The actual construction of a big, beautiful wall, along the entirety of the U.S./Mexican border, in concrete, steel, or whatever, sends a horrible message. That is the intention. It’s a metaphor of bigotry, not to mention ignorance. But such a structure, The Wall, will never be built. Instead, we have the spectacle of $5.6 billion that will merely pay for some additional fencing.
There are already walls and fences, here and there. The border is anything but open. Nevertheless, that $5.6 billion, a pittance of funds compared to the actual cost of The Wall or to the total Federal budget, is solidifying as The Wall itself in the public’s mind, and especially in Trump’s.
On the other hand, given that DT is hardly versed in the details of immigration, giving up on some of the $5.6 billion seems like it could gain significant concessions on DACA, etc. Any immigration activist could come up with a bunch of things that are more important than that $5.6 billion, either as symbol or reality.
The same holds true, incidentally, for anti-immigration activists. They are being set up for a big defeat, if Trump trades more significant concessions for some additional fences.
On top of the threat to DACA, the government shutdown promises serious harm to other vulnerable constituencies (e.g., EITC and SNAP beneficiaries). The thought of DACA kids and anybody else who has lived here for years being deported is unbearable. So, the case for refusing to give up even one dollar for The Wall, as opposed to some additional fences, seems rebuttable.
True, a deal would let Trump claim victory, and many of his deplorable, ignorant supporters would be happy. But the knowledgeable anti-immigration factions would be enraged, since The Wall nor a pissant $5.6 billion are their highest priority. Neither are the politics of concession so cut-and-dried.
It’s true that this kind of deal was available in the past. Trump went for it, then reversed himself after protests from the likes of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. The problem for the latter is that as we go forward, The Wall becomes increasingly important as political symbol to the nativist Right, without gaining any importance as a concrete policy measure. So it becomes increasingly easy for Trump to sell out the anti-immigration freaks. We need some word for a pyrrhic victory where the victors are unaware they have actually lost.
Suppose Trump folds and we get a budget but no $5.6 billion for some additional fencing. It’s likely he will freeze up on other, more important immigration matters. The politics of Democratic victory are not so obvious either.
I have to wonder what Pelosi and Schumer’s end game is. Perhaps it’s to do to Trump what McConnell did to Obama – put up a prevent defense and just block everything. I’m not sure this has the same value to our side. To begin with, Trump and his minions thrive on rejection. They revel in their imagined grievances. Trump himself is not burdened by a deep commitment to any policy, except one of enriching himself and his family.
I suppose that in the end, the Democrats have the upper hand on the shutdown. People hate it. Trump is likely to fold, and then the job is to just administer further beat-downs. There will be further harm in the meantime to the undocumented, among others. The victories will not be without casualties.