President Donald J. Trump has said and done a lot of things that have been met with both praise and condemnation. Despite the media’s 90 percent negative coverage of his first 19 months in office, his achievements are hard to ignore – retreat of ISIS, progress in North Korea, significant tax cuts, greater border security, low unemployment, sanctions against Russia, strong judicial appointments, reduction in food stamps, and 4.1 percent economic growth for the most recent quarter. And now, with the midterm elections looming, the Republican Party has much to run on. On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic platform seems to simply be one of opposition and no new ideas. Now, against this political landscape, the president is considering doing something based on principal. But it would be his riskiest move yet.
Trump has announced his willingness to shut down the government if Democrats refuse to give him the necessary funding for the border wall. In his own words, via twitter:
“I would be willing to shut down the government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall! Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!”
In April, at a campaign rally, the president said, “When we come up again on September 28th, and if we don’t get border security we will have no choice, we will close down the country because we need border security.” He continued, “First, we must protect the American people, the homeland, and our great American way of life. This strategy recognizes that we cannot secure our nation if we do not secure our borders. So, for the first time ever, American strategy now includes a serious plan to defend our homeland.”
The risk is clear. Every time there is a government shutdown, the party held responsible loses the national debate. Just ask the Republican leaders during the shutdown of the Obama administration. Or ask Chuck Schumer, in light of the more recent shutdown.
It is inarguable that the party held responsible for the shutdown suffers political loss. And with the midterm election just six weeks after the date on which Trump threatens this shutdown, it is the Republicans who would lose. With a tenuous hold on both houses of Congress, they cannot afford to lose any seats due to the timing of such a shutdown.
Is the president right to fight for the wall? Yes. Throughout the world, there are at least 36 physical border walls, erected to secure the sovereignty and safety of the people. And few, if any, of those 36 countries are considering the removal of their walls. Data concludes that a) any nation has a right to secure her own borders, and b) physical walls help to do that.
But timing, as they say, is everything. One can certainly argue the merits of spending billions of dollars on a wall along our southern border. But to shut down the government over this – six weeks before the midterm elections – would be President Trump’s riskiest move to date.
To be clear, Trump would not actually be shutting down the government himself. It would only happen if Democrats insist on blocking funds for the border wall (which the President was elected to build). But the result would be the same. There would be a shutdown. The president would pay for it in the polls. And Republicans would pay for it in November.