For the past 14 months, we've listened to Donald Trump shout about "illegal immigrants" like an old man shaking his fist at a cloud. From the first day of his candidacy, Trump has staked his political brand on vilifying Mexican immigrants, calling for mass-deportation, and promising to build a border wall.
It's been a combination of fear-mongering and buzzwords, but at least it's been consistent. Until last week. That's when Trump went off script and tried to add nuance to nonsense, fudging his hardline position on deportation. It fell out of his mouth sounding like this:
"We have to follow the laws. Now can we be—and I’ll ask the audience—you have somebody who’s terrific who’s been here…long time, long court proceeding, long everything, in other words, to get them out. Can we go through a process, or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know."
Want to try that again in English, Donald?
Not only is Trump's stance on immigration untenable, it's also become unintelligible. Trump thundered through the primaries fueled on tweets and hashtags, but now he's struggling to backfill those platitudes with policy. He's never actually explained how he would implement any of his far-fetched immigration plans, and now he can't even seem to articulate what they are.
He told Fox News' Sean Hannity last week that he'd be open to "softening" his immigration proposals, but he took too much Dulcolax and now they look runny.
Campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson tried to throw Trump a lifeline and decode his anacoluthic gibberish by telling CNN that her candidate "hasn't changed his immigration position, he has changed the words he is saying."
It's an awkward position to be in. With 70 days left before Election Day, Trump is trying to explain his stance on an issue that was supposed to be central to his campaign.
He'll take another crack at it on Wednesday, for those who are still curious about Trump's musings on the matter.
I, for one, am not. And you'll be excused if you don't want listen either. That's because Trump has proven repeatedly that he doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to immigration policy. We've spent almost a year-and-a-half listening to a guy talk about something he doesn't understand, and sometimes seems willfully ignorant about. It's tedious.
Some days Trump says he wants to enforce existing law, without seeming to understand what it says—like when he promised to “expedite” the reentry process for "fantastic people" who reside here illegally but self deport to their native country to apply for residency (in fact, they'd be banned for up to 10 years).
On other days Trump suggests that he wants to change the law, but can't find the right combination of nouns and verbs to explain how. "Well, I think the whole question of anchor babies, as it's known, the whole question of citizenship, of natural-born Americans is a subject for the future. I think the American people ought to ask it. We look at our whole immigration system and see whether that works and makes sense." Meow meow meow.
Whether or not Trump is planning a partial pivot or an about-face during his "major speech on ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION" on Wednesday is known perhaps only to him—or perhaps not even to him. But it's a safe bet that Trump probably won't have anything elucidating to say about the issue.
And even if he tries to soften his words during the homestretch of the campaign, he can't undo the damage that he has caused with his old words—the ones he used to call Mexicans rapists, drug dealers and criminals. Those words are still out there, banging around in society, causing damage and hostility.
Trump's immigration plan is not real, but the racism and xenophobia it promotes is very real.
It's a big part of why he trails Hillary by 48 points among Latino voters, according to a poll published in Univision last month. Hillary would like to attribute that lead to the merits of her own campaign, but the truth is it's mostly addition by subtraction.
Trump may try to bridge that gap by pumping the brakes on his immigration shouting points, or he may double down on the nativism. Either way, it doesn't matter much what he says on Wednesday. Trump is a bumper sticker. There's no substance behind his slogans.
Hopefully enough American voters realize that to keep things that way in November.