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After a Speech that Fell Flat, the Real Crisis is in the White House and in the Republican Congress, Not at the Border

 

After last night’s dark, unpersuasive, and unhinged Oval Office speech from President Trump, it’s clear: the real crisis is in the White House, not at the border. Consider this:

  • Only 25 percent of Americans support shutting down the government until Congress approves funding the border wall and only 35 percent support including wall funding in a congressional spending bill according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. 51 percent blame Trump, 7 percent blame congressional Republicans, and 32 percent blame congressional Democrats.
  • In a Vox piece titled, “‘Immigrants are coming over the border to kill you’ is the only speech Trump knows how to give,” Dara Lind notes, “His central argument is that there is a crisis of immigrants coming across the border to kill you — the exact same argument he has been making, and the exact same supposed crisis, for three and a half years. The question he didn’t answer: Why on earth, if the crisis has been that bad for so long, is now the moment of exceptional emergency?”
  • In a piece for The Atlantic titled “Trump’s Oval Office Address Was Classic Stephen Miller,” McKay Coppins writes, “In setting the stage for Trump’s prime-time address, White House officials had insisted that the president was making a good-faith effort to win over skeptics of his border-wall proposal and get the government reopened. But the speech he ended up giving was not calibrated for persuasion. It was, by and large, dark, divisive, and shot through with the kind of calculated provocation that rallies the president’s fans and riles his enemies. It was, in other words, classic Stephen Miller.”
  • Members of Congress from border districts are universal in opposing a border wall and GOP elected officials are starting to break ranks. A CBS News piece, titled, “Every congressperson along southern border opposes border wall funding,” captures that elected officials closest to the border recognize the absurdity, offensive nature, and wastefulness of the wall and related shutdown. As Republican Rep. Will Hurd of Texas said last night, “I was just on the border. If something is a crisis why are you not paying the people that are taking care of the crisis?”
  • A growing number of House and Senate Republicans are starting to break ranks and seek a way out of the corner Trump has painted himself into. Peter Baker of the New York Times describes Senate Republicans as “increasingly anxious” and notes there are now “five Republican senators” who have called for an end to the shutdown, “which if combined with a unanimous Democratic caucus would make a majority to reopen the government if Mr. McConnell were to allow a vote.”
  • A sharp new analysis from Dave Weigel of the Washington Post captures that Democrats feel confident in the politics of immigration in general and the shutdown in particular. Weigel highlights four reasons:
    • Polling: “Attaching the shutdown to the wall made an already unpopular policy even less popular,” Democratic pollster Nick Gourevitch pointed out this morning;
    • The 2018 election: “For Democrats, that election reset the politics of immigration, with a near-perfect test for how the perception of a border “crisis” would change voter perception. In the closing weeks, the president and Republican campaign groups attempted to make the election a referendum on the humanitarian “migrant caravan” moving from Central America toward the border, designed as a way for thousands of people fleeing their countries to travel safely and then seek asylum … in most of the country, the issue fell flat or backfired, and that experience is seared in the memory of newly elected Democrats.”
    • Trump’s border visit: “The president’s plan to visit the border and bring attention to the issue doesn’t rattle Democrats either, for a simple reason: They believe the White House is vulnerable on the family separation issue  … the White House’s attempts to highlight a crisis on the border are complicated by what Democrats have already spotlighted — a stream of migrants that the Trump administration responded to with a “zero tolerance” policy of separating families.”
    • The President’s speech: “It is incredibly hard to find a Democrat who’s worried about Trump using the media powers of his office to move public opinion anymore, especially on immigration.”
  • Weigel also tweeted about the results and implications of a special election for a Virginia State Senate seat to fill the seat made vacant by the House win of Rep. Jennifer Wexler. Weigel tweets: “Democrats have won the special election for Virginia’s #SD33, vacated by Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va). Dem margin in that seat since 2011: 2011: D +8.2’ 2014: D +15.2;  2015: D +13.4; 2019: D +39.6,” and further notes, “Day 17 of a government shutdown is probably not a great time to be a Republican in a NoVa special election.”