The instantaneous backlash on social media Sunday night was a preview of the floodgates of anger that Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would open. Both Democrats and Republicans have urged him not to end the program; about 70 percent of voters in most polls favor keeping the program. Trump, who likes to think of himself as someone with “heart,” may yet decide to reverse course. If he does not, let’s get a few things straight.
First, let’s not think Trump — who invites cops to abuse suspects, who thinks ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio was “doing his job” when denying others their constitutional rights and who issued the Muslim ban — cares about the Constitution (any of the “twelve” articles). Trump says, “We love the dreamers. … We think the dreamers are terrific.” But in fact he loves the applause he derives from his cultist followers more than anything. Otherwise he’d go to the mat to defend the dreamers and secure their legal status.
To begin with, surely Trump could talk the nine Republicans attorneys general out of the suit they are contemplating, or at least try his hand in court (as he has done repeatedly with the Muslim ban and sanctuary city order). In any event, he could wait for a final adverse ruling that could be months or years from now rather than end the executive order on his own. Needless to say, longtime anti-immigrant extremists Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senior adviser Stephen Miller have no interest in explaining any of that to the president. (When a president is as thoroughly ignorant and non-analytical as this one is, his aides have ample opportunity to lead him around by the nose.)
Moreover, if Trump really thought he had to end DACA for constitutional reasons, how can he justify a six-month extension? (Why not 12 months? Two years?) And surely, if he really wanted Congress to act, he could insist it be tied (like Harvey funding) to the debt ceiling or, alternatively, to the funding bill to keep the government operating.
No, if Trump cancels DACA, it will be one more attempt to endear himself to his shrinking base with the only thing that truly energizes the dead-enders: vengeance fueled by white grievance. And it will also be an act of uncommon cowardice. (“Should Trump move forward with this decision, he would effectively be buying time and punting responsibility to Congress to determine the fate of the Dreamers,” writes The Post.) Dumping it into the lap of the hapless Congress, he can try evading responsibility for the deportation of nearly 800,000 young people who were brought here as children, 91 percent of whom are working. (And if by chance Congress should save DACA, it will be Trump who is the villain and they the saviors, an odd political choice for a president who cares not one wit about the party.)
As for Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who talks about sparing the dreamers, will be sorely tested to overcome the objections of the hard-line anti-immigrant voices in his conference. Does he have the nerve to bring to the floor a bill that lacks majority support among Republicans? Tie it to a must-pass bill (e.g., Harvey funding, the debt ceiling, funding for the government)? In the Senate, will opportunistic right-wingers such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) grandstand, perhaps filibustering a measure into order to out-Trump Trump?
However this turns out, the GOP under Trump has defined itself as the white grievance party — bluntly, a party fueled by concocted white resentment aimed at minorities. Of all the actions Trump has taken, none has been as cruel, thoughtless or divisive as deporting hundreds of thousands of young people who’ve done nothing but go to school, work hard and present themselves to the government.
The party of Lincoln has become the party of Charlottesville, Arpaio, DACA repeal and the Muslim ban. Embodying the very worst sentiments and driven by irrational anger, it deserves not defense but extinction.