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Conservatives Recoil at Trump’s Accommodation with Democrats

Conservatives Recoil at Trump’s Accommodation with Democrats
September 18
13:37 2017

WASHINGTON — President Trump came under withering attack on Thursday from some of his strongest supporters, who were outraged and unforgiving about his decision to set aside, for now, a fight over building the border wall he has long promised as part of a deal with Democrats on legislation to protect young, undocumented immigrants.

The tentative arrangement, which the president hashed out over dinner on Wednesday night at the White House with the top-ranking congressional Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, set off accusations of betrayal and renewed nagging doubts about whether Mr. Trump was in jeopardy of alienating some of his most ardent backers on the right.

No promise was more central to his campaign than building the border wall. And no constituency was more passionate in defending Mr. Trump’s pledge than the conservatives who believed he would be uncompromising in his approach toward illegal immigration.

The condemnation was swift and came from many different conservative corners: members of his own party in Congress, his most steadfast boosters on talk radio and the grass roots.

“At this point, who doesn’t want Trump impeached?” said the conservative writer Ann Coulter as she took to Twitter to excoriate the president. “If we’re not getting a wall, I’d prefer President Pence,” added Ms. Coulter, who met recently with the president in the Oval Office and warned him of the perils of not keeping his word on immigration, and most notably the wall.


Laura Ingraham, the conservative radio host, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last year.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

Laura Ingraham, the conservative radio host who has until now been sparing in her criticism of the president, told her listeners on Thursday that the political cost Mr. Trump and the Republican Party would pay would be steep. “He’s going to get creamed for this,” she said, reminding her audience of all the times during the campaign that Mr. Trump chanted — and his crowds repeated — “Build the Wall!”

Ms. Ingraham mocked Mr. Trump’s statement on Thursday that parts of the current border fence were being reinforced under his direction. “We’re doing a lot of renovation,” he said before leaving Washington to tour hurricane damage in Florida. “I don’t remember,” Ms. Ingraham said, “hearing ‘Repair the fence! Repair the fence! Repair the fence!’”

Amid all the political controversy, legal peril and everyday disarray inside the Trump White House, one question has been at the front of the minds of the many Republicans across the country whose fates are linked to the president’s: How much more would his base tolerate? If Mr. Trump’s deal with the Democrats did not immediately provide a clear answer, it did seem to reinforce how the long leash his supporters have granted him is being reined in.

Now, twice in one week, Mr. Trump has gone around Republicans to reach a compromise with Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi. This week it was to agree in principle to move forward with legislation that resolves the legal status of the 800,000 immigrants who came here illegally as children. Last week it was an agreement to forego a fight over raising the debt ceiling to ensure quick passage of hurricane relief funding.

On conservative talk radio programs Thursday morning, listeners called in to voice their disapproval. Some said Mr. Trump had confirmed what they suspected all along about the insincerity of his conservative convictions. Others said the president, a self-proclaimed master negotiator, had been rolled by the Democrats. The comments mostly added up to a damning conclusion: Mr. Trump had tricked his voters.

“I always figured Trump would go Schwarzenegger on us,” said one caller into the Hugh Hewitt program, invoking the former California governor whom many conservatives believed sold them out.

“The No. 1 reason I voted for him was for the immigration,” said a caller into Ms. Ingraham’s show. “I want the wall. I want it to be seen in space, like the Chinese wall.”

Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican who is perhaps the leading voice in Congress advocating the hard line on immigration that Mr. Trump has voiced, predicted that the president’s base is “blown up, destroyed, irreparable.”

“No promise is credible,” Mr. King wrote on Twitter.

A smaller number of conservative Trump supporters like Mr. King seemed most upset about the specifics of the deal and how it seemed to open the door to a path to legalization for 800,000 immigrants. But what many more Republicans seemed to find so objectionable was that Mr. Trump would so brazenly cut deals with Democrats.

His sudden embrace of politicians that Republicans have spent years fighting in intense political combat — especially Ms. Pelosi, whom Republicans have made into an avatar for the liberal, coastal elite — sowed confusion and seemed to raise questions about how effectively Republicans could continue to demonize the people they assumed were their sworn enemies.

“Republicans have spent so much time and money targeting Nancy Pelosi as the enemy over the last few cycles, the idea that you’re now going do a deal with her has to rub people the wrong way,” said Russ Schriefer, a Republican consultant who has worked for George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. “Doesn’t it hurt all these Republican congressmen who want to use her as the liberal foil in their campaigns?”

“It is just confusing,” Mr. Schriefer added.

Immigration reform has never been an easy issue for Republicans — even when it is something as seemingly straightforward and popular as giving young immigrants who came here by no fault of their own a form of legal legitimacy. The fact remains that many conservatives will still call that amnesty.

“No one knows what the deal is,” said Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama, who expressed wariness about the deal. “Anything that smacks of amnesty in Alabama, that gives American jobs to illegal aliens rather than American citizens, is not going to be well received.”

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