Speaking in Sioux City, Iowa in January, Donald Trump made one of his most telling remarks when he boasted “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters."
In a similar vein (even if not widely understood as such), Trump last year had commented “When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.” In one fell swoop, Trump had mistaken regeneration for communion and trivialized the latter, patronizingly dismissing one of its elements as "my little cracker."
Trump had thus nearly confirmed his earlier statement, having symbolically stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue, shot somebody, and losing few voters.
He may be doing it again. Still a work in progress, Trump's immigration policy is nothing if not muddled now that he speaks of a "softening" but still supports his big, beautiful wall.
There is a strategic calculation taking place not only in seeming- maybe- to move to the center, but also in keeping anyone who is paying attention from understanding exactly what he believes about illegal immigration. However, there is one statement Trump has made in the last few days, while he appears to be working out his values in public, which harkens back to confidence that he could shoot someone or make a remark utterly ignorant of Christianity and still not lose any votes.
On Monday night on GOP TV, Trump explained
As far as everybody else, we're going to go through the process, What people don't know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country. Bush, the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I'm going to do the same thing.
Trump's campaign was based- we were told by it- on the understanding that the system is rigged, the country is broken, Bush and Obama were wrong about practically everything, and we must "make America great again." Now he's going to do the same thing as Obama whose, Trump accurately points out, has been quite active in evicting illegal immigrants from the USA. He will act on immigration, he promises, similarly to the Kenyan-born president who founded ISIL, who "doesn't want to know about" terrorism, and "is more angry at me" (than) at the shooter" who murdered 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando. (Below, view Trump adviser Sarah Huckabee Sanders inadvertently endorsing the Obama immigration policy.)
Donald Trump may be the liberal Ted Cruz argued he is. Or he may be what he appeared to be, a hateful demagogue (a loving demagogue?). Alternatively, he all of the above or none of the above, reminiscent of answers to multiple choice questions in secondary school. Within striking distance of the presidency, however, Trump most clearly is someone who has not paid the electoral price for things he has done as a businessman and said as a presidential candidate. If you ever see him on Fifth Avenue with a firearm, promptly seek shelter.