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Trump must tread carefully with Democrats

Blake Shuart
Blake Shuart

Nearly 30 years after President Trump left Ivana for Marla, it appears he’s leaving Mitch and Paul for Chuck and Nancy.

Reports continue to swirl regarding the president’s ongoing negotiations with Sen. Schumer and Rep. Pelosi for a final deal on immigration. It has been loosely couched as the DREAM Act with border security, but no one truly knows what’s in the deal, or just how likely it is that anything will get done. To some angry Republicans, it is probably appropriate that the acronym for the rumored deal is DREAM-BS. But as things usually go in Trump’s Washington, there is an air of uncertainty, frustration, and disbelief at the reports within Congress.

Some Republicans have brushed the reports aside as fake news, others are pleased that a DACA solution may be in the works, and yet others are furious that the president would even consider shirking his own party leaders to negotiate with Democrats. On the Democratic side, many Congressmen remain skeptical of Trump’s motives, but naturally, many are pleased with the newfound alliance he has forged with leaders from their own party.

The what and the why are hard to contemplate at this point. It seems hard to figure that Trump will abandon his signature policy proposal – the wall – just to make a deal. If he does, he’s got a lot of selling to do among rank-and-file supporters, who may well be both upset at the about face on such a significant campaign promise and worried that the man they elected is a wolf in finely tailored sheep’s clothing.

If also seems hard to figure that, as thirsty as the president is for a deal, he would dare to fill his cup at the Democrats’ well on an issue as important as immigration. Substantively, the terms of the agreement as reported would not be particularly good from the president’s perspective. The Democrats will get exactly what they want – a shiny Rolls Royce 15 years in the making – while the president’s supporters will get a Ford. Generalized border enhancements and a wall are two entirely different things.

The president may be thinking a couple of things. First, he may be thinking that this will be an easier sell to his base than we realize. When he took office, we had DACA and poor border security. He can pitch the deal as a fairly quick and easy upgrade from our current position while promising to follow through on the wall, as he has done over the past few days.

Second, it is possible that Trump is bracing for a potential fallout from the Russia investigation and looking to forge alliances quickly. We don’t know what he knows, but it’s probably more than we do. The premise of the initial investigation seemed tenuous, but there is no telling where Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s work has taken him.

Regardless of his motivations, the president must tread carefully in his dealings with Democrats. This is high-risk territory with an equally high reward. If Trump can sell an ultimate deal to his own party and his base, he will score tremendous points as a pragmatic dealmaker. But if he fails, he will squander more political capital and alienate the voters who carried him to the presidency.

Blake Shuart is a Wichita attorney.