Last night, Trump might have inflicted a deeper wound to his chances at the Presidency than Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz could have ever done. By not-so-quietly back-stabbing a key endorser, Donald Trump assured that future endorsements will be few and far between; he will be seen—and rightly so—as a man who will toss aside his supporters without a second thought, and potential supporters will be loath to stand behind him. And it will be entirely his own doing.
Everyone who watched the debate last night—with the exception of the left-wing media—understands that it went very, very badly for Donald Trump. The would-be Fraudster in Chief was beaten over the head and left bloody by Cruz, Rubio, and the moderators over Trump University. The man who claims that he will bring jobs to the United States was left red-faced and steaming as Cruz destroyed him for hiring foreigners to do jobs Americans wanted.
For those of us watching at home, watching the fat yellow man in the Hecho En Mexico suit squirm was glorious; for Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, however, it must have been terrifying.
Jeff Sessions has long been regarded as a rock-ribbed immigration hawk, and has long worked closely with Ted Cruz on immigration issues. Ted Cruz would often reference his work with Jeff Sessions during debates, and when Ted Cruz was being ridiculously and falsely accused of supporting amnesty, Jeff Sessions rose to his defense.
It was seen as a major blow to Cruz, therefore, when Jeff Sessions endorsed Donald Trump.
Last night, that major blow blew up in Sessions’ face.
Sessions endorsement of Trump heavily referenced immigration. But how, many wondered, could Sessions believe that Trump would be a better advocate for securing our border than Ted Cruz—a man he had worked with, and defended as a stalwart advocate of border security?
The answer is visas. Visas are an issue close to Jeff Sessions heart—and, for a while, Donald Trump talked the talk on visas…right until he decided he didn’t need Jeff Sessions anymore.
Jeff Sessions has long been wary of H-1B visas; he has long believed, rightly, that it is often used as a vehicle to displace American workers. In the spring of last year, he said that a plan to increase the number of H-1B visas issued was “explicitly for the purpose of replacing American workers at lower wages.” Last November, he called H-1B visas a “tremendous threat” to American workers, and a month later, Sessions was joined with Ted Cruz in introducing a bill that would fundamentally reform the H-1B visa program (which makes Sessions endorsement of Trump instead of Cruz even more ludicrous, but I digress).
Leading up to Sessions’ endorsement, Trump appeared to be taking a firm stance on H-1B visas. Trump’s proposed reforms mirrored, and in some cases went above and beyond, the Sessions-Cruz bill; indeed, the Times of India stated that Trump’s proposals “sounded death knell” of H-1B. Breitbart.com (which has gone as deep down the Donald Trump rabbit hole as one could possibly go) praised Trump for a plan that “details exactly how he would fix this problem.” Indeed, Jeff Sessions himself hinted as his eventual endorsement of Trump by calling Trump’s H-1B visa plan “exactly the plan America needs.”
What Sessions should have said was that it was “exactly the pandering Trump needed.” Trump, clinging all campaign season to the mantle of immigration reform with all the might his stubby fingers can give him and armed with the Sessions endorsement as plate armor, rolled to ten victories on Super Tuesday, including a 22 point win in Alabama. Indeed, in every State Trump has won, Trump voters list “immigration” or “deporting illegal immigrants” in their top five issues.
Now, of course, with the media excitedly declaring that Trump has it all sewn up (despite being hundreds and hundreds of delegates, and dozens of States, from victory), Trump feels like he can let the mask slip.
Last night, he executed one of the grandest, most bold-faced U-Turns in the history of debate politics.
When asked by Megyn Kelly if he still supported his harsh stance on H-1B visas—the stance that helped cement his endorsement from Sessions, and an issue that is almost personal for the Alabama Senator—Trump flipped over like he was one of his well-done steaks. “I’m changing. I’m changing. We need highly skilled people in this country, and if we can’t do it, we’ll get them in.”
Never mind, I suppose, that when you “get them in” you displace American workers; believing that he has the election wrapped up Trump is no longer concerned about what folks like Jeff Sessions think.
While his squirming on Trump University or his own abuse of the foreign worker program might get more play, and while they were certainly more entertaining, this flip-flop is much more damning to his chances of actually winning the election if he is the nominee—because this flip-flop sends a strong message to any Senator who might endorse him.
Of course, the danger of Trump to sitting Senators and Congressmen is not exactly news.
Almost a week ago, the Washington Post explained why Trump would be a nightmare for GOP Senators up for re-election:
If the extent of Trump’s controversial views was only his stance on immigration, that could be relatively easily handled by other down-ballot Republicans. For example, they could say: “I don’t agree with Mr. Trump on every issue — we differ on immigration, for instance — but he understands that people are fed up with politics as usual and want a change after eight destructive years of Barack Obama.” Not bad, right? But, if you have no idea what Trump is going to tweet, retweet or say from the podium in front of thousands of people and dozens of TV cameras on a daily basis, that’s hugely problematic for any Republican trying to calculate how to deal with him in their own campaign.
At the time, I thought this was a little overblown. While I am firmly #NeverTrump, and while I have long believed that his nomination would mark the destruction of my Party for a generation and further would mark an incredible setback for the conservative movement, I was also afraid that most sitting Senators and elected officials would eventually do as most Senators and elected officials usually do. I feared that they would simply get in line, and go along to get along.
Last night, that changed, because last night Donald Trump tossed his most significant endorser under the bus as flippantly and casually as changing the channel on the television. Now, any sitting elected official who considers endorsing Trump must ask themselves which of their pillar positions he’ll be walking back next.
Jeff Sessions is no rube. Obviously, Sessions knew that Trump’s past stances on immigration, and his past experiences with visas, were inconsistent with the positions he had carved out over the course of this campaign. But, Sessions apparently made the calculation that Trump would at least stand by his new positions through the election, and long enough for them to bear fruit either by being enacted or as chips at the negotiation table if he were to win the White House. Surely, a number of Trump supporters feel that way. But after last night, anyone with that delusion will be seriously re-thinking it.
Last night, politicians who are weighing whether to support Trump if he wins the nomination watched Trump flip-flop casually on visas only a week after picking up an endorsement from a Senator to whom visas are an incredibly important issue. Given all his past statements and positions, and after his sudden “change” on visas, what Senator or Congressmen can trust that he will not slide swiftly left on, for instance, abortion or gun control? What member of Congress, currently undecided on whether he will fight for Trump if Trump is the nominee, will wish to share a stage with Trump on a Tuesday, now that he knows Trump might undermine him the following Thursday?
Jeff Sessions decided to gamble on Trump, and on the issue of visas, Trump pulled the rug out from under him. Those Congressmen who are on the fence between standing with Trump in November, or quietly sitting the campaign out, will surely remember that.