Two ingredients fueled the rocket that was the Donald Trump 2016 primary campaign: Illegal immigration and frank candor. Trump’s early supporters liked what he had to say about the wall and the deportation efforts, but what they loved most of all was his manner, which was the antithesis of every politician in modern history. After a lifetime of smooth-talking hucksters, here was someone who would tell you exactly how it was using the first words off the top of his head. The media mocked him mercilessly for his syntax, but even liberals had to admit there was something refreshing about Trump’s approach. You didn’t have to diagram his speeches to decipher their meaning; he was more than happy to lay it all out there for you.
Now, for the first time since last summer, we’re starting to wonder where those ingredients have gone.
Hiring Stephen Bannon was supposed to be a step in the right direction, a course correction from the “bad” post-convention weeks under Paul Manafort.
But maybe the significant hire was not Bannon but Kellyanne Conway, the Republican strategist who had nothing but unkind things to say about Trump in the primaries. Maybe she’s the one in charge, and maybe she thinks the new Trump should have little in common with the old Trump.
Or maybe the problem is ex-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who has reportedly been advising the candidate.
Or maybe it’s the Republican National Committee, holding funds and donors over Trump’s head: If you want it, you gotta give us amnesty. Good boy!
But at the end of the day, we can’t blame any of these characters. If Trump is abandoning deportation for some version of amnesty, then he and he alone deserves the fallout from that switch.
And the fallout has already begun. Some of Trump’s biggest supporters are turning on him in the wake of his “softening” on immigration, including conservative author Ann Coulter. She was mortified by Trump’s interview with Sean Hannity Wednesday night, where the nominee suggested letting illegals stay in the country.
“No citizenship,” Trump said when asked about his plans. “Let me go a step further: they’ll pay back taxes. They have to pay taxes, there’s no amnesty as such, but we work with them.”
But when it came to illegal immigrants who had been in the country for a long time, Trump said it was a “very hard thing” to just round them up and throw them out.
On Twitter, Coulter wrote, “Well, if it’s ‘hard,’ then nevermind.”
She also wrote, sarcastically, “It’s not ‘amnesty.’ It’s ‘comprehensive immigration reform.'”
Jeb Bush, hardly a Trump fan to begin with, said on a radio show Thursday that the shift exposed Trump as a “typical politician.”
“His views will change based on the feedback he gets from a crowd,” Bush sneered. “Sounds like a typical politician, where you get in front of one crowd and say one thing, and then something else to another crowd that may want to hear a different view. All the things that Donald Trump railed against, he seems to be morphing into. It’s kind of disturbing.”
When you’ve got Jeb Bush, Ann Coulter, and Hillary Clinton attacking you in the same week, you’ve gone badly astray.