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.

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