House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats have left themselves no fallback position. And that’s why they will lose.
Compromise. It’s a word President Trump used several times yesterday. He is open to compromise. In this case, that means something short of the $5 billion he wants for a border wall. He’s open to taking less, perhaps in exchange for not applying the law to younger illegal immigrants. This is clearly the easiest way out of the current debacle. But it is something the Democrats, led by “No Wall” Nancy Pelosi, have said they will never support.
This is a problem. Democrats have backed themselves up against a, well, a wall. They have created a situation in which if they give even one dollar to Trump to build a wall, or fence, steel barrier, or whatever, they have lost the political fight. Pelosi, the great speaker of the House who gets things done, has left herself no leverage to get anything done. She could ask for almost anything in exchange for wall funding, but instead, she won’t budge.
Trump is channeling his inner Michael Corleone and telling Democrats that his offer is this: nothing, not even the price of the border wall, which he would appreciate Pelosi appropriating. So here we are.
We all like to knock and mock Trump’s braggadocio claims that he is the best negotiator ever. But in this case, he really has outflanked his opponents. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have painted themselves into a corner. They have said, “No funding for a wall.” They say this despite the fact that they have supported barrier funding in the past. So in essence they have given themselves no fallback position.
The Democrats have made this a zero-sum game. If Trump gets any money for the wall, he wins. That’s a really fantastic position for him. He can go on TV, whether in a controversial network roadblock or an appearance on the southern border, and say, “Hey, I’m up for a compromise.” Meanwhile, Chuck and Nancy have to slam the door shut on getting 800,000 federal employees back to work.
A president always has an advantage in a government shutdown. The executive branch speaks with a single voice, while Congress is divided between parties. Trump is clearly pointing to and offering a solution. The House Democrats aren’t. And their intransigence is highlighted by the fact that Republican members of Congress are calling them out.
The simplest and best solution to the current crises is for Democrats to give Trump a few billion dollars for the wall, get something back on minors illegally transported across the border, and then we all move on. But the new Democratic leadership has decided this can’t happen. They have drawn a line in the sand, “and across this line you will not…”
So here we are. What reason does President Trump possibly have to cave? You could point to the legitimately troubling stories of federal employees unable to pay the rent, as major networks have done, but as troubling as those stories are, can we really place the blame squarely on the one person who is open for a compromise?
Pelosi, perhaps feeling a bit bullied by leftists like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, made a grand announcement that there will be no compromise on the wall. Okay. Then what? Trump said he was willing to own the shutdown, and maybe he does, but what he took ownership of was a situation in which Democrats refuse to act. It accrues to his advantage.
If the government shutdown ends in the near future, which it well may not, it will only be because the Democrats fold on wall funding. There is no other way out. Pelosi made this a do or die situation. In all likelihood Trump will be willing to keep the government shutdown for the rest of his presidency. Is Pelosi up for that?
I tend to think she is not up. In fact, one problem Democrats face in a shutdown is that if the government gets shut down in the forest and nobody notices, does it make a sound? That is to say, maybe people will think, huh, perhaps the federal government is too big after all. And wouldn’t conservatives rejoice at that?
Pelosi will have to fold here. There is no benefit to Trump for folding, and plenty of benefit for her. She played it wrong. Fair enough: she can live to fight another day, but this time, on this fight, Trump is beating her soundly and will get his wall funding. It’s only a matter of time.