Readers, sometimes I write because I think I have something that’s worth sharing. This isn’t really one of those times. I know I have blind spots and I’m not really in the mood to write that perfect, and perfectly persuasive article. But humor me, please.
It is clear why Trump is continuing to pursue the shutdown as a means to achieve his border security goals: he needs something for his base. Yes, there’s a whole litany of ways in which he’s been incompetent up to this point. Maybe he thought he’d deliver the wall in 2019 so that it’d be fresh in the minds of voters. Maybe — well, maybe he’s just a screw-up and nothing more. Maybe he procrastinated every bit as much as I’m doing now, with respect to a spreadsheet that looks wrong though I can’t find the error. But here we are. The cost to him of shrugging off his demand is now unacceptably high.
What’s more, however much we might be reading stories of the harm the shutdown is causing, or polling showing that a majority of Americans blame Trump and don’t care about a wall, I’m not seeing any reports that he has lost the support of his base – and even if polling indicated that, I doubt he’d believe it. Besides which, in that case, it would be a no-win situation — lose some of his base for continuing the shutdown, or lose others for caving.
The Democrats, on the other hand? They won’t lose if they concede the wall funding. Much as they might say, “you can’t negotiate with hostage-takers” it’s a flawed analogy. The stakes are not particularly high for them. The notion that if they concede to the least bit of (additional) fencing they’ve set a precedent which will cause incalculable harm is — well, it’s foolish. They created an analogy – “hostage-taking” – and have forgotten that it’s just an analogy, not a literal truth. But what’s more, they aren’t going to lose if they concede, if they grant some border spending as a “trust-building measure.” They just won’t win as spectacularly as they hope to if they succeed in reaching their objective of destroying Trump politically.
They’re also very convinced that the more they tell “Shutdown Stories” the greater the pressure they’ll apply to Trump. Government workers who can’t feed their families, security lines that stretch on so long it disrupts travel, government money that is essentially wasted spending, when it provides for back pay for workers who did nothing productive to earn it — all at the service of winning a battle against Trump.
And they’re very public with their non-negotiation — first Puerto Rico, now a (cancelled) foreign policy trip, while at the same time, Trump is using words like “negotiate” and “compromise.”
So maybe they win, and maybe they don’t. I’m not going to predict what Trump will do. If this were Greek mythology, Pelosi and the Democrats would be struck down for their pride. But it’s not. So what next?