Donald Trump is adamant that everyone in the Republican party should rally around him or “just shut up.” To some extent, Republicans are always called upon to do that. The problem, in the era of Trump, is that Republicans aren’t and can’t be sure exactly what they are rallying to, because Trump will absolutely not allow them to get their feet under them.
It’s one thing for Trump to say things that are wrong and not very smart. His comments about trade, and his initial stance on immigration, for example. If Trump were at least consistent in his statements, Republicans could at least know that they were supposed to say things like “Trump’s ideas on trade should be given a chance” and “we have to be willing to enforce our immigration laws no matter the cost.” But Trump’s willingness to aggressively sprint 180 degrees in the opposite direction from things he said just weeks or days ago is preventing even the most willing party man from knowing exactly what they are supposed to saying to the media at any given moment.
From abortion, to Planned Parenthood, to his own tax plan, to virtually every foreign policy question on which he has rendered an opinion, Trump has aggressively espoused both sides every side to every issue. None has been more dizzying or disorienting, however, than the one he pulled over the weekend.
The raison d’être of Trump’s candidacy is and always has been his immigration policy. Build a wall. Deport all the illegals. Don’t worry, I will get it done in less than a year. His adherence to this immigration policy is the single reason his supporters have stood by him throughout all his nonsense antics, by their own admission – because to them, immigration is the issue that controls all the other issues.
Then this weekend, he uncorks this humdinger in the course of attacking someone he isn’t even running against:
Trump said his immigration policies would have “heart,” suggesting he may be shifting tone to transition into general-election mode after the bruising primary season.
“President Obama has mass deported vast numbers of people — the most ever, and it’s never reported. I think people are going to find that I have not only the best policies, but I will have the biggest heart of anybody,” Trump said.
Get this? If you think Trump is actually planning to deport anything close to 11 million people, know that he just criticized Barack Obama for deporting too many people.
Now, Trump may survive this betrayal with his own core voters – they have demonstrated that thinking and having self-respect are not exactly their speciality. But imagine what your average Republican who is contemplating the next four months as a Trump surrogate must be thinking at this point: “How on earth can I aggressively defend Trumpism when Trump himself might change what it means tomorrow?”
Even worse, Obama seems to be enjoying the same effect every time Trump attacks him that Trump enjoyed in the primary. In the primary, every time someone attacked Trump, Trump went up and they went down. Now, every time Trump attacks Obama, Obama goes up and Trump goes down. Republicans cannot even run in favor of being the anti-Obama all the time because Trump has actually turned Obama into a relatively popular President.
All of this leaves the question: what, exactly, are Republicans supposed to stand for over the next four months? What policy or program can they grasp and defend as their salvation? What can they do that Trump will not betray them on before November?
I’ve got nothing. And if the panicked comments from elected Republicans are any indicator, no one else does, either.