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Trump and Republicans: Xenophobia Backfired in the Midterms, So Let’s Shut Down the Government Over an Unpopular Border Wall!

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“If the GOP is so worked up about border security, they should step in and protect the American people from a president at the border of insanity.”

The Trump/Republican plan to shut down the government over an unpopular, ineffective and insulting border wall is a sad reflection of the state of our politics. The President is increasingly unhinged and, instead of checking him, the GOP Congress is enabling him.

That may help to explain why they are embarking on one of the stupidest political moves in recent history: shuttering the federal government over a rally chant and an impossible promise (“Mexico will pay for the wall!”) just weeks after the nation’s voters soundly rejected the Trump/GOP embrace of racism and xenophobia as the closing argument in the midterm elections.

The consensus view from operatives and analysts right and left is that Trump’s reliance on xenophobia in the midterms backfired, badly:  

  • David Drucker of the conservative Washington Examiner noted, “Why are Dems so confident in position on border wall? 1) ‘In reviewing polling/data, GOP strategists discovered Trump’s immigration rhetoric was more damaging to House GOP during final 7-10 days of midterm campaign than they realized at the time.” Drucker also wrote, “2nd reason Dems so confident in oppo to Trump’s wall: Per GOP review of midterms: ‘POTUS’ near-singular focus on caravan/wall repelled Hispanics, indies, soft Rs, turning a race for House control that leaned Dem into a late-breaking GOP bloodbath” (read more from Drucker on how xenophobia backfired on the GOP here).
  • Republican pollster David Winston on how Republican immigration fear-mongering in the midterm homestretch backfired: “The people who made their decision over the last few days voted Democratic by a 12-point margin.” Winston’s analysis showed that late-deciding voters were 59 percent less likely to back Republicans after hearing from them on immigration, and 63 percent less likely to vote for Republicans after hearing from the GOP on border security and the migrant caravan.
  • In a post-election New York Times op-ed, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg wrote, “Democrats made big gains because Mr. Trump declared war on immigrants — and on multicultural America — and lost … Mr. Trump got more than half of Republicans to believe immigrants were a burden, but three quarters of Democrats and a large majority of independents concluded that America gains from immigration.”
  • A recent USA Today op-ed by Tyler Moran, managing director of The Immigration Hub and Nick Gourevitch, a Democratic pollster at Global Strategy Group, recapped midterm polling in Pennsylvania and Colorado: “the Trump strategy backfired with some of the exact people he tried to motivate — women and independents … aligning with Trump on immigration pushed more people away from voting Republican than attracted them — by 9 points in Pennsylvania and 16 points in Colorado. Among a key bloc of voters who supported Democrat Bob Casey in 2018 and voted for Trump in 2016, just 26 percent said Barletta’s alignment with Trump on immigration was a reason to vote for him, and a plurality believed it was a reason to vote against him. In Colorado, 65 percent of independents said Trump and Republicans are moving away from them on immigration.”
  • National Journal political columnist Josh Kraushaar tweeted regarding immigration in the midterms, “Late deciders broke decisively against the GOP. Immigration rhetoric a major factor. You’d think Rs would have learned from Gillespie 2017.” Kraushaar added “forcing a shutdown over border security such a political loser for Trump/GOP,” pointing to post-election analysis by the DCCC and summarizing, “Late deciders identified as Republicans by 16 points, but GOP lost them in the final stretch. All about immigration.”

None of these dynamics have disappeared – the border wall is broadly unpopular and the public overwhelmingly doesn’t want to shut down the government over the wall:

  • Ron Brownstein writes for CNN, in a piece entitled Trump is doubling down on his strategy that cost the GOP the House: In 10 Quinnipiac University national polls from April 2017 through August 2018, no more than 40% of Americans ever expressed support for the wall. Consistently, the share of Americans opposing construction of the wall has been much higher, from 57% to 64%. A CNN Poll conducted by SSRS that was released last week found 57% against a wall, compared with 38% in favor. Opposition to the wall is overwhelming among all the groups that moved decisively away from Trump and the GOP in last month’s election. In CNN’s poll, Trump’s border wall faced opposition from 76% of African-Americans, 66% of Latinos, 66% of adults younger than 35, 57% of independents, 66% of college-educated white voters and 56% of people aged 35 to 49.
  • According to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, “most Americans oppose risking a government shutdown over a wall, but more than two-thirds (69 percent) do not believe building a wall should even be an immediate priority for Congress. That includes half who do not believe it should be a priority at all. More than a quarter (28 percent) believe it should be an immediate priority, including 63 percent of Republicans. Immigration is a cultural touchstone issue that Trump used to fuel his campaign. It’s an issue that has energized his supporters…and helped move independents largely toward Democrats’ positions on the subject.
  • A Politico/Morning Consult poll this week finds that voters would blame Trump and Congressional Republicans for a shutdown and that, by a 55-31% margin, reject the idea that a border wall would be worth shutting down the government for.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

What a stunning and stupid ploy by Trump and the GOP. Republicans are enabling an unhinged President desperate to please conservative media barkers, all at the expense of the strongly-held majority will of the American people.

Perhaps they noticed that the nation’s voters had a chance to weigh in just weeks ago, and soundly rejected Trump’s xenophobia. Perhaps they have seen the polling that shows strong majorities of the public — and a third of Republican voters — are opposed to this shutdown move.

If the GOP is so worked up about border security, they should step in and protect the American people from a president at the border of insanity.