By a double-digit margin, 54 percent to 29 percent, those surveyed in a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll say they oppose the shutdown that President Trump has threatened if Congress doesn't agree to his demand for $5 billion in funding for a border wall.Who would bear the blame?By nearly 2-1, Americans would blame Trump and the Republicans, not congressional Democrats. Forty-three percent would blame the president and the GOP, while 24 percent would hold congressional Democrats responsible. Thirty percent would blame both sides equally responsible.
For each of the recent shutdowns — Republicans' 2013 effort to repeal Obamacare and the Democratic effort in January 2018 on behalf of “dreamers” — the party trying to leverage the shutdown lost, had to retreat and got nothing for its efforts. This potential shutdown is even dumber than previous attempts for a couple of reasons.
First, it comes after a midterm rout of the president’s party and during a lame-duck session in which dozens of retiring members might not even show up for votes. Bringing on a shutdown that not even his own congressional allies favor would vividly reflect the president’s extreme political isolation.
Moreover, in 2013, Obamacare was still unpopular according to every poll; in January (as it is today), relief for the dreamers was overwhelmingly popular. So even in situations when the public might otherwise agree with the policy objective of those spoiling for a fight, the public opposed the shutdown. Here, the wall is unpopular with the public at large, who have figured out it is useless, exorbitantly expensive and counterproductive (in antagonizing Mexico, whose assistance we need for border security; diverting resources from more effective border control methods; and incentivizing casual day laborers to remain here permanently).
In the context of the caravan, the wall makes even less sense. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) points out that Miller’s defense of the wall is “idiotic.” “I’m all for border security,” he said, pointing out that we have a net outflow of immigrants on the border. In accordance with U.S. law governing asylum, they have “turned themselves in,” Smith said. Building a wall will not stop them from presenting themselves with asylum claims.
Now, it is true that two-thirds of Republicans, who simply cannot bring themselves to oppose Trump on anything no matter what, favor a shutdown stunt. Trump, it seems, learned nothing from the election in which his party was thrashed everywhere outside the Trump cult. Trump knows nothing but how to double down on his losing strategy of pumping up the base with rhetoric and shenanigans that narrow the party’s base of support.
It’s far from clear how Trump is going to get out of the corner he is painting himself into. Republicans in the past have refused to put legislation that had bipartisan approval on the floor for fear of offending Trump and inviting a veto. With Trump out on a political limb, Democrats sure aren’t going to bargain against themselves. (They have given the president the option of funding border security at $1.3 billion, or passing the noncontroversial items to keep funding the government and return in January, or whenever, to fight about the border wall.)
The most likely outcome, pathetic as it may be, is another continuing resolution to kick all of this over to the new Congress. Republicans are so inept at governance that I suspect they’d rather hand the problem to Democrats who will be in power in January than deal with it themselves. Isn’t that an advertisement for throwing out the Republican Senate majority and Republican president in 2020?