Kick back with popcorn and behold the spectacle of Trumpkins crying betrayal.
Many of these pitiably credulous souls are genuinely shocked that their “tell it like it is” hero has morphed into a garden-variety wishy-washy flip-flopper who’s suddenly serving up incoherent word salads to muddy his signature issue: kicking 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the country. Why the Chumps for Trump feel so betrayed is a mystery to me. This is what happens when a con artist sells you a landlocked house that promises a view of the ocean.
Until this week, Trump marketed himself as a hardass mass deporter. He promised to form a “deportation force” and show no mercy (last November: “They’re going back to where they came, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. You do it, you just do it”). His fans actually believed him. But this week, after hearing from his campaign manager du jour that suburban white women detest his racist intolerance, he signaled that, gee, maybe mass deportations aren’t a great idea after all: “There could certainly be a softening, because we’re not looking to hurt people.”
The Softening … perfect title for the inevitable HBO movie about Trump’s disastrous campaign. And here’s some real-life dialogue for the reel version, culled from this week’s predictably clumsy recalibration: “I’ve had very strong 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 out, it’s so tough, Mr. Trump.’ I have it all the time! It’s a very, very hard thing.”
So this is the new “telling it like it is.” Deporting 11 million people has been downgraded to “telling it like it was.” Or something like that. One big problem, however, is that white suburban women — traditionally, key voters in the Republican coalition — aren’t going to be snowed by cosmetic “softening.” After spending the last 14 months splashing in the sewer, Trump can’t simply make amends by spraying it with air freshener.
Plus, Hillary Clinton is reminding these women — in a speech yesterday, in a new TV ad today — that Trump has been a marketer of white nationalist hate like no previous Republican. She’s going for the jugular.
Trump’s other big problem, to which I alluded in my opening paragraph, is that his sudden vacillations have infuriated his fans. Many of them, of course, will continue to follow him off the cliff, no questions asked. But he can ill afford to lose any of them — and that’s precisely the scenario he faces. Witness the ticked-off Trumpkin who called into Glenn Beck’s radio show. He identified himself as “Nate from Virginia” and said of Trump: “Oh, he’s in so much trouble. You don’t even understand the backlash of us … We’re going to come after him, personally, you know what I mean? We’re going to get him.”
That reaction is a tad extreme, but that’s what happens when a candidate cranks up the extremists.
On the lighter side, we have Ann Coulter. In the most exquisite accident of timing, the right-wing performance artist began this week to promote her new cartoon polemic, which is titled “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!” And in the book she writes: “There’s nothing Trump can do that won’t be forgiven. Except change his immigration policies.”
The paperback edition will require an insert quote from Homer Simpson: “D’oh!”
How priceless that Trump would humiliate one of his biggest boosters — during book launch week, no less. Her only recourse was to assail Trump for supposedly embracing “amnesty.” I have no sympathy for her plight. Now she knows how those Atlantic City casino vendors felt when they got stiffed on their invoices.
She has plenty of company on the rabid right. Sarah Palin’s faith has been duly shaken: “I would prefer politicians to not campaign one way and then govern another way. If Mr. Trump were to go down a path of wishy-washy positions taken on things that the core foundation of his support has so appreciated … then, yeah, there would be massive disappointment.” Mark Krikorian, a prominent anti-immigrant activist said: “Betraying his base and making clear that, a year after he launched his campaign, he still doesn’t know really what he wants to do on immigration, is really the last straw.”
What does Trump want to do? Good luck figuring it out. He now says he wants to “work with” the undocumented immigrants who have lived here a long time, requiring them to pay “back taxes.” But that resembles President Obama’s proposed “deferred action” policy, which would require payment of back taxes. It’s also similar to proposals floated by vanquished candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. In fact, Jeb said yesterday on the radio, “I don’t know what to believe about a guy who doesn’t believe in things.”
Indeed, what we heard last night on CNN was some hardening of the softening. Not quite a reverse flip flop, but who the heck knows. When asked whether he might still opt for mass deportation, he said: “There is a very good chance the answer could be yes. We’re going to see what happens.” But wait! — maybe it’s the opposite: “You can’t take 11 [million] at one time and just say ‘boom, you’re gone.’ I don’t think it’s a softening. I’ve had people say it’s a hardening, actually.”
There’s no point trying to parse an incoherent chameleon. And the conservative Commentary magazine says there’s no point trying to work up sympathy for Trump’s betrayed supporters: “Republicans who backed Trump wanted all or nothing when it came to immigration, and they will get nothing.”
Still, many Trumpkins are determined to keep the faith, convinced that their man will build The Wall. First of all, unless college-educated white people suddenly wake up this fall with an urge to dumb themselves down, Trump won’t get within 10 million votes of victory. Second, anyone who still thinks that Trump believes any of his promises would be well advised to heed the truest sentence Trump has ever written about himself:
“I am the creator of my own comic book.”
Beyond that, there is nothing.