(NBC News) — Since launching his presidential candidacy 14 months ago, Donald Trump’s most consistent and uncompromising policy issue has been immigration. Indeed, it was the subject of his first general-election TV ad that started airing on Friday.
Yet over the weekend, his top aides and advisers suggested that Trump might be shifting on his past position that all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States must be deported forcibly.
“To be determined,” is what newly minted Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway said on CNN when asked if Trump was retreating on the “deportation force” he talked about during the primary season.
But here’s why it’s so hard — if not impossible — for Trump to retreat on immigration: He’s caught between his clear, unambiguous past statements and a base that might not willing to see him moderate on the issue. His past statements:
Aug. 16, 2015 “We’re going to keep the families together, but they have to go,” Trump said on NBC’s Meet the Press.” More Trump: “We will work with them. They have to go. Chuck, we either have a country, or we don’t have a country,” he said.
Nov. 11, 2015 “You are going to have a deportation force, and you are going to do it humanely,” Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when asked how he would round up the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
April 21, 2016 “Look, we’re either going to have a country or we’re not going to have a country. But many people are very fine people. And I’m sure these are very, very fine people. They’re going to go, and we’re going to create a path where we can get them into this country legally, okay? But it has to be done legally” — when asked by a questioner at a “Today” town hall that person’s undocumented relatives would have to be deported if Trump becomes president.
Trump can’t ignore a base that has cheered his uncompromising immigration position.
And then there are the Trump supporters who’ve cheered the GOP presidential nominee for being so uncompromising on immigration.
The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel: “Jared Taylor hits play, and the first Donald Trump ad of the general election unfolds across his breakfast table. Syrian refugees streaming across a border. Hordes of immigrants, crowded onto trains. ‘Donald Trump’s America is secure,’ rumbles a narrator. ‘Terrorists and dangerous criminals kept out. The border, secure; our families, safe.’
Taylor, one of America’s foremost “racialists,” is impressed and relieved.
‘That’s a powerful appeal,’ he said. ‘If he can just stick to that, he is in very good shape.’ From his Fairfax County home, Taylor has edited the white nationalist magazine American Renaissance and organized racialist conferences under the ‘AmRen’ banner. He said that Trump should ‘concentrate on his natural constituency, which is white people,’ suggesting that winning 65 percent of the white vote would overwhelm any Democratic gains with minorities.
When Trump made Breitbart News CEO Steve Bannon his campaign’s chief executive last week, Taylor found reasons to celebrate. It was the latest sign for white nationalists, once dismissed as fringe, that their worldview was gaining popularity and that the old Republican Party was coming to an end.”
Editor’s note: The increasingly racist tone of Trump’s campaign is drawing the bigots out of the closet. When will his more rational fan base realize who and what they’re supporting? His first general campaign ad contains seven documented lies, or about a lie every four seconds. See yesterday’s post.