Like every last-minute Republican closing argument cloaked in shameless racism, it is hard to know how effective the caravan obsession was for Trump and his allies in salvaging Republican candidates in the midterm. What is easier to demonstrate is how effectively the rest of the media was conned in playing along with a nakedly bigoted campaign ploy that has practically disappeared from the national radar ever since election day.
But there is one group of people for whom the caravan has not vanished as an ongoing concern: the troops needlessly deployed to the border and suffering as the result of the president’s barefaced political stunt. Per the Axios summary of the gut-wrenching New York Times article:
Troops at the border are sleeping in tents that house 20 soldiers and have no electricity or air conditioning, with some suffering heat exhaustion within days of starting the mission. There’s no mess hall — only pre-made “Ready-to-Eat” meals — and the only phone chargers available are attached to “a few generators that power spotlights around the living area.” Department of Defense officials worry that if the number of troops increases to 15,000, the cost could be as high as $200 million.
By the time the caravan ever arrives at the U.S. border–if it ever does–it will contain a few hundred people at most. The few who do arrive are almost certain to present themselves peaceably for asylum. Donald Trump likely knows this, and even if he does not his advisers and the military brass have undoubtedly told him.
Everyone knows it was a political stunt except for the most delusional members of Trump’s base, the ones who religiously watch Fox News and listen to AM Radio. For them, Trump can do wrong. For them, their propaganda outlets paint the easily accepted reality du jour. Whatever Tucker Carlson and Rush Limbaugh tell them to be worried about, they will worry about.
Let’s say that Donald Trump decided to do the right thing for once and, with the election (and thus the need the stunt) over and done, recall the troops at the border. Trump’s enemies would call it a craven ploy–but since when did Trump care what his enemies say? He enjoys their outrage. Fox News would barely mention the pullback, or they would spin it as the caravan dissipating in the face of Trump’s strongman threats: mission accomplished, our boys get to come home for Thanksgiving, everyone praise Commander Trump. MAGA hats would eat it up, centrists would tut tut, progressives would fume at the brazenness of it all. All according to script.
But at least the troops stuck in tent cities eating MREs and building barbed wire for no reason at all would be able to come home for Thanksgiving.
One could hope that Trump would do them even that barest of decency. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.