Trump voters sticking with him — DACA deal or no deal, wall or no wall

Call him "Teflon Don," because some Trump voters don't much care whether or not he delivers on promises like immigration reform or a border wall.

Conservatives have 'nowhere to turn' but Trump

Some on the far right have turned against U.S. President Donald Trump for his reported concessions on the DACA program and the Mexico border wall, but his supporters say they don't care if he reneges on some of his campaign promises. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

The far-right website Breitbart News turned against Donald Trump on Thursday, branding him "Amnesty Don" for reportedly agreeing to shield undocumented immigrants without securing funds for his border wall. 

A better nickname for him, though, might be "Teflon Don," considering how little some Trump voters care.

Not much seems to scratch the U.S. president's image for conservatives who supported him in the 2016 election. 

Trump long promised them a "physical, tall, powerful, beautiful" border wall, which he conceded on Thursday might actually come "in the form of renovation of old and existing fences."

He also promised during his campaign to end a policy that defers deportation of immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children — known as Dreamers — only to hint in a tweet that he may "revisit" the policy later.

But according to a statement from top congressional Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, Wednesday's working dinner with the president resulted in a deal to save some 690,000 undocumented immigrants covered by DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

After dining on Chinese food and chocolate pie, Schumer and Pelosi broadly outlined a DACA package "excluding the wall" but including enhanced border security.

The next morning, Trump tweeted that "no deal was made" on DACA, only to follow it up with three tweets referencing particulars of a deal he insisted doesn't exist.

Trump supporter Bryan Elsbury couldn't help but laugh.

"That's President Trump, though," said the café owner in Charles City, Iowa. "Let me know if you can decipher what's real and what's not real."

As a Midwestern Republican who believes in "legal immigration," Elsbury said he expects Trump to build the wall — if not via funding from the DACA package, then another way. 

What he doesn't expect to happen is for Trump to lose core supporters over potential backsliding on DACA or the wall. He chooses to take the president at his word.

"There ain't no deal until it's signed."

Trump as a 'liberal Republican'

The Trump-Schumer-Pelosi meeting was their second in a month. Last week, the president sided with Democrats to cut a rare bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling for three months, cueing anxieties among conservatives that Trump was trying a more moderate path.

Former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg lamented to the Washington Post that the president "is on the precipice of turning into an establishment presidency."

Elsbury says, given his distaste for the Democrats, he would settle for Trump as a "liberal Republican."

Trump supporter Bryan Elsbury, owner of Aromas Coffee on Main Street in Charles City, Iowa, told CBC News he's 'extraordinarily happy' with the job the president is doing. (Matt Kwong/CBC)

But that won't fly with hardliners like Iowa congressman Steve King and conservative firebrand Anne Coulter, who fumed about the reports suggesting a DACA deal without wall funding. 

If the purported deal was as described, King tweeted, then "Trump's base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable." Coulter tweeted, "At this point, who DOESN'T want Trump impeached?"

Yet the same reports were met with casual dismissal from Joy McGraw, a real estate agent in Brookhaven, Ga.

Although she acknowledged that hardliners on immigration such as herself were "sort of angry" over the matter, she said she understood where the president was coming from. She faulted him for being too "compassionate."

Georgia real estate agent Joy McGraw, pictured with actor Jon Voight, left, and Fox News presenter Sean Hannity, says she voted for Trump largely on the promise of his hardline stance against illegal immigration, but "it's not a deal-breaker" if he fails to deliver on his long-promised border wall. (Matt Kwong/CBC)

"If you let them stay, then the next ones are going to come in and do the same thing. The law has to be enforced because you can't survive without rules," she said. 

McGraw, 56, wants a physical border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but "it's not a deal-breaker," she said.

Likewise for Dane Maxwell, 54, a retired Mississippi sheriff's officer who was recently elected mayor of Pascagoula, an industrial city along the Gulf Coast.

"I won't like it. I'll be disappointed if it doesn't happen. But I'm not going to turn my back on the president," he said. "He brings a vision unlike anybody else. And there's, like, nine different areas with me that are equally as important as getting that wall."

All around him, Maxwell said, industry is humming. Ships are being built and oil is being produced at the big Chevron refinery in town.

"Look, you have to give the president an opportunity to negotiate these things," he said. "He needs a little time to work things out through diplomacy, reaching across the aisle, making things happen."

Maxwell was less sure about whether he would support Trump's possible reversal on DACA. 

Retired Mississippi sheriff's officer Dane Maxwell, left, of Pascagoula, Miss., is shown in a photo with Donald Trump. (Courtesy Dane Maxwell)

In Alabama, Republican strategist Jonathan Gray said Trump might be willing to shed some hardline voters if he can rake in a larger share of moderates.

According to a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll only 12 per cent of American voters are adamant about deporting Dreamers, while 73 per cent believe they should be allowed stay under certain conditions.

"If it were to be DACA with no wall, no real immigration reform, I don't see how he gets through that and doesn't hurt himself with the base," Gray said. 

But even if "die-hard" Trump supporters in the Deep South would hate those kinds of about-faces, he said, "there's nowhere to turn" but Trump for a viable conservative candidate.

"He can get no deal on the wall, he can get amnesty for those kids, but you tell me: Who is a more conservative leader than Donald Trump?" he said. "Here, in what I'd consider the reddest state of America, if Trump moves to the middle, he can really do no wrong because there is no better option."

Lisa Schiffren, a mother and conservative writer who lives in the Bronx, New York, says she went to bed 'stewing' over reports the president 'gave amnesty to all these DACA illegals.' (Courtesy Lisa Schiffren)

That's not good enough for New Yorker Lisa Schiffren, 57. The conservative writer and mother was so upset to read about the president's purported deal with Democrats that she went to bed "stewing" over reports the president "gave amnesty to all these DACA illegals."

If true, those reports would put her support for Trump in peril.

"To me, this is pragmatic politics 101," she said. "You stay with the guy who brung you to the dance; you don't leave with somebody else. And the guy that brung Trump to the White House was lots of voters who cared about the policies he offered."


Matt Kwong


Matt Kwong was the Washington-based correspondent for CBC News. He previously reported for CBC News as an online journalist in New York and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at: @matt_kwong


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