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Donald Trump appears to be changing his mind about mass deportations. Does it matter?

OW Staff Writer | 7/13/2017, 2:16 p.m.
Donald Trump’s pledge to deport more than 11 million undocumented immigrants was always preposterous, so we suppose it should be ...

(Via Los Angeles Times' Editorial Staff)-Donald Trump’s pledge to deport more than 11 million undocumented immigrants was always preposterous, so we suppose it should be welcome news that he might be rethinking his position. It is just such heavy-handed approaches to issues that have made Trump so unappealing from the start.

The idea that the government ought to oust 11 million people — the vast majority of whom are settled into productive lives in the United States — is as inhumane as it is impractical. The center-right American Action Forum estimates it would cost $400 billion to $600 billion to find and deport all the people living here without permission. The group also estimates such a mass deportation — about 3.5% of the nation’s population, according to the Pew Research Center — would shave $1 trillion from the GDP and cause labor shortages, especially in the agricultural, construction and hotel industries. It also would damage families: In 2012, about 4.5 million American-born children — and thus citizens — under age 18 had at least one parent living in the country illegally.

To think the federal government could deport the equivalent of the state of Ohio without doing significant damage to the nation’s economy and communities is delusional. If softening that approach is indeed a Trump “pivot,” it should be a welcome one, depending, of course, on the specifics (something that is notably absent from most Trump position statements).

So far, though, he has not budged on his silly idea of forcing the Mexican government to build a massive wall along the southwest border. Nor has he withdrawn his noxious comments describing Mexican immigrants as rapists and other criminals. So how much of a softening this might actually be is a very large question mark — as is his sincerity.

Trump won the Republican nomination with 45% of the vote in a dramatic but disappointingly nasty and sophomoric campaign (Marco Rubio suggesting Trump had soiled himself; Trump trying to affirm the size of his, um, hands), and the misogyny, racism and nativism he brought to the fore was stunning. But even more chilling is how many people have found such vindictiveness resonant. Trump didn’t create those voters, of course, he merely tapped into them, in the process giving unwelcome political currency to dangerously un-American ideas. Even if he loses, the nation may live with the dark echoes of this campaign for years to come.

If Trump wins, the way he has managed his campaign could preview how he would manage the country. The campaign has been disorganized, propelled mainly by Trump’s personality and marked by upheaval. He has done little of the kind of nuts-and-bolts work that it takes to build a team of professionals and marshal them to achieve an end goal. It’s chilling to imagine him in charge of the federal bureaucracy. And while we don’t presume that a president should be versed in all the details of all the issues and problems facing the nation, Trump has been content to know next to nothing about how immigration works, let alone other complex and nuanced issues.

Inflexibility in politics leads to deadlock, but political leaders should at least have some core values — something Trump has failed to espouse in any meaningful way. Certainly there are times when a political leader should be praised for proclaiming, after digesting fresh data, that a previous stance is now unsupportable and a new direction is called for. If Trump is changing his position, he ought to explain what propelled him so voters can decide if he has evolved based on sober analysis and self-reflection, or if the campaign winds have suggested that the sails be trimmed to follow a different tack.

Our impression from the beginning has been that Trump’s main focus is not the data, but himself. We hope his supporters will look at his pivots with a clear eye, because they do, in their own way, reveal the man’s political character.