He’s Not Interested in Good Policy; He’s Only Interested in 2020 Politics
Below is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is against it. Businesses across the country and in Texas are against it. Farmers are against it, too. White House staff are scrambling to derail or at least minimize it. Some reporting suggests the Trump White House may be stepping back from the threat.
Don’t believe it. Trump is going to shut down the border. Somehow, someway and soon.
Why are we so sure? Because Trump isn’t interested in policy solutions, he’s interested in reinforcing his brand. He isn’t interested in a multipronged strategy that will work, he’s interested in a rally chant that will connect. He isn’t interested in sizing up a complex challenge intelligently, he’s interested in dumbing it down so he can repeat his mantra ad nauseum. He’s not interested in Congressional action this year, he’s interested in winning reelection next year.
Trump has been clear: border security vs. open borders — as he defines it — will be a central theme of his 2020 campaign. He thinks he won in in 2016 in large part because of it. He likes that it allows him to play the tough guy who demonizes brown people. He thinks he’s smarter than all the political professionals and pundits who say it’s backfiring. And he thinks if he just sticks with it, his relentlessness will be rewarded with victory.
Let us recall. Few thought sending the troops to the border would accomplish anything and military leaders objected, and yet he went ahead with his showy and unprecedented move. His caravan-obsessed racial incitement in the run up to the 2018 midterms clearly hurt the GOP more than it helped, and yet he rode xenophobia across the finish line on Election Day and declared victory despite all the evidence of defeat. His call-and-response of “build the wall” wasn’t just a rally chant, it became the basis of the longest shutdown in American history. The nearly universal Republican opposition before he declared a national emergency for his border wall didn’t stop him from going right ahead and seizing funds and power. And most Republicans then did what they almost always do: they fell in line.
So what makes observers think that he’s just bluffing when he threatens to shut down the border? Of course it’s terrible policy, thoroughly ineffective and economically disastrous. But he isn’t interested in consequences. He wants rally riffs in 2020 about how “I shut down the border” right after he claims “we’re building the wall” and “we sent our brave troops to the border” and we would have solved the problem except “the Democrats are pro-open borders and pro-crime.”
It’s almost as if much of the reporting and commentary is guilty of a category error. Most of the reporting and analysis deals with Trump and his administration as policymakers. In fact, it’s more accurate to see Trump and team as hustlers bent on closing a big deal in 2020. He doesn’t care much about the former, unless it has something to do with the latter.
So, we’re going to go there. Trump is going to find a way to shut the border. It will be roundly criticized as bad policy. And he will enjoy the story as the price to pay to cynically shape the 2020 battlefield.
Get ready for a border shutdown, folks. And get ready for a “Shut it Down” chant to be a regular feature of his 2020 rallies.