We find it hard to believe President Trump’s Tuesday night speech is going to convert any skeptics to his wall-building cause. Much has been made — under the “nothing else matters” rubric — of Trump followers' willingness to disbelieve facts, rationalize his conduct and maintain their undiluted adoration for him. The flip side of that, however, is that a large majority of voters — much larger than Trump’s base — is equally convinced that he is a liar. You don’t need to be a polling guru to know that results in a lopsided defeat, precisely what we saw in the midterm elections.
When it comes to the border wall, a high percentage of Americans remain convinced that we don’t need it. Reuters released a poll in advance of the president’s speech underscoring the president’s problem. “The national opinion poll, which ran from Jan. 1 to Jan. 7, found that 51 percent of adults believe Trump ‘deserves most of the blame’ for the shutdown, which entered its 18th day on Tuesday. That is up 4 percentage points from a similar poll that ran from Dec. 21 to 25.” Meanwhile, only 32 percent blame Democrats and 7 percent blame congressional Republicans. Add that together and 58 percent blame Republicans, 32 percent Democrats.
Even worse, Trump seems to be having a negative impact on support for a less-draconian measure. (“The poll found that 41 percent of the public supports building additional border fencing, down 12 points from a similar poll that ran in the first week of 2015, as opposition doubled among Democrats.”) It gets worse from there: “It also found that only 35 percent of adults in the United States support a congressional spending bill that includes funding for the wall, and 25 percent support Trump’s decision to keep the government closed until Congress approves funding for the wall.”
How did the president get in the position of doubling down on such an unpopular stance? It is what comes from believing that Sean Hannity is representative of the average American, as well as from spouting fake statistics over and over again — even after they’ve been repeatedly debunked.
Trump’s obsession with the mainstream media works two ways. He uses it as a punching bag to deflect from his own mistakes and bad results. He never learns from mistakes. However, in refusing to believe mainstream news reports and polling, no matter how solid the data, he winds up flying blind a good deal of the time. He simply won’t believe the wall is unpopular or that he lost the House in a wipe-out, in large part, because many voters have come to distrust him and recoil from his appeals to nativism.
The one group of people who do pay attention to real news and accurate polling is incumbents facing the voters in the near future. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), to pick two vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in 2020, are under no illusion that either the wall or the partial government shutdown is popular. They cannot afford to bury their heads in the sand and pretend the president is “winning.”
In sum, Trump probably lost this fight a long time ago — right around the time he dishonestly hyped the migrant caravan as part of a pre-election stunt. After that, no one but his own hardcore followers were going to believe much of anything he had to say on immigration.