Via the Daily Beast, nothing much happening here, just the father of Trump’s press secretary inviting his foremost immigration critic from the right to put up or shut up. My idea when the shutdown began was for POTUS to invite Coulter to be his lead negotiator with Democrats on immigration; let America’s populist heroes come off the sidelines and show us the way to victory and/or take personal responsibility for the standoff, since they seem to think it’s a good idea. But this’ll work too.
I wonder if she’d consider it, in fact. She seems to be the only prominent nationalist who takes the wall seriously enough to fight with Trump publicly about it. If she’s that intent on keeping him honest on his campaign promises, she might as well go the whole nine yards.
“Well first of all, Ann Coulter, if she’s got the way to get it done then let her run for office,” Huckabee replied. “She’s never done that. So she’s never had to be in the position of having to sit down and work through something to a solution. I have and the president’s in that position. And you’re not going to get everything you want.”
He then misquoted “those great political scientists of all time, The Rolling Stones” by telling Coulter and Trump, “You don’t always get what you want” and urging the president to make some “concessions” on those undocumented immigrants who were brought here by their parents…
Asked by Kilmeade why Trump “cares so much what Ann Coulter thinks,” Huckabee replied, “Well, I know he doesn’t want people to go out and try to stir up his base against him. And I’m not sure why she would, because she’s got to deep down know that he can’t just be arbitrary.”
Trump responded to her over the weekend too after she criticized his “BRIDGE Act for wall” offer on Saturday, although less directly:
No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer. It is a 3 year extension of DACA. Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else. Likewise there will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000 plus people who are here illegally-but be careful Nancy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 20, 2019
I … did not think the big showdown over the wall would end with POTUS putting full amnesty for illegals on the table as part of some eventual unspecified grand bargain with Democrats, but here we are.
Philip Klein wrote today that any primary challenge to Trump next year would face two big problems. One is that, if it’s based on attacking his character, it’ll play right into the Democratic message in 2020. The other is that, if it comes from Jeff Flake or John Kasich or Larry Hogan or any of the other likeliest challengers, it’ll come from the establishment center — and dangerous primary challenges never come from the center. Think back to the presidents over the past 50 years who’ve faced serious difficulty in a primary and you’ll see that that difficulty always came in the form of someone who galvanized their ideological bases, not the center, against them. There’s no one realistically who could put Trump in that position.
Populists really might benefit on policy, though, by showing Trump that they’re loyal to him only to the extent that he’s loyal to their pet issues. It goes back to what I said yesterday about his sudden eleventh-hour unhappiness with the omnibus bill. He really does believe that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes. A primary challenge from a stalwart border hawk like Coulter could disabuse him of that idea. Of course she wouldn’t win but if she overperformed in a primary or two a la Pat Buchanan in 1992 and embarrassed Trump, he’d think twice about selling out populists in the general election. And the sooner a credible populist primary challenger emerged, the sooner POTUS would need to begin covering his right flank to prepare for the primaries and try to avert that embarrassment. Even if that challenger ended up getting utterly crushed, that would be useful information too. Whether most of his fans really are committed populist-nationalists a la Coulter and Tucker Carlson or whether they’re just part of an “anti-PC” cult of personality surrounding Trump that doesn’t care much about policy is an open question. Let’s answer it.
I noted at the time that Steve Bannon’s fate might deter Coulter from directly challenging Trump. Bannon was a big deal in populist media, became chief strategist to the president, then crossed Trump by cooperating with Michael Wolff on his anti-Trump book and vanished from the right-wing scene like one of those commissars who’d fallen into disfavor being airbrushed out of photos with Stalin. But I don’t think Coulter would fear the same fate. Bannon didn’t personally occupy a place in the right-wing imagination, although some of his work did; Coulter has been a household name among Republicans for decades by now. She’ll still get her TV time on CNN even if Fox freezes her out for primarying Trump, and Fox might not do that. She has a longstanding relationship with them, after all.
What’s distinctive about Coulter among right-wing populist avatars, though, is that she really does seem to care less about her “status” in the pecking order than she does about forcing Trump to the right on immigration. I think someone like Rush would be horrified at the thought of chunks of his audience breaking away in protest if he made life momentarily hard for POTUS by primarying him. Coulter wouldn’t care. She’ll still have her column, she’ll still do TV, she may sell a few less books but she’ll still sell. She might even sell more short-term thanks to the notoriety of the campaign. However the chips fall, she’ll be successfully sending a message — or trying to — that immigration is the one matter on which nationalist voters will accept nothing less than full commitment from the leader of the GOP.
Besides, the entire history of her support for Republican presidential candidates or aspirants is being gushingly supportive at first and then gradually disillusioned as she realizes they don’t really want to build a 2,000-mile electrified fence with miniguns mounted every 10 feet or whatever. There was Romney, then Christie, now Trump. No one’s ever going to be as committed to her cause as she is. She might as well run and give us a clear test of whether MAGA Nation is more loyal to Trump or to Trump’s pet cause. She wouldn’t even need to campaign! Just get on the ballot, do as much TV as is humanly possible, tweet up a storm, and let people vote. That was 90 percent of the reason Trump won the primary in 2016, after all.