Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Trump's immigration flip-flops wouldn't affect his hypothetical presidency

Yesterday, I posted about the likely electoral irrelevance of Donald Trump's sort-of flip-flopping on immigration and deportation.  As long as we're on the subject, a brief note is in order on the unlikely event of a Trump victory.  As of this morning, PredictWise put's Trump's chances at 22%.  We'll go with that.

Let's take yet another trip down memory lane.  The year was 2004.  Lost debuted on tv, which still existed as a thing, iPhones didn't, and popular music, as always, was lousy.  George W. Bush defeated John Kerry, much to the chagrin of my students at Oberlin, well-known for their lefty politics (this was a year before my move to CWRU).  Bush the Younger declared this after his victory:

Political capital.  A familiar term for students of political science.  From whom?  Your next reading assignment!  Richard Neustadt, Presidential Power.  The short-short version is this: presidential power is the power to persuade.  That relies on having political capital.  That comes from stuff like winning.

So, on what did Bush 43 want to spend his capital?  Three things:  social security reform, tax reform, and, uh..... damn, what's that third thing... uh....  Sorry, I had to do it.  Oh, immigration reform.

Yeah, that didn't happen.  Why not?  He was dependent on Congress, and Congress didn't act.  That's kind of their thing now-- not acting.

But, wait!  If Trump just wants a big infusion of money into border enforcement and people to track down illegal immigrants to deport, couldn't that happen?  After all, Dubya's problem was that he was accused by congressional Republicans of pushing amnesty, and they refused.  If Trump sticks to his original hard-line policies, that won't happen.

A)  That's part of the point.  Trump's flip-flops mean nothing because Congress will determine what happens legislatively.

B)  If Congress doesn't want to act, Trump will have what I've been calling a Carter problem (see, for example, here).

C)  Trump's actual plans, such as they are, would cost so much money that they are unlikely to get the appropriations anyway.  If they are made contingent on Mexico paying, then, well, Samuel Beckett time, and I don't mean Quantum Leap.

So, and this one is just to bug Matt Jarvis, this is all just sound and fury.



  1. Oh, to the conference paper instead of the published article.