With a partial government shutdown looming on Friday, one of Donald Trump’s top aides, Stephen Miller, said that the administration will do “whatever is necessary to build the border wall,” including shutting down the government.
“We’re going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration,” Miller, a well-known immigration hard-liner, said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Asked by interviewer Margaret Brennan whether that meant forcing a partial government shutdown, Miller replied, “If it comes to it, absolutely.”
Trump, who said in an Oval Office meeting with Democratic leaders Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi that he would be “proud” to shut down the government over the Christmas holidays, sees an opportunity to frame the illegal immigration issue to the disadvantage of Democrats.
Miller called the dispute “a very fundamental issue.”
“At stake is the question of whether or not the United States remains a sovereign country. Whether or not we can establish and enforce rules for entrance into our country.”
“The Democrat Party has a simple choice, they can either choose to fight for America’s working class or to promote illegal immigration,” Miller argued. “You can’t do both.”
For their part, Democrats are gleeful that Trump will be blamed for the shutdown.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the no. 2 Senate Democrat, said on ABC that whether or not the shutdown happens rides on Trump taking one of those offers, and that he’s not optimistic.
“It’s up to the president to accept this,’’ Durbin said. “I don’t think he will, but for the good of the country, I hope he does.’’
“Blame” for a shutdown 23 months from the next election is irrelevant. Nervous GOP lawmakers on the Hill fret about it, but know by now that Trump is marching to his own drummer.
“The odds are 65/35 we’re shutting down. I’m not optimistic we’re going to see some kind of compromise on appropriations on Homeland Security,” said Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.), the freshman representative to the GOP leadership team. “I don’t see that they’re going to get done bickering.”
“Trump will get the blame, but he won’t care,” added a second GOP lawmaker. “And the base will love him for it.”
Trump doesn’t care because he’s playing an entirely different game than Congress. If Trump is to have any chance at all of winning in 2020, it won’t be by attracting Democratic voters — almost 90% of whom want to see him impeached — or even many independents. Trump is playing directly to his base of supporters who, as Rep. Mitchell points out, will cheer a government shutdown if it occurs because of the president’s insistence his border wall be funded.
We should expect Trump to play almost exclusively to his base of supporters for the next two years. Their energy, anger, and fear will spell the difference between victory and defeat for the president, and he won’t let any opportunity pass by that will aid him in that effort.