The news that the Trump administration will raid $3.6 billion from 127 different military construction projects for the border wall is a disturbing indictment of this administration’s priorities. As lawmakers and observers speak out in opposition and call for specific details about the projects to be raided, it’s worth reflecting on the larger context and implications of the news.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Raiding military projects for the border wall and Trump’s obsession with building it are a perfect encapsulation of the Trump presidency. It reflects his autocratic approach to governance, racist and xenophobic political motivations, and reliance on flat-out mendacity. This is not a policy discussion worthy of a serious debate. Rather, it is a presidential middle finger to brown people that will go forward because Republicans in Congress choose to coddle rather than confront their divisive and reckless leader.
Below are four reasons that the border wall storyline and latest news on the subject are the perfect encapsulation of Trump’s presidency
- Authoritarian and anti-democratic: The news that Trump will steal from military budgets for the wall comes after a series of congressional debates and an entire government shutdown over the border wall. Trump and the pro-wall forces lost, fair and square. Now he’s subverting the will of the legislative branch and circumventing the constitutional primacy of Congress with regard to the power of the purse in order to build his vanity project. This is authoritarianism, not democracy. Trump has effectively sidelined and ignored the legislative branch of government, and Republicans are not fighting back.
- Obsessed with all the wrong priorities. Trump is obsessed with the border wall and immigrants as the greatest threat to our national security, including, per the Washington Post, unlawfully dangling pardons to those who would ignore the law and aid its construction. The wall is an idea in search of a policy justification. Meanwhile, the looming international economic crisis, deadly hurricanes and missile-launching dictators get a pass.
- Racist politics driving the border wall obsession. Remember, the entire border wall focus started not as a policy memo or thinkpiece, but as a memory device for an undisciplined candidate Trump. At his early campaign rallies, Trump liked the call and response from the primary crowd to his promise to ‘build the wall’ and make Mexico pay for it (read more about where Trump’s wall obsession came from here). It’s subsequently become a debate and an idea that is inextricable from white nationalism – the wall is not a policy debate, it’s a proclamation of racial grievance and xenophobia.
- Mendacity and lies: wasn’t Mexico going to pay for the wall? Relying on his bag of ready-made lies to undermine common facts needed for democratic governance, Trump continues to insist that he’s following through on his pledge to build the wall and that Mexico is paying for it. Like most things with Trump, he’s not telling the truth (see this recent breakdown from PolitiFact on the border wall, including the assessment, “Before Trump became president, 654 miles of the nearly 2,000-mile U.S. Mexico border had primary barriers. As of today, that hasn’t increased.”)