I know what you’re thinking: what does this have to do with the really important issue of the Trump-Bannon blood feud that erupted today? It may have an indirect impact on issues such as DACA, a line in the sand drawn by Democrats in the upcoming budget battle. As the Washington Post points out, Donald Trump has signaled a willingness to cut a deal with Democrats as long as they’re willing to give him a victory on the wall in exchange:
Inside the White House and the Republican Party, Trump is caught in a thicket of political pressures as he maps out possible requisites for a deal. Many of his supporters are clamoring for a standoff over funding for his promised, gigantic wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, while some aides and GOP officials are reminding him of his pledge last year to “show great heart” toward dreamers — immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.
“He’s got a very simple core problem. His base regards DACA,” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, “as a sellout,” said former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally. “He personally gets it, and he personally wants to solve it, but he’s got to get something for doing it.”
During his recent visit to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., Trump spoke at length with members of his inner circle about those concerns, according to three people familiar with the conversations. Trump groused that because Democrats, in his view, were unwilling to work with him on the GOP tax plan that passed last month, he could not expect them to work with him on the dreamers issue, either, and he warned he would be quick to blame them if discussions fell apart, the people said.
But Trump also expressed hope that he could find a way to persuade some red-state Democrats to support funding for the wall and would keep prodding them throughout January, the people added.
Trump’s populist base may grouse about DACA, but it didn’t keep him from demanding a legislative replacement for Barack Obama’s unconstitutional executive action in creating the program. Nor did it prevent Trump from undercutting Republicans by assuring Democrats that he’d extend his own deadline if it arrived without a solution. Just last week, it was Trump and not Nancy Pelosi talking up the possibility of a bipartisan deal:
TRUMP: But the Democrats should come to a bipartisan bill. And we can fix it. We can fix it. We can make a great health care plan. Not Obamacare, which was a bad plan. We can make a great health care plan through bipartisanship. We can do a great infrastructure plan through bipartisanship. And we can do on immigration, and DACA in particular, we can do something that’s terrific through bipartisanship.
The problem has been that Democrats don’t want to give up anything significant in return. One can understand why, since Trump seemed inclined to give DACA away at first before he came under withering fire from his own side for saying that the wall “will come later.”
The party line ever since has been the wall for DACA. Kellyanne Conway made sure everyone knew it was still the White House’s line in the sand this morning:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 3, 2018
The feud with Bannon might end up giving Trump more flexibility — although not on funding for the wall, which was the cornerstone of his campaign long before Bannon signed onto it. If this rupture extends to the Bannonesque constituency, Trump could decide that he can shelve the rest of these demands as long as he gets some funding for the wall as a way to declare a victory.
Whether the Bannon rupture goes that far with voters remains to be seen, of course, and an early concession on DACA might exacerbate it unnecessarily. However, it’s the wall that matters most, and the wall that will be most likely to keep that constituency fully behind Trump. The rest of the issues could wait for immigration reform efforts rather than tying them to budget negotiations for FY2018, but that’s dangerous too; Congress won’t get to immigration reform until 2019 at the earliest.
Trump clearly wants to get a deal on DACA that will make him look both magnanimous and tough, but which will largely deliver on Democratic goals. The only real question is whether Democrats are willing to play along to get a win of their own.