “All those 800,000 people should be open about their stories,” Coreas said. “We should come out and tell our stories for the American people to hear so they know we’re no less American than anyone else.”

It is worth remembering that once their DACA status expires, all these people will suddenly feel pressure to retreat into the shadows after having been able to participate openly in American life.

* REPUBLICAN SAYS HOUSE CAN PASS SOMETHING FOR DREAMERS: Some Republicans are already insisting that legislation for the dreamers can’t pass without concessions from Dems. But GOP Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania begs to differ:

“I believe the votes are there to pass some kind of a DACA program in the House. I’m not saying a majority of the majority, but there are 218 votes.”

In other words, yes, something like this could pass with mostly Democrats and a few moderate Republicans. The question is whether GOP leaders would allow it to come to a vote.

* REPUBLICANS DEMAND CONCESSIONS FOR DOING RIGHT THING: HuffPost raises a good point, noting that Republicans say they want to do something to protect the dreamers while simultaneously demanding concessions for it:

Republicans are already placing conditions on their support that could kill the effort entirely. They are willing to vote for protecting so-called “Dreamers” ― but not without getting something in exchange for it. “Hopefully there will be some give and take and we can accomplish something,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said, suggesting Democrats could support efforts to boost border security.

Translation: If you don’t give us concessions, we will not do the thing that we want credit for saying is the right thing to do.

* DEMS PLAN BIG NEW PUSH ON STATE LEVEL: Politico reports that top Democrats have created a new PAC called Forward Majority that will pour money into state legislative races with the goal of influencing the next round of redistricting in the 2020s for the House of Representatives:

Warning that Democrats risk falling into a massive electoral hole until at least the post-2030 redistricting round if they don’t act now to take legislatures, the group intends to focus on states that are the most gerrymandered. It will target its investments to where winning chambers would be most efficient and where controlling them could have the biggest effect on gaining seats in the U.S. House.

Good news. Democrats were caught badly flat-footed by the GOP rout on the state level in 2010, helping lead to a GOP hammerlock on the House. And we’re still dealing with the consequences.

* AND WHITE CHRISTIANS ARE A MINORITY: A new Public Religion Research Institute poll finds that white Christians account for fewer than half of American adults. PRRI director Robert Jones documents a similar decline among white evangelicals and explains their support for Trump:

Thinking about the white evangelical/Trump alliance as an end-of-life bargain is illuminating. It helps explain, for example, how white evangelical leaders could ignore so many problematic aspects of Trump’s character. … White evangelicals have clearly seen Trump’s presidency as a possible way to stave off changes that would constitute the real end of an era where their cultural worldview held sway.

Jones’s whole piece is worth reading as a window into what’s going on with a very important component of Trump’s base.