Trump Looks For “Wins,” But Will They Last?

After writing up the “breaking news” for the Federalist of House Minority Ldr. Nancy Pelosi getting shouted down by extreme DREAMers, it occurred to me that the “agreement” among Pelosi, Pres. Trump, and Sen. Minority Ldr. Chuck Schumer to address illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as kids is an opportunity to jot down a point that’s been made about the Trump administration, but not really emphasized as it probably should be.

Even before the details of any DREAMer deal are negotiated, we know that the issue is, in the first instance, fundamentally about the contours of Presidential power and prosecutorial discretion.  The reason border hawks are already squawking is that any deal will at a minimum constrain that discretion in return for promises of future resources that may not materialize or may be mooted by the lax enforcement priorities of a future Democrat President.

The centrality of executive power is what interests me here.

Trump supporters tend to hew to a particular form of argument, particularly when questioning why skeptical conservative pundits have not boarded the Trump train.  They point to a selection of the administration’s conservative accomplishments to date, and often contrast it with the failure of the GOP Congress to deliver a healthcare bill to Trump’s desk.  All entirely fair points, as far as they go.

But how far do they go?  It’s fine to point, for example, to regulatory rollback or the rescission of Obama-era executive orders as Trump achievements.  But in many (tho not all) cases, these reversals are as ephemeral as the “wins” Obama supporters were claiming when he was governing by executive fiat.  What Pres. Obama did by phone and pen can be undone by Trump, but a fair amount of it can be re-done by someone else.

OTOH, legislative action is more difficult to undo, given our constitutional system of checks and balances.  For Republicans (and occasionally conservatives) to win more lasting victories, the focus should be on Congress while it remains controlled by the GOP.

Trump supporters would like to blame all Congressional dysfunction — both within its chambers and its relations with the White House — on GOP leadership.  Any fair-minded analysis should place much of the blame there.

But to anyone not sipping the Kool-Aid, it also should be apparent that Trump must shoulder his share of the blame, chiefly stemming from his inability or disinterested when it comes to any level of detail in policy-making.  I wish this were not the case, and that the GOP Congress could suddenly shake off a century of progressive brainwashing and embrace its proper constitutional role without relying on any President to set its agenda.  But that’s not the world in which we live.  It’s not even the Shazaam timeline.

Perhaps Trump will show more interest in the details of a DREAMer deal, given that immigration is likely his signature issues.  And perhaps, given how badly Trump’s business was affected by the 1986 tax reform, he might show some interest in the issue now.

But hoping a 70-year-old who has become immensely powerful while not caring about policy will suddenly change seems as unlikely as Congress changing, perhaps more so.  That’s a big reason why the skeptics will remain skeptical and the Trump victories are likely to be less than they should be.

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