Donald Trump had two choices when it came to DACA and the undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. He could have quietly left the program intact, taken some heat from his base for a day, and moved on. Or he could have pleased his base by immediately ending the program and taking ownership of it. Instead he’s decided to split the difference in a weak and cowardly manner which has sent his own Republican Party spiraling – and facing some no-win decisions heading into the midterms.
Trump has decided to end DACA on a six month delay. That means the Republican-controlled Congress has until February to either pass legislation making DACA permanent, or do nothing and let it die. Either way, they can’t win. If they do decide to pass DACA into law, then it becomes their initiative instead of a leftover initiative from the Obama era. Suddenly every racist conservative extremist will have a reason to angrily stay home on election day in the midterms instead of showing up and voting Republican.
If the GOP instead chooses to let DACA die, then it’ll face a different kind of wrath in the midterms, as moderate Republican voters will conclude that their party has become too extremist. So no matter which path the GOP takes, it now faces a new kind of trouble in 2018 that didn’t exist yesterday. Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has already come out in favor of DACA. Will he now follow it up with legislation that will rip his party in two, or will he sit on his hands?
Strategically speaking, this is the kind of catch-22 that one party can only dream of setting up for the other party. Yet in this instance it’s Donald Trump’s stupidity that’s put his own party in this no-win situation. He probably thinks he’s being cleverly selfish by putting it on the GOP’s shoulders. He fails to understand that by handling this in such a cowardly manner, leaving the door open for it to be quickly reversed, he’s not exactly pleasing his own racist base either.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report