Trump and Democrats put political symbolism over policy substance.
A quarter of the federal government has shut down, and most of America doesn’t care. There’s wisdom in that response because this showdown over spending, the third this year, is a mostly symbolic political exercise that won’t make much difference no matter who wins.
President Trump wants $5 billion for security at the Mexican border, while Democrats are offering no more than $1.6 billion. Mr. Trump wants to be able to say he won the money for the “wall” he campaigned on, while Democrats don’t want to give him that victory so they say their money can only be spent on “border security.”
This is the tyranny of small differences, and neither choice will solve our national immigration dilemmas. A physical barrier has worked in some places like San Diego. But migrants then look for other illegal entry points. Building the wall across the entire 1,954-mile border would be expensive and it wouldn’t stop illegal immigration since most illegals arrive by overstaying their legal visas.
The best solution, as ever, is to reduce the incentive for people to come illegally by creating more ways to work legally in America. Most migrants come to work, and at the current moment there are plenty of unfilled jobs for them. A guest-worker program would let migrants move back and forth legally, ebbing and flowing based on employer needs, while reducing the ability of gangs and smuggler “coyotes” to exploit vulnerable migrants... Democratic leaders want to show their base how tough they are for standing up to Mr. Trump, even if it means hanging the Dreamers out to dry. The left never wants any immigration compromise because it wants the election issue.
Mr. Trump can’t decide what he really wants and seems to have no political strategy for achieving whatever it is.
- First he surprised everyone by taking public ownership of a possible shutdown in a meeting in the Oval Office with Democratic leaders.
- Then he agreed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposal to fund the government for two months to move the funding debate into the new year when Democrats run the House.
- Then the House GOP Freedom Caucus and talk-radio hosts stomped their feet, and Mr. Trump flipped back to welcoming a shutdown and tweeting that “it could be a long stay.”
To what end? Mr. Trump’s shutdown tactic is to hold his breath until the other side gives in. This didn’t work for Newt Gingrich in 1995, though at least Newt was battling Bill Clinton over major reforms in the entitlement state. Mr. Trump is holding his breath over a mere $3.4 billion in spending for a piece of political symbolism.
The Freedom Caucus has long argued that Republicans can win a shutdown standoff if they hold their breath long enough. Perhaps Mr. Trump will try that, and at least we’d get a political market test of which party suffers most as the standoff continues. Yet if it ends with the two sides compromising on something like $3 billion in border funding, Americans can be forgiven for thinking the whole thing was a pointless political farce.
The GOP Base Is Beyond Trump’s Control
You can get elected as an outsider, but once in office, you have to actually govern.
The conservative movement is caught in a Catch-22 of its own making. In the war against “the establishment,” we have made being an outsider the most important qualification for a politician. The problem? Once elected, outsiders by definition become insiders. This isn’t just a semantic point. The Constitution requires politicians to work through the system if they’re going to get anything done.
.. Look at all the senators who rode the tea-party wave into power: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee. To one extent or another, they are now seen as swamp things, not swamp drainers, by the pitchfork populists.
.. Merely talking like a halfway responsible politician — “we don’t have the votes,” “we have to pay for it” — is proof of selling out. Trump bashes NBC News as ‘Fake News’ on Twitter
.. He wore the animosity of his colleagues, including the GOP leadership, like a badge of honor. He was the leader of the insurrectionists. He had only one problem: He talked like a creature of the establishment — largely because the Princeton- and Harvard-trained former Supreme Court clerk and career politician was one. He knew the lyrics to every populist fight song, but he couldn’t carry the tune.
..But not only did Donald Trump jump into the fray at the height of populist fervor, the field was also divided 17 ways. No one spoke less like a politician. No one who understood how governing works would have promised the things Trump promised —
- health coverage for all, for less money,
- eliminate the debt,
- bring all those jobs back, etc. —
because they’d either know or care that such things are literally impossible.
.. The establishment remains the villain and Trump the hero for his willingness to say or tweet things that make all the right people angry. For his most ardent supporters, the fault for his legislative failures lies entirely with the swamp, the establishment, or the “Deep State.”
.. he most important factor was Moore’s demonization of the establishment, particularly Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. The voters valued sticking their thumbs in the establishment’s eye more than giving Trump a win.
.. there is remarkably little intellectual or ideological substance to the current populist fever. Strange was more conservative than Moore but less bombastic. Moore opposed Obamacare repeal and, until recently, couldn’t say what DACA was. In other words, MAGA populism is less of an agenda and more of a mood.
Making Ignorance Great Again
Donald Trump just took us out of the Paris climate accord for no good reason. I don’t mean that his decision was wrong. I mean, literally, that he didn’t offer any substantive justification for that decision. Oh, he threw around a few numbers about supposed job losses, but nobody believes that he knows or cares where those numbers came from. It was just what he felt like doing.
.. today’s G.O.P. doesn’t do substance; it doesn’t assemble evidence, or do analysis to formulate or even to justify its policy positions. Facts and hard thinking aren’t wanted, and anyone who tries to bring such things into the discussion is the enemy.
.. So how did the administration respond? By trying to shoot the messenger. Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, attacked the C.B.O.
.. He also accused the office — headed by a former Bush administration economist chosen by Republicans — of political bias, and smeared its top health expert in particular.
.. Mulvaney and his party don’t study issues, they just decide, and attack the motives of anyone who questions their decisions.
.. they insist that the private sector is infinitely flexible and innovative; the magic of the marketplace can solve all problems. But then they claim that these magical markets would roll over and die if we put a modest price on carbon emissions
.. Can you think of any major policy area where the G.O.P. hasn’t gone post-truth?
.. bear in mind that so far Trump hasn’t faced a single crisis not of his own making. As George Orwell noted many years ago in his essay “In Front of Your Nose,” people can indeed talk nonsense for a very long time, without paying an obvious price. But “sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”
Trump is looking more and more like a man without a plan
“Sounds like you’re applying the standards and the policy that the Obama administration put forward,” CBS News’s Major Garrett observed when Sessions finished his statement. “Are you taking any additional steps?”
“Well, that’s a good question,” Sessions replied. And the answer, apparently, is “no.”
Such policy anticlimaxes are becoming routine in Trump world. Tough rhetoric, big promises — and no substance. Trump looks more and more like a man without a plan.
.. During the campaign, he said he had a secret plan to defeat the Islamic State. He said he had a “foolproof” plan of “defeating them quickly and effectively and having total victory.” Now, it turns out, he has no plan. He has asked the Pentagon to create one. “We will figure something out,” he said last week.
.. During the campaign, Trump boldly vowed that he would eliminate the U.S. debt
.. He then said he would cut the debt in half. But when CNBC’s Eamon Javers asked about whether Trump would allow tax reform to add to the deficit (and therefore the debt), Spicer said it was “really early” to be raising such questions
.. How presumptuous to expect Trump, after campaigning on historic tax reform, actually to have a proposal!