Donald Trump’s advisers have declared that if he regains the presidency, he will launch an extraordinarily cruel crackdown on immigration. Given that Trump lost reelection in 2020 after attempting a far tamer agenda, advertising such plans might seem like foolish political malpractice.
But the politics of immigration can be peculiar. The public tends to turn on the president in power when the situation on the border goes wrong, leading voters to seek a diametrically different approach — no matter what policies the incumbent has adopted or what their opponent proposes.
In political science jargon, these wild swings against prevailing policy are known as “thermostatic” public opinion. This is particularly pronounced on immigration given its fiendish complexities, meaning disapproval of the incumbent could allow Trump to win even though he is campaigning on an extreme alternative.
That second-term agenda would revolve around what the New York Times calls “giant camps.” While detention centers already exist, the Times reports that Trump and adviser Stephen Miller envision a vastly expanded network that would facilitate the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, including longtime residents with deep ties to communities. [Continue reading…]