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MATTHEW BOOSE: The border wall is worth a shutdown
“I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it,” Trump said Tuesday of a possible government shutdown over the border wall. But this isn’t the own-goal the media is making it out to be.
As usual with the media, they are gaslighting Trump and the base. The narrative is that Trump lost in his Oval Office argument with “Chuck and Nancy” Tuesday by staking out a strong position on his central campaign promise. What?
Which is worse for Trump: a shutdown, or no wall?
Here is a simple set of facts: Trump promised to build a wall that still does not exist. When 2020 comes around, there will be a conspicuous hole in his record if it still isn’t there. The Democrats are not going to let Trump build it without a fight.
Yes, a government shutdown will play badly with the wider electorate. But Trump built a campaign on disruption and has spent the last two years fighting a succession war with the establishment. When has the establishment depicted his presidency as anything other than a coup? Whether he shuts down the government or not, they’ll trash him.
Trump’s position Tuesday was a clear signal to his base that he’s not giving up, even as his options diminish and the pressure to surrender increases. Unfortunately, the closing window of opportunity is causing Trump to flounder. He backpedaled Thursday, feebly appealing to the Democrats to help him strike a deal for “border security” with a video of Democrats criticizing illegal immigration years ago.
But just pointing out that the Democrats are hypocrites won’t solve anything. In order for a threat to be effective as a negotiating tactic, it must have teeth. Trump needs to choose a path: either unify the Republicans and fight for the wall, or settle for Chuck and Nancy’s “border security.”
Chuck and Nancy have made their position clear: walls are bad, and we don’t want it, period. Their idea of compromise is amnesty in exchange for a fence.
Pelosi told Trump that she and Chuck had come there in “good faith” to negotiate with him. This is patently false.
No one argues in good faith that a wall is a bad way to secure a border any more than a bridge is a bad solution to spanning a body of water. Of course, a wall will secure the border. That’s why the Democrats oppose it.
The wall is not too expensive. Nor is there a problem with technology. They just don’t want it.
Conspicuously absent from Chuck and Nancy’s pitch is an alternative. They say that they support “border security” without a wall, but what does that actually mean?
Like “common sense gun control,” “border security” is another cloudy abstraction with dubious authority behind it (Schumer cited “experts”) that, for the Democrats, serves as an unlimited mandate to pursue whatever policy they actually want.
When Democrats are occasionally honest about their immigration agenda, it’s clear that they have no interest in being fair. These are the same people who shut down the government over DACA last year. What was that about good faith?
If Trump is going to strike a compromise with the Democrats, then it actually needs to be a compromise. A bipartisan solution doesn’t mean “no wall.” It includes by definition full funding for the wall, because that’s what one party wants. The wall is not extreme. That should be Trump’s position. The Democrats’ position — that the wall is evil, borders are evil — is the actual extreme position.
A slight majority of Americans want compromise on the border wall. But one-third of Americans, and some two-thirds of Republicans, are willing to endure a shutdown to get the wall. Few Americans actually support the de facto open borders stance of the party that refuses to secure the border.
The Democrats are playing off a false mandate drawn from the imaginary consensus that the wall is a non-starter. And that simply isn’t true. A significant part of the population would rather see the government shutter than live with a government that can’t protect them.
The unpopularity of the left’s position explains why Schumer wanted to debate in private and why Pelosi wanted the cameras off (Trump instead called for transparency.) Trump saying he would own the shutdown demonstrates that he has no shame about securing the border. The posture is strong and clear: border security isn’t wrong. It’s common sense.
Having owned the shutdown, Trump needs to show the American people that the Democrats are the ones forcing it to happen. Look what they’re willing to let happen for the sake of open borders. They’re so against common sense border security that they left me no choice but to shut the government down.
The Democrats are the ones fighting to keep open a government that can’t enforce its own laws. They are the ones obstructing one of the government’s central goals, to protect the citizenry. They are extreme.
Trump needs to drive this message home: The Democrats were never going to co-operate on the wall. For them, the wall is a moral issue, not a fiscal one. For them, the wall is evil. There’s not a lot of room for compromise there.
Here’s a solution for Trump. Make the case that the wall is a modest and necessary demand — not the extreme one that the Democrats falsely say it is — that must be part of any bipartisan solution. Explain why it’s important to the American people.
House Republicans have the votes but are reluctant to proceed. They need unwavering leadership and a clear goal. It’s now or never for Trump. He needs to hunker down on the wall, get his party in line, and not budge.
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