For the second time in two weeks, President Donald Trump negotiated a backroom deal with senior Congressional Democrats to get something done. Late Wednesday evening, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D – NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D – CA) announced that they had reached a deal with President Trump to secure the ability of ‘Dreamers’ to stay in the United States.
Specific details of the policy, also known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are not yet known, according to The Guardian. Beyond what this agreement will do for Dreamers, it has implications for Trump’s policy agenda and the electability of the Republican Party in 2018.
Here are five thoughts on what it means as the story unfolds:
1. It is the right thing to do.
First, allowing young immigrants to stay in the country is the right thing to do morally. No one should be forced to return to a country that they barely know, to where they might not even speak the language. The young people covered by DACA are only in the United States as a result of their parents’ choices. Even if Trump can articulate an anti-immigration policy, focusing on young people who are trying to do the right thing is not the place to start.
Trump was allowed to end the program with an executive action because that is how it began as a temporary program with President Barack Obama. Why didn’t Obama act beyond the scope of executive power? He may have wanted to push it toward Congress but never felt it politically safe, or he may have been trying to avoid a court battle by setting an expiration date.
Either way, Obama’s failure to push DACA to Congress put it in Trump’s hands, which is where Democrats learned the hard lesson that thorough procedure fosters worthwhile policy. Trump’s refusal to extend the program himself and push it to Congress was the right move from a policy making perspective.
However, Trump’s passing of the DACA hot potato could burn the Republican Party as a whole. More on that later.
2. Nothing has changed in Washington.
If Trump was elected to drain the swamp, it appears the plug got stuck on the way out. His DACA deal with Democrats is a classic example of a politician running on one thing (an anti-immigration stance) and doing the opposite once in office. Obama’s presidency was defined by eight years of Sen. Schumer and Rep. Pelosi getting what they wanted in Congress, and that continues today.
How do Trump supporters justify his decision to expand DACA while ignoring the Republican Party? The verbal gymnastics could become an Olympic event. Trump’s ability to negotiate as a businessman has become a self-fulfilling prophecy that is now the Republican Party’s worst nightmare, and this deal could eliminate funding for his biggest campaign pillar of all.
3. Trump has lost funding for his wall.
All the ducks seemed to be lining up in a row. Trump took action to keep the transgender military policy out of the hands of Congress. Then, he worked with Democrats to lift the debt ceiling and pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded until December.
Each of these moves by Trump was designed to ease the battle in Congress for funding for his border wall. However, Republicans willingness to do business with Trump is probably less so after he undercut the party twice on policy. Do Congressional Republicans now really want to take on an issue as toxic as the border wall within their own consitutencies? Not to mention that Democrats are not and were never considering voting to fund a wall.
At this point, Republicans might as well be stuck between an electoral rock and a border wall, because that’s where they will find themselves in the 2018 election.
4. Congressional Republicans will be shamed out of office in 2018.
Congressional Republicans who rode to victory on Trump’s coat tails now find themselves with a bad rash of rug burn. As long as Trump continues to deal with Democrats, Republicans will never get a chance to grandstand or even pretend to stand up for something for the sake of press. Trump has rendered them ineffective, which will work against them in an election no matter where the constituency stands.
When Republicans come up for election next year, the party’s voters will be segmented and lackluster. Trump’s voters can be divided into four groups. These groups may have different priorities in 2018, and many may not show up to vote at all. Even the voters who do show up may not take too kindly to incumbents who failed to support Trump as President and did nothing with their time in the chamber.
5. Never Trumpers were right all along and live to fight another day.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow once opined that Bill Clinton was “the best Republican president” the country ever had. If that is the case, then Trump is the best Democrat. A large bloc of conservatives and libertarians both within the Republican Party and on its fringes stood against Trump during the 2016 election out of fears that he wasn’t actually a Republican. At this point, those fears are well founded.
While watching Trump get elected and subsequently undercut the party shocked many in the Never Trump wing, they may live to fight another day. These politicians, pundits, and operatives will be able to revive their voices in the spotlight of public opinion when incumbent Republicans who supported Trump are shamed out of Congress in 2018, which could help them steer the national conversation in 2020 and beyond.
What’s next? At its worst, Trump’s reported deal will secure the future for a diverse group of young people within this country. At its best, it could blow up the Republican Party as we know it today.
Brad Omland is a talk radio producer. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of South Dakota in 2013.
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