Like many desperate Americans who have run out of options, Donald Trump is fleeing to Mexico. Trump’s run for the border is not a meticulously planned, Shawshank-style escape, but instead a last-minute jag, hastily announced last night with details being filled in, where he will be joined by his buddies Jeff Sessions and Rudy Giuliani. Trump will presumably return afterward to his home country, where he faces a wrathful electorate and a lawsuit persuasively charging him with massive fraud. The question is what he believes he will accomplish on the trip.
Trump has built his campaign on nationalistic and racist attacks on many subjects, Mexico most prominently. He has repeatedly attacked the country and its political institutions.
In recent weeks, Trump’s campaign has faced up to the reality that the racism that propelled him to the Republican nomination has become a liability in the general election. To win, he needs to Balkanize the electorate along racial lines and activate unprecedented levels of white turnout, while at the same time reassuring some white people he is not completely racist. This delicate, and perhaps impossible, bind has left Trump’s message toward Mexico and immigrant communities toggling between conciliation and abuse. On the one hand, Trump promises a “softening” of his nativist stance. On the other, he insists immigrants “take jobs from hardworking African-Americans and Hispanic citizens.”
That tension is on display in Trump’s visit to Mexico today. Kellyanne Conway, who is Trump’s campaign manager this month, promises the candidate will act “very presidential” and make nice. “He wants to establish a conversation with a neighboring country, a leader, and also to discuss the common problems and challenges that our countries face,” she promises of the country where people literally buy piñatas in Trump’s likeness to smash.
The Trump campaign appears to have convinced itself that the candidate will face not merely a polite reception but will win actual policy concessions for his lunatic agenda, reports Politico:
“Trump realized this would be a brilliant time to do it and is trying to pull it together last minute,” according another person close to the campaign who has been briefed by a campaign staffer. “Would be a major power play. It’s like he’s already negotiating on behalf of America.” The person suggested that the meeting could, for example, allow Trump to agree to deport only criminals if the Mexican president offered some sort of concession in return.
Sure, it makes tons of sense for Mexico’s president to offer up concessions to somebody who is not the sitting president, has a low probability of ever becoming president, continually changes his own stances, does not understand public policy in general, and is also probably the most hated person in Mexico since James K. Polk.