Give Trump his wall


No, it won’t work. Yes, it’s a symbol of racism. And yes, his own party controlled both houses of Congress for two years and refused to give it to him because it’s a silly waste of money. It’s distracting the Republicans, but it’s also distracting us.

I once vacationed in Umbria in the north of Italy. While hiking I came across the ruins of a wall. The guidebook explained it had been built to keep out the Black Plague. It didn’t work. Nor did the Great Wall keep the Mongol hordes out of China. Nor did the Berlin Wall keep democracy and capitalism out of the Soviet bloc. It didn’t even do that great a job at keeping people in. Walls just don’t work. Sometimes they even work against themselves, as the Berlin Wall did, galvanizing opponents and giving them something to coalesce around. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!”

So why not give Mr. Trump his wall? No, it won’t work. Yes, it’s a symbol of racism. And yes, his own party controlled both houses of Congress for two years and refused to give it to him because it’s a silly waste of money. But there are plenty of symbols of racism around—almost every square in every small town in the South has at least one. And as wastes of money go, it’s certainly not the most egregious one. In fact it’s almost exactly the same amount as farmers will be getting to offset another Trump folly, the tariffs against China. Even more importantly, the alternative proposals the Democrats have offered up to improve “border security” WILL work—increased surveillance and beefing up the notorious and dangerous ICE and Border Patrol. Those proposals will also work in the worst possible way—allowing the rich and wealthy to continue to come in through airports and overstay their visas, while keeping out the most needy. For those who support continued immigration to the U.S. on both humanitarian and economic grounds, paradoxically, the wall may be the best way to further that objective.

I suspect much of the opposition to the wall by progressives is because of general anti-Trumpism and because they fear giving Trump “wins” will strengthen him. But the truth is it doesn’t matter. His base get their information from a limited number of biased media. They already think he’s winning. They swallow wholesale his false claims of victory and dismiss his defeats as “fake news.” A Trump supporter told me the other day how much he’s done, and when I asked her to name one achievement, she replied, “Well, lots.” She and the rest of his base have made up their minds and facts aren’t going to change it. Another false win won’t matter much one way or another.

Trump’s wall is a deliberate distraction intended to keep the minds of the rest of the Republican coalition off the damage caused by the tax reform package, a worsening economy, his regulatory rollbacks, the attacks on healthcare, the decimation of key capabilities like the State Department, and the wholesale incompetence of this administration. And it’s working, because there’s only so much air time, and Trump’s managing to fill it with debate over the wall. I once read where the Clintons figured that every day they were going to get some bad press, so they looked forward to press that was “less bad” because it crowded out the “real bad.” The discussion over the wall is crowding out the real discussions we need to be having. It’s distracting the Republicans, but it’s also distracting us.

So, give him the wall, open the government and put the pressure back on the GOP.

2 replies »

  1. I’ve considered this myself from two other angles. The first, I think, would be the less effective, because, as you say, facts don’t matter to them. There’s no reason to think the wall will have the effect they think it will. Graphs showing rates of illegal immigration generally, and border crossings in particular, would show that minimal effect, and we could all laugh gleefully at their expense. Haw, haw! $25 billion for what?

    But we already do that, and it doesn’t make any more difference than facts.

    More reasonably, I think, if we say yes today to the 10-20 year construction boondoggle, with any luck Dems would claw the funding back day 1 they have the power to do so.

    But that assumes the Dems would do something smart, and I have zero faith in that.

    Alternately, the Dems could simply say no, and start spelling out plans for moving the House Dems agenda forward. “It’s a no. what’s to discuss? We’re moving forward because government requires multi-tasking, not the fixated tunnel-vision emanating from the White House.” Every day hurts more. GOP, with any luck, hangs itself by its own petard. Maybe non-voters will finally see a reason to add another 10% to the polls on election day.

    In any case, I’m still not optimistic. “Moving forward” for the Dems is just more opportunity for them to throw cold water on the left and freeze out the electoral success they need to replace Trump. I have all the confidence in the world they’ll screw that up.