President Trump has invited congressional leaders to the White House for a briefing on border security, the first face-to-face session involving Republicans and Democrats as the partial government shutdown entered its second week. . . .
“Border Security and the Wall ‘thing’ and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let’s make a deal?” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
One wondrous result of the 2018 election, we will discover, is the near-total irrelevance of Trump’s tweets. He can say whatever wacky thing he wants, throw out whatever insults he pleases, but Pelosi (D-Calif.), the incoming House speaker, is not going to be thrown off track or even alarmed. She takes his tweets as confirmation he is clueless and unstable.
Of course, Pelosi would like nothing better than to demonstrate Democrats can govern and the Republican Senate cannot. (“Pelosi responded to Trump’s ‘let’s make a deal’ invitation by tweeting that the president had “given Democrats a great opportunity to show how we will govern responsibly & quickly pass our plan to end the irresponsible #TrumpShutdown — just the first sign of things to come in our new Democratic Majority committed to working #ForThePeople.”)
Pelosi has her plan ready to go: Pass a clean resolution for six of the seven appropriations bills to fund through the end of the fiscal year and the Homeland Security appropriations through Feb. 8. Trump cannot prevent her from doing it, nor can Freedom Caucus gadfly Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who declared the move a “non-starter” — as if his consent were necessary.
We’ll have to see how Pelosi manages Trump’s temper tantrums, lies and incoherence but so far the approach has been four-fold. First, engage the president publicly and correct him/fact-check him in real time. This reminds voters that Trump is not operating in the real world and his positions aren’t tethered to reality. Second, make certain Trump is on the wrong side of public opinion. In the case of the border wall and the shutdown, voters oppose both. This further diminishes Trump’s leverage and puts pressure on Republicans to split from him. Third, make clear, concise statements of policy. This gives voters a sense that she is in command while Trump blathers on for days, changing his mind and contradicting his advisers. Finally, don’t negotiate against herself. Trump, as she wisecracked, has gone from a wall to slatted fence to “a beaded curtain.” Mocking Trump and pointing out his weakness infuriate him, demoralize his cult-followers and delight her base.
None of this guarantees that Trump will govern sensibly or recognize the error(s) of his ways. To the contrary, Pelosi assumes he is unteachable. Rather, her strategy is designed to maintain Democratic unity, fracture the Republicans and demonstrate that her party is more reasonable and competent than his.
Pelosi and her fellow Democrats have one more advantage over Trump: the stock market. Even the promise of a meeting between Republicans and Democrats fueled an uptick in the Dow Jones futures market, further indication that Trump’s shenanigans (e.g., a trade war, a shutdown, attacks on the independence of the Federal Reserve chairman) harm markets, which in turn freak out Trump, prompt the Republican Party’s donors to grow anxious and, worst of all, threaten the only thing keeping him afloat, the economic recovery.
In sum, Democratic pols, progressive pundits and ordinary voters should follow Pelosi’s example. Don’t get mad. Get even — and keep pounding away at the truth. Voters can figure out between Trump and Pelosi who’s operating in the real world.