Trump Has Border-Walled Himself into a Corner

[Content Note: Nativism.]

So, Donald Trump gave a speech last night, and it was a dumpster full of racist lies. (If you want to read his address and/or the rebuttal by Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, NPR has complete transcripts.) Trump did not declare a national emergency, having apparently been convinced that it was a bad idea, but "a source close to the president" leaked that he still considers it an option.

Meanwhile, despite the typical dreadful punditry proliferating across cable news, the public isn't buying the "both sides" narrative, nor Trump's even more egregious framing that the shutdown is entirely the fault of Democrats.

At the Huffington Post, Ariel Edwards-Levy reports that "more than four in 10 Americans now consider the partial government shutdown a very serious problem" and "a 51 percent majority of Americans say Trump deserves at least partial responsibility for the shutdown."

And at Politico, Steven Shepard reports that "voters are opposed to shutting down the government to extract the funds for the wall's construction — and more blame Trump and the GOP for the shutdown than Democrats. Nearly half of voters, 47 percent, say Trump is mostly to blame for the shutdown, the poll shows, while another 5 percent point the finger at congressional Republicans. But just a third, 33 percent, blame Democrats in Congress."

Trump has border-walled himself into a corner, and he now faces a major problem: Even among people who agree with his premise that there's a "crisis" at the southern border, there isn't overwhelming support for building a border wall to solve the problem. And yet he's staked everything on this bullshit border wall idea.

If he backs down now, it will be a major defeat — and Trump cannot tolerate being one of the "losers" he so frequently derides from his rally podiums and Twitter account. He also can't abide being seen as weak by his deplorable cultists.

But he can't win. The longer this goes on, the more power shifts to the Democrats, who aren't backing down and refuse to give him the money to fund the wall.

Which leaves his only choice declaring a national emergency, which is such an immense abuse of power that even some members of his own party balk at the very notion.

At Vanity Fair, Gabriel Sherman reports that the border wall has become Trump's "personal Alamo."
Inside the West Wing, Trump has told aides he's prepared to stake his presidency on making a last stand. "He has convinced himself he can't win re-election in 2020 unless he gets a lot of the wall built. It's fundamental to his id," a former West Wing official said. "The problem is, the Democrats know that."

Trump's aides fear he has given himself no way out. "The president put himself in a box," the former official in touch with the White House told me. "The problem is there's no endgame. Right now the White House is at a seven on the panic scale. If this thing goes on past the State of the Union they're going to be at an 11." Another prominent Republican close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described Trump's handling of the shutdown as "total fucking chaos."
All of which is terrible news all around. Because it leaves us, for at least the next two years, with two options: 1. Trump continues stumbling along this hideous path, making authoritarian power grabs in order to continue to wreak his nativist malice; or 2: Trump gives up and his presidency totally collapses under the weight of such a massive failure, and we end up with President Pence, who strides into the Oval with the strength and confidence of a late-game substitute player on fresh legs.

Either way, it's going to be bad. House Democrats are going to have a lot of resistance work to do — and so are we. We're all gonna need some kind of otherworldly stamina to get through this mess.

Trump has threatened to keep the government shutdown for years, if need be, regardless of the pain to 800,000 federal workers and their families, but it's going to come to a head before that. I am dreading it. But I am ready.

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