The wise new heads surrounding Donald Trump have obviously given up on attracting more than a handful of non-white votes—which is probably a smart move, all things considered—and this means they have to reach out to ever more white voters if they hope to win. This is why, for example, Trump has been saying recently that Hillary Clinton is a terrible bigot who doesn’t care about black people. This is certainly not going to attract any black votes, but “Democrats are the real bigots” has been a trope on the white right for years. It might well attract a few more white votes.
But this dynamic can play out in odd ways. Trump’s signature issue is immigration, and you’d think that the way to appeal to more whites is to stay tough. But no. It turns out that white voters in the exurbs are a little put off by the whole rapists/thugs/wall schtick, and aren’t that keen on an army of jackbooted immigration police rounding up Mexicans and hauling them back south. To appeal to these folks, the wise heads are apparently advising Trump to soften his immigration stance. So now he says “I have never liked the media term mass deportation,” and then delivers this little tactical nuke on Sean Hannity’s town hall:
No citizenship. Let me go a step further—they’ll pay back-taxes, they have to pay taxes, there’s no amnesty, as such, there’s no amnesty, but we work with them. Now, everybody agrees we get the bad ones out. But when I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject, and I’ve had very strong people come up to me, really great, great people come up to me, and they’ve said, “Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who’s been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it’s so tough, Mr. Trump,” I have it all the time. It’s a very, very hard thing.
Later on he polled Hannity’s audience on what his immigration stance should be. (Seriously.) So Trump has now basically pivoted to the same position as every other Republican: no immigration police; work with the “good” illegal immigrants on a path to legal status; get tough on border security; and this absolutely positively isn’t “amnesty” no matter how much it sounds like it. This is pretty much the position that Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz all had, and it’s basically the position of the Gang of 8 a few years ago. Until today, Trump attacked this position as craven and weak. Now he’s all for it. Gotta win all those exurban soccer moms, after all. The only thing left is for him to casually tell us that “build the wall” was meant kind of metaphorically all along, and most of it will end up being a “virtual wall” of drones and security cameras.
I’ve been wondering for months why the immigration hardliners were so sure Trump would stick to his guns on this stuff. After all, he’s lied about practically everything and shown an eager willingness to change his positions any time he thinks it will benefit him. So what made them think he’d act any differently on immigration?
Beats me. But they’re stuck now. They have to defend Trump because he’s all they’ve got. Perhaps the saddest fate is reserved for Ann Coulter, who’s launching her new book this week:
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) August 25, 2016
Yes, that hit bookstores the very week Trump bailed on immigration. But Coulter is forced to defend Trump anyway, no matter how stupid it makes her look. It couldn’t happen to a nicer person.
UPDATE: Apparently Coulter has had second thoughts about defending Trump: “Could be the shortest book tour ever if he’s really softening…on immigration,” she said this evening. Then she followed up with a bitter and sarcastic rant on Twitter. Sad.