Trump DACA Decision Aimed at Fear of a Brown Electorate

Protesters outside the White House, November 2016. Reuters

When Donald Trump swanned down the escalator at Trump Tower in June 2015 and announced he was running for president, he said he felt called to duty in order to stem the tide of immigrant criminals. At the time, most Americans scratched their heads because there was no U.S. police data to back him up. But demographic data do indicate that America is becoming a brown nation.

Everything President Trump has done regarding immigration, up to and including rescinding DACA, looks brutal and illogical. Rescinding DACA is likely to be a short-term loser for his diving popularity, but for conservatives, rescinding DACA is the Hail Mary pass at the end of a decades-long game to maintain the whiteness of the American electorate.

Related: Trump and Sessions can't blame the Constitution for their cruel DACA decision

When President Barack Obama enacted DACA, conservative pundits fumed that it was aimed at creating a pool of brown voters. There was some truth to that: Although the 800,000 people currently covered by DACA cannot vote, their continued presence in the United States means that there will eventually be more non-white babies in the country.

But America doesn't need DACA to get more brown children than white children. In July 2015, for the first time, the number of nonwhite babies born in the U.S. exceeded the number of white babies, according to Pew researchers. And while Pew predicts there will be no dominant ethnic or racial group in the U.S. for the next several decades, the vacuum assures that adult whites will no longer be the nation's dominant demographic.

This is bad news—political death, really—for Republicans. The white vote share of the electorate has declined in every election since 1996, to 72 percent in 2012 from 83 percent in 1996, according to the U.S. Census. Last year, whites made up 69 percent of America's eligible voters, and by 2024 that number is expected to be 64 percent. By 2044, it could shrink to 54 percent.

White Christians—Trump's most solid base of support—are already feeling their waning power: They are down to 43 percent of the population, according to a new survey released Wednesday by the Public Religion Research Institute. Meanwhile, less than one in five Americans—17 percent—identify as white evangelical Protestant, down from 23 percent just a decade ago,

The inevitability of a browner America—and the fear that inspires in some factions of the Republican's shrinking minority of Americans—is the best explanation for the Trump administration's highly unpopular decision Tuesday to rescind the DACA program. And if that means ripping away from friends, jobs, schools and families nearly a million people whose skin is not white and whose parents' first language was not English, so be it.

The DACA decision is only the latest and most audacious Trump administration attempt to stem the effects of present and future demographic realities on American politics—facts that will be disastrous for Republicans and white conservatives. Beside focusing his campaign on the phantasm of immigrant criminals and banning Muslims from the country, Trump's stunts included the never-proved claim that millions of undocumented people voted in the 2016 election. That was another element of this larger plan.

Trump's Voter Fraud Commission, created to "look into" that totally bogus claim, is headed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was repeatedly challenged by the ACLU over what were seen as voter-suppression efforts in Kansas. Before he was in office, Kobach worked as an attorney advising other states on how to write nativist voter laws, including the notorious "papers please" proof of citizenship voter ID law that Arizona lawmakers approved.

"The key point is the wave of voter suppression laws we have seen over the last decade or so was clearly motivated in part by an awareness of the demographic changes, that whites would become a minority within the country, and even within the electorate," says Zachary Roth, author of The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash and the Conservative Assault on Democracy. In his book, Roth lays out the long-term strategy of rich, white conservatives to use the courts and gerrymandered legislatures to again make suffrage as close as possible to what it was when the nation was founded —white, male landowners.

The DACA repeal promises to pull Trump's poll numbers lower than their historically low levels. Even a majority of flinty Republicans approve of the program. The fallout is only just beginning, and it is unclear how much Congress will be able to withstand, and whether lawmakers have the spine to match Trump and his posse. On Tuesday, Microsoft's president, Brad Smith, issued a statement calling for Congress to approve immigration reform before it gets to the tax reform legislation that corporations have been waiting for. "Microsoft, like many other companies, cares greatly about modernizing the tax system and making it fairer and more competitive," Smith said. "But we need to put the humanitarian needs of these 800,000 people on the legislative calendar before a tax bill."

Low public opinion, op-ed outrage and even legal pushback is something the Trump administration, and its anti-immigration advisory faction, have probably factored in as collateral damage in this finale to a long game to keep the polls as white as possible.

What they lose today, they might gain—in the short term anyway—by staving off the inevitable. But the 2016 election, according to Pew, was the most diverse ever. And it's only getting browner — with or without the DACA Dreamers.