Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Wall Meets the Wall

President Trump made his case for building a wall on the Mexican border on Tuesday night, but there was just one problem: there is no case for building a big wall on the Mexican border. After all, illegal border crossings have been dropping for more than two decades and most illegal substances cross the border into the United States at legal ports such as airports. Plus, there is no verifiable crisis at the border save for the one the Trump Administration created by separating children from their parents. And to top it off, the president seems to have lost the argument.

In political terms, the president's best chance for wall funding ended as soon as the Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives in November. Prior to that, the Republicans controlled the government, and if they couldn't cobble together funding for the wall, then it's not going to happen now. Plus, prior to November was the optimal time to be able to blame Democrats for the lack of funding, since a filibuster would be the only way to stop it. Trump could have gone twitter-crazy blaming Chuck Schumer for foiling the popular will.

But instead, we have...this. The president proudly shut down the government thinking that he could bully Nancy Pelosi (bully Nancy Pelosi!) into giving up her power because, well, I'm not sure why he thought he could do that. After all, most Americans do not support the president's agenda and voted against it in 2016 and 2018. He's tried a number of different strategies to discredit the Democrats and blame the shutdown on them, but that's not working well.

In the end, the president's negotiating position seems to be that he wants the Democrats to fund the wall, then he will sign spending bills to reopen the government. That doesn't seem like a great deal to the Democrats because they really get nothing in return except the status quo when it comes to their agenda. President Trump's threat to declare an emergency to fund the wall also shows him to be a less committed deal-maker than he pretends to be because, in the end, he might just do whatever he thinks he can get away with rather than to negotiate seriously.

For now, though, the more important wall is the one the Democrats are constructing as a barrier to the president's wishes.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Democrats: The Message Is the Medium

It only took three days, so if you chose January 3 in your office pool as the date when the first idiot Democrat brought up impeachment, then congratulations are in order. That she also sprinkled her comment with impolitic language only makes it worse. I'm thinking that Nancy Peloisi had a chat with Representative Tlaib about staying on message.

I just want to be clear on this first post of the year that I have no patience with any Democrat who calls for any legal action against the president unless there is enough legitimate evidence that the president had committed an impeachable or indictable offense. Let Robert Mueller's investigation do its job and let him release his report when it's ready. The same is true about the other current investigations into the Trump Administration and the ones that the Democrats in the House will inevitably begin. Giving the Republicans any further reason to marginalize any opposition only takes time and energy away from what must be the Democrats' central message, which is that they will address and attempt to solve the basic problems that face Americans on a day-to-day basis.

I understand that a new and younger group of much more liberal legislators are now in Congress and statehouses across the country. I understand that they are filled with passion and fury and that they were elected to move the country in a different direction. But the best way to do this is to stay on message and not to waver. If the new Democrats can learn anything from the almost 40 year reign of the conservatives, it's that you need to frame your arguments in ways that people can digest and repeat them effortlessly, and you need everybody on your team to say the same things in the same way using the same language no matter what medium you're on.

Democrats need to focus on health care that covers everyone, livable wages, family leave and a climate message that appeals to Americans on the local level. I know this might be heresy, but what do those Americans living in the middle of the country care about the tides and floods in Miami? Craft a message that educates people on the changes they've already seen in their communities, which might be about crop yields or water supplies or the increase/decrease in wildlife. You get the idea.

Or do you? Because if you still believe that angrily posting about the minute-to-minute foolishness of the president's messages is the way to win hearts and minds, then I am here to tell you that you are wrong. President Trump's base will follow him no matter what he says. The voters that will win the 2020 election are the ones who voted Democratic last year, even if they supported Trump in 2016. Most of them care only about how their lives and the country's future will be secured. If they voted against the GOP despite a tax cut and an improving employment environment, then they will vote Democratic again if the Democrats continue to remind them about what Democrats will do for them.

That's a winning message. And that's the only winning message. So if you're angry and frustrated and appalled, my suggestion is that you go analog: Find a field, a prairie, a noisy subway station or an insulated basement and scream about whatever will heal your heart.

Then let's get back to work.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Predictions For 2019: Nothing Will Happen

That's right. Nothing meaningful will happen on the national political stage for an entire 12 months.  And just to make sure I cover all of my bases, nothing meaningful will happen in most other areas of American life in 2019

Of course I'll be wrong, but maybe you get the sense of why I'm saying these things. I'm not a pessimist. In fact, I'm one of the great all-time optimists presently trodding the soil. It's just that I don't see the split Congress and the far right White House making much headway towards solving some of our most pressing problems.

Could we get an infrastructure bill? Possibly, but that would mean that the president would have to give up his dream of a wall on the southern border, or the Democrats would have to up the amount of money they want to spend on the border to end the shutdown. At this point, I would think that the Democrats hold the better cards, if only because Trump is a minority president (oh, the irony) and holds a minority position that is supported by a minority of the population.

I understand that he's trying to hold on to his core supporters for 2020, but they won't be enough to give him a second term, since many people who voted for him simply despised Hillary Clinton and could vote for a more palatable Democrat. And speaking of, we'll get an early indication of who will be entering the 2020 contest in a matter of weeks. I"m fairly sure that New Jersey's own Senator Cory Booker will run, as will Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Bernie Sanders will also explore an encore and Joe Biden will give it some serious thought. Honestly, none of them jump out at me as a clear winner, and it's possible that the nominee will not be one of this group.

Combine a divided government with epic fundraising and a president who doesn't know much about policy or how policy gets made into law or how the law works or whether he has to follow the law or whether he can just say what the law is and you get a year where not much is going to happen legislatively unless you consider investigations and calls for Trump's tax returns significant legal accomplishments.

Will there be fireworks? You bet. But precious little will get done that will actually improve the country.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest