Trump's Cynical Attack on 'Dreamers' Was Designed to Shame Tolerant Republicans

Appealing shamelessly to the anti-immigrant right (basically those who vote for him) gives Trump the political cover he desperately needs.
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Donald Trump

Modern Republicanism will go down as one of the most cynical, lazy political ideologies in modern history. It is built almost entirely on a religious belief in the power of free markets, and the vilification of immigrants, women, and minority communities. If Donald Trump can be given credit for anything, it was his understanding that the more he professed to believe in all of the above, the more Republican voters loved him. Trump promised bigger tax cuts, less regulation and more anti-immigrant, anti-minority policies than everyone else he ran against in the GOP primaries, and he walked away with one of the most surprising victories in history. 

After the worst year on record as a sitting president, and a month that almost derailed his presidency entirely Trump is resorting to the tactics that won him the GOP primary to make himself relevant again. As Matt Taibbi noted in his latest Rolling Stone column, Trump's attack on 'Dreamers' was designed to outflank pro-immigration Republicans and bait them into siding with Democrats: 

This just-concluded month of August saw Trump in political freefall, denounced worldwide for his decision to stand up for the "very fine people" who, according to him, were included among a crowd of marching neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.

But September so far shows Trump returning to what has worked for him over and over in the past two years: Daring establishment Republicans to enter into policy agreement with the liberal consensus, particularly on immigration....

A few weeks ago, Trump looked finished as a politician. He was wrapping his arms around Nazis in public and then emptying his id for all the world to see in a pair of remarkable unscripted tirades, first at Trump Tower, and then in a 77-minute rant in Phoenix.

He is now fighting back, and it's a mistake to be distracted by the transparent loathsomeness of this DACA maneuver. Trump knows that while this doesn't play in newsrooms or in Lena Dunham's trailer, it goes over pretty damn well in other parts of the country.

Appealing shamelessly to the anti-immigrant right (basically those who vote for him) gives Trump the political cover he desperately needs. Without any tangible legislative victories under his belt, Trump is doing what he does best -- attacking the most vulnerable people in society and making a spectacle of needlessly mean policy announcements. Last month the transgendered community came under attack for no particular reason, and this month immigrants are the in the firing line. As President Obama outlined in a heartfelt post yesterday, this was a political decision, not a legal requirement. 

Trump's ability to survive extreme failure should not be underestimated -- he is turning a politically disastrous situation into one that benefits him by outflanking Republicans to the right on an issue that plays well with their base. "Trump knows, and most Republican officials know, that the president still has a hammer over most of the elected hacks in his own party," wrote Taibbi. "Not even Trump can thrive embracing torch-bearing Nazis. But just a slight retreat from that extreme, pushing Jeff Sessions forward to air out a watered-down, tie-clad version of the same racialist politics, might be enough to help Trump reassert control over the same furious anti-immigration plurality that won him the election."

This is a lesson the left would do well to remember: Trump is always at his most dangerous when he's seemingly near the end. This is yet another example of what he is capable of doing to maintain power, and the chances are he'll do much, much worse as his popularity continues to plummet. 

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