Chris Collins is a mainstream, blue-state Republican who votes to the left of his party on issues of immigration. So when the representative from upstate New York became the first member of Congress to climb aboard the Trump train in February, eyebrows were raised: Why would a moderate backbencher endorse an authoritarian demagogue fiercely opposed by his party’s leadership?
One theory holds that Carl Paladino, the Buffalo businessman and former GOP gubernatorial candidate — who likes threatening abstract entities with a baseball bat — extorted the endorsement out of Collins. But a recent interview that the congressman gave to the Buffalo News suggests an alternate explanation: Collins never endorsed the real Donald Trump but, rather, an imaginary Trump that lives in his mind.
Collins told the paper that the Trump he believes in isn’t the vengeful, fire-and-brimstone strongman others worship; instead, he’s a compassionate, merciful being: Asked to defend Trump’s mass-deportation plan, which the candidate has likened to Operation Wetback, Collins replied:
“I call it a rhetorical deportation of 12 million people,” Collins said.
He then gestured toward a door in his Capitol Hill office.
“They go out that door, they go in that room, they get their work papers, Social Security number, then they come in that door, and they’ve got legal work status but are not citizens of the United States,” Collins said. “So there was a virtual deportation as they left that door for processing and came in this door.”
Collins added: “We’re not going to put them on a bus, and we’re not going to drive them across the border.”
The congressman also explained that, in his reading of the Donald’s teachings, the border wall is really a metaphor, not a structure built of concrete and barbed wire. Instead, it’s a “virtual wall.”
Still, Collins hastened to add that mortals can never truly know the Donald’s will.
“I’m not speaking for Donald,” Collins told the paper. “Those were my opinions.”
Of course, if these are just Collins’s personal opinions, then they don’t actually function as defenses of Trump’s policies — nor of the congressman’s decision to endorse him. Thus, Collins must have meant that they are his interpretations of the Donald’s hidden truth. Like all Americans (at least until Trump is elected), Collins is entitled to his faith.