Donald Trump is a firebrand, and many Americans fear he is mentally unstable. He has a devoted fan base, but an extremely influential group of devoted enemies. The president does best when he can shame his enemies by fulfilling the broken promises of those who came before him. On Friday, he may have found the secret sauce to apply this strategy to the current border wall-shutdown battle.
First, the president set the scene, describing the “Humanitarian Crisis at our Southern Border. I just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion!”
Then the president sprinkled in some invective: “The Democrats, Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy don’t know how bad and dangerous it is for our ENTIRE COUNTRY….”
Humanitarian Crisis at our Southern Border. I just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion! I have been there numerous times – The Democrats, Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy don’t know how bad and dangerous it is for our ENTIRE COUNTRY….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2019
Rather than just leaving the invective, however, Trump employed it to shame the Democrats — and previous presidents and Congresses.
“The Steel Barrier, or Wall, should have been built by previous administrations long ago,” he tweeted. “They never got it done – I will.”
Then he concluded by describing what will happen without the wall. “Without it, our Country cannot be safe. Criminals, Gangs, Human Traffickers, Drugs & so much other big trouble can easily pour in. It can be stopped cold!”
…The Steel Barrier, or Wall, should have been built by previous administrations long ago. They never got it done – I will. Without it, our Country cannot be safe. Criminals, Gangs, Human Traffickers, Drugs & so much other big trouble can easily pour in. It can be stopped cold!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2019
As a Trump skeptic and a wall skeptic, I don’t think the border wall is an adequate solution to the immigration crisis. But I do think Trump won in 2016 in part because he promised the wall. This means he should have asked Congress for the money in 2017, but it seems he has picked this fight in order to shame the incoming Democratic Congress.
This strategy seemed ill-advised, but now Democrats have presented three incompatible ideas: 1- “We support border security, even an extension of fencing”; 2 – “We oppose a wall because it won’t work”; 3 – “This is a manufactured crisis.”
If Democrats support fencing, why not a strong fence all along the border? If Democrats think a wall won’t work, why support fencing? If Democrats want to solve border security issues, how is this a “manufactured crisis”? Trump is using hyperbole on this issue, but Democrats are making fools of themselves.
Some Democrats have gone so far as to suggest a wall is pointless because illegal immigrants could take the immense time and effort to dig tunnels beneath it. Others have suggested that walls themselves are inherently immoral. The new Democrat governor of the most populous state in the union — California — has even proposed expanding illegal immigrants’ access to government health care.
It seems the Democratic Party is drowning in Trump derangement syndrome. In this context, all Trump needs to do to win is convince the American people that Congress and previous administrations should have built his wall years, or even decades, ago. He can be the voice of reason and fulfill broken promises.
The strange thing is, that’s a very strong argument. Previous Congresses have passed bills directing funds to large fences along the border. These fences have arguably failed to achieve the goal of securing the border, and the fences were not built to the extent that Congress originally stipulated. The work fell short.
Trump may not convince Americans that they should adopt an entirely new project, but he very well may convince them that he can fulfill the broken promises of previous politicians.
The president has done this twice before. In 2016, Trump won on the promise that he would nominate Originalist judges to the Supreme Court. He has delivered on that promise, better than some previous Republican presidents. Since the Supreme Court’s job is to uphold the Constitution, this represents a return to the Court’s original purpose after decades of political activism.
Similarly, Trump promised to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, formally marking that city as the capital of the Jewish state. Previous presidents had made the same promise, and never followed through. Trump delivered.
I fulfilled my campaign promise – others didn’t! pic.twitter.com/bYdaOHmPVJ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2017
If Trump frames building the wall the same way — as the fulfillment of border security long promised and never delivered — he may be able to shame the Democrats into caving. At the very least, he should be able to convince the American people that the true obstacle to progress on a longterm American need is the Democratic Party, not President Donald Trump.
Whatever the president does, he should not overstep the Constitution by declaring a national emergency to force funding on the wall. Congress, not the president alone, has the power of the purse. The ball should remain in the Democrats’ court, and Trump should shame them until they can take it no longer.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.