DACA Ruling Puts Republicans on the Defensive Approaching the Midterms

One of the cardinal sins of modern political media involves avoiding the real human consequences of policy and legal decisions while focusing only on their electoral horserace impacts. I typically try to eschew that sort of coverage, leaving it to the Chris Cillizzas and Chuck Todds of the mediaverse. So I apologize in advance for committing precisely that sin here in response to the just-released DACA ruling forcing the administration to re-implement the program within 20 days.

But I do so for a reason: as our own Martin Longman wrote yesterday, there are a number of unquantifiable factors that could impact whether Democrats take one or both chambers of Congress–a matter of significantly more consequence than almost any given policy decision between now and November. Among those factors are the issues likely to arise in the coming months, from a possible economic downturn to trade war consequences to continued own goals on immigration, education, and environmental policy.

Trump’s signature issue of immigration is not going so well for him. The public recoils in revulsion over his cruel and barbaric child separation policy, not just on its own merits but as new horrific stories of abuse trickle out almost daily. Trump’s famous wall is not being built, what little is being done is not being paid for by Mexico, and Trump astonishingly indicated in public he would shut down the government over it. None of that will play well with persuadable voters, nor is it likely to do much to sway his base.

All of this has pushed DACA largely out of the news. But voters haven’t forgotten. DACA remains incredibly popular, with upwards of 80 percent or even 90 percent support depending on the poll. That means support for DACA cuts into even Trump’s most hardcore supporters. This is not a fight Republicans want front and center as November approaches.

But it looks like it’s going to be:

The ruling sets up potentially conflicting DACA orders from federal judges by the end of the month.
The decision comes less than a week before a hearing in a related case in Texas. In that case, Texas and other states are suing to have DACA ended entirely, and the judge is expected to side with them based on his prior rulings.

Previous court rulings in California and New York have already prevented the administration from ending DACA, but they only ordered the government to continue renewing existing applications. Bates’ ruling would go further and order the program reopened in its entirety. The earlier decisions are pending before appeals courts.

The administration has two choices here: Do the decent and honorable thing, abiding by the agreement while facing the temporary wrath of Ann Coulter, Mickey Kaus, and the merry racists at Breitbart–or use the conflict to appeal this fight as far as necessary, prolonging the political damage.

A normal administration would simply take the loss and move on. But that’s not Trump’s style or instinct. Trump’s first gut reaction is to eliminate whatever Obama did before him, and cater to the most stridently deplorable racists among his supporters.

What does this mean for the kids dealing with the horrible stresses of this seesaw? It means more pointless and cruel toying with their lives by the Trump regime. But it also just might mean that a group of Democratic allies might come to the rescue by way of the ballot box just a few months from now.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.