Trump is Pandering to Border Hawks with Political Stunts, While Actually Betraying Their Cause
If there was just one reality about our modern politics that I could magically make the average person understand, it is that the truth is very often not just different from the common perception, but actually the exact opposite of it. There is currently no better example of this than President Donald Trump and the issue of illegal immigration, which he has cynically made the centerpiece of the GOP’s midterm election campaign.
The widely-held perception, at least among Republicans, is that Trump, who has talked tough on border issues since the moment he began his presidential campaign more than three years ago, is the greatest thing that has happened in our modern history for curtailing illegal immigration. The reality is that he has actually done very little, if anything, to help deal with the problem. And he has actually ensured that nothing he ever promotes about the issue will actually happen for at least a generation, and probably forever.
During the campaign Trump bragged endlessly about how he would build a great wall on our southern border and force Mexico to pay for it. That was always an obvious con intended to manipulate stupid people (it worked!), and of course, two years into his presidency there is no sign that is ever going to happen.
However, because Trump, wrongly, has so much “street cred” on the issue, many of his fans are somehow still convinced not only that “The Wall” will happen, but that parts of it already have. Despite this being a total lie, even my wife — who is not a “Cult 45” member — has told me, surely having listening to some snippet on talk radio, that it is true (I am not completely convinced that my efforts to set her straight have been effective).
The same goes for the “deportation forces” that candidate Trump promised but did not, very predictably, ever materialize once he became president. Despite the fact that there is no legitimate evidence that deportations have increased since the Obama Administration (heck, you could argue that Trump’s actions have been to the left of Obama on some immigration issues), Trump still gets credit for this fiction among his fans because it is just assumed that, since he talks so tough, there must be some real action going on that we all just can’t see. As if the news media would not be all over any mass deportations in their never-ending and largely misguided crusade to make Trump appear to be a racist!
Not only have neither of these polices ever been enacted, because not even Trump dared to try, despite having a GOP Congress, but it will now be literally impossible for anyone to ever do so in the future. Not only will they be deemed politically toxic as having been key parts of “Trumpism,” but anyone who wanted to do either of these things in the future would have to face the “not even TRUMP was THAT crazy or racist!” comparisons.
The same goes for this charade Trump is pulling with threatening to end “birthright citizenship,” and the “amnesty caravan” making its way through Central America with the intent to enter the United States.
Trump is never going to end “birthright citizenship” because he doesn’t have the power to do so. He simply wants the fight over it because he knows that the media and Democrats will overreact to the suggestion and show how weak they are on the overall issue.
Much the same dynamic is going on with the caravan, which Trump is absurdly pretending Americans should see in much the same way as the British viewed Hitler’s march into France. He is blatantly lying about the story and getting his state-run media to carry his water, all while making pronouncements which never actually happen, suspiciously designed to cause liberals to lose their minds in reaction and show independent voters that Democrats are on the side of the “enemy.”
Then there is the web ad which many are comparing to the famous “Willie Horton” ads used against Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential campaign. Trump’s “ad” is factual (though it leaves out timing which could be lay the blame at the hands of a Republican administration, and even Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned) and could be seen as legitimate under other circumstances. But because it is on behalf of Trump, yet another potential weapon in the fight against illegal immigration has been deemed to be forever out of bounds.
The most frustrating part of this equation for me, a Southern California resident who sees daily that the illegal immigration problem is real and out of control, is that Trump has never had any intention of really attacking this issue. He has just been using it to energize his “Cult 45” base, not on behalf of some greater cause, but simply for his own personal gain.
Those who love Trump most because of his alleged positions on illegal immigration are actually the duped victims of a decisive betrayal. For when Trump is gone, after doing nothing — despite having a unique opportunity — to actually help them, he will have made it impossible for anyone else in the future to even try.
That’s why Trump is, and always will be, the ultimate con artist.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.