The politics of payback
Both sides of the aisle see the Trump Administration's separation of children and parents as a humanitarian crisis
That pretty much sums up the reaction from the Trump administration and its supporters over the uproar of separating children from their parents trying to cross at the Mexican border.
“Womp womp,” said former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski while mocking Democratic strategist Zak Petkanas during a discussion on Fox News. Petkanas was relating a story about a 10-year-old Mexican girl with Down syndrome separated from her mother.
It was so stark and so dismissive of the serious discussion that it has lit up not only social media but every news outlet across the country.
But a step-back view could give a clue as to why President Trump and his followers are digging their heels in on an issue that a majority of people on both sides of the aisle are seeing as a humanitarian crisis that can easily be rectified with a stroke of the presidential pen.
The churlish response by Lewandoski, a Lowell native and failed state rep candidate, is emblematic of why a hardcore minority of administration officials and Trump supporters cheer on the policy: Because they won the prize and it pisses off liberals. That is likely why Trump retains his standing with the Republican conservative base, no matter what he does. It drives the left nuts. It is the ultimate in the victor rolling around in the spoils.
Trump continually – and falsely – blames Democrats for the problem. But no Democratic Congress ever passed a law mandating ripping children from their parents. No Republican Congress has either, for that matter. Rather, it stems from the heightened “zero-tolerance” policy being enforced by the Department of Homeland Security and defended by the likes of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Ironically, both have been targets of Trump’s anger but have become his fiercest defenders on this policy.
The debate is dominating local and national news and politics. Gov. Charlie Baker has rescinded his decision to send a National Guard helicopter and some Guard members to the border for enforcement help, citing the furor over the child separation. Other governors have followed suit.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has exercised her right to put a hold on the nomination of Kathy Kraninger to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and called for a review of Kraninger’s involvement in budgeting for the separation policy while at the Office of Management and Budget. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and members of the state congressional delegation have joined the national chorus denouncing the “inhumane” policy.But, at its core, the sights and sounds of frightened and helpless children is what’s driving the debate. At least a dozen Senate Republicans have signed onto a letter urging Trump to stop the practice, though to no avail. Trump wants Congress to send him an immigration reform bill that includes funding for his wall and then, he says, there won’t be a need for separation.
In the end, whatever Trump decides to do will be okay with his base because they know he’ll do whatever makes them happy. Because it annoys the hell out of their opponents.