With 800,000 government workers still without pay, and the alt-right continuing to back Trump ideologically, Phil Quin says wall or no wall, it was never about concrete and steel anyway, but blood and soil.
At one level, the US government shutdown is a criminally easy problem to solve. After all, Donald Trump only wants US$5.7 billion to commence his border wall: a rounding error in the context of the federal budget.
Democrats clearly have the upper hand, so you could argue now is the time for them to compromise on the wall in return for major concessions on immigration policy. This could include a long term fix that would protect 600000 immigrants who were brought illegally into the United States as children.
If it were up to hardliners in the Trump Administration, they would face extradition in short order. Resolving this Injustice by granting this cohort, commonly known as DREAMers, the right to work, along with a path to citizenship, would give Democrats considerable bragging rights. Given that, you might expect them to regard US$5.7 billion a small price tag for such a substantive and high profile policy and political victory.
Trump himself clearly thought as much, offering House Democrats a compromise to reopen the government that included a partial solution for DREAMers – in effect, a three year stay of extradition. But Democrats aren’t budging, and the shutdown looks certain to enter its second month with little or no prospect for resolution on the horizon.
A shortcut to understanding the Democratic Party’s reluctance to play ball with Donald Trump on immigration would be to cast your eyes on the viral video and images of Catholic prep school boys in Make America Great Again caps taunting a Native American elder with chants of “build the wall” during an anti abortion rally in Washington DC over the weekend.
How are the two related?
Well, the episode underscores how the wall has nothing really, or not much, to do with immigration. If it had, why on earth would it be the go-to rant of fascist adolescents hellbent on disrespecting an American whose claim to the country exceed their own by a thousand years?
The wall is white supremacy, stonecast. Its purpose is not to stop the flow of illegal immigration as much as the arc of progress.
Literally and figuratively a line in the sand, the wall promises a restoration of white hegemony against the forces of liberalism, pluralism, and perceived “political correctness”.
It won’t work. It doesn’t stop undocumented migrants, the vast majority of whom enter via legal ports of entry. Likewise, narcotics and the slave trade. People close to the action, including congressional representatives from both sides of the aisle who represent border communities, know full well the wall is nothing but a pristinely white elephant.
They get that demography is destiny, and it’s slipping through the hands of the MAGA crowd. In the unlikely event it is ever erected, less than a generation will pass before tomorrow’s politicians make its demolition a campaign centrepiece. The bombastic chants, time will tell, are a death rattle.
That’s why the Democrats can’t agree to fund the wall in order to bring the longest ever government shutdown to a close. To stand clearly against Trump’s reactionary, racialised worldview, the Democratic Party can’t pick up the tab for his preferred iconography.
It helps in no small measure that polls indicate voters blame Trump over the Democrats for the government shutdown by around 20 points. The new (if recycled) House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi is even outpolling the President, despite decades’ of Republican ads painting her as a dangerously left wing San Francisco liberal.
And both sides know by now, the longer this drags on, the worse for him politically. Without resolution by Tuesday, 800,000 federal workers will miss out on a second paycheck.
The resulting hardship will soon enough trigger sufficient public outrage to force a back down one way or the other.
Alternatively, Trump may yet declare a national emergency in order to unlock funds for the wall, and use the inevitable and, protracted legal action as a way to reopen government without admitting defeat.
There will be no 2,000 mile border wall. Will it matter? There are plenty of smart commentators around who believe Trump can’t withstand the political backlash from failing to build the wall. I disagree. I don’t think his voters will care much at all, as long as he continues to fling fresh cuts of red meat in their direction.
It was never about concrete and steel anyway, but blood and soil.