Two weeks after it started, there does not appear to be any resolution or partial resolution to the shutdown of the United States government. It is by far the longest closure of the government in memory, and one that for the moment presages the kind of government that awaits the citizens of the United States during the next two years: Fireworks and constant clashes.
At the center of the problem is the debate over financing the wall that Donald Trump proposes to erect on the border with Mexico. But the wall has become more like a metaphor for the polarized political situation in the United States. For Trump and the groups who support him, the wall is synonymous with defense and, in some part, security, and is not just a stand against immigrants in the U.S. without documentation, but against immigrants in general and the social and economic changes that they bring.
For Trump’s critics, the wall has racist, authoritarian and regressive implications. “It’s the line he uses at rallies; it’s simple. Of course it’s inefficient, but it’s a great theme for the president,” said Charlie Sykes, commentator on MSNBC, underlining how the conservative response helps to harden Trump’s position.
The situation is similar on the Democratic side, where they began the year with the recently-conquered majority in the House, and with what they consider a mandate to oppose Trump and his measures to the last. In other words, there doesn’t appear to be the space or the will for negotiation.
In fact, the Democrats have accused Trump of rejecting proposals that included financing for border security, but not the $5.6 billion that the president is demanding for a wall that is expected to cost more than $25 billion and is considered to be crude, ineffective and beyond the bounds of the immigration and security that he is trying to address. It can be undoubtedly argued that Trump obeys what he hears from the extreme right that supports him, while the Democrats obey what they hear from the liberal base and the ethnic minorities that make up their coalition.
The fact is, what is happening is a brutal struggle between the executive branch and a body of the legislative branch that has all the power of the purse, that is, power to approve or reject the spending that the executive proposes. What is occurring is a clash that goes from personalities to the support that the other side views as extreme.
To further complicate things, the panorama includes the real beginning of the 2020 presidential campaign, in which Trump will seek re-election based on issues as divisive as the wall. The response of the Democrats is predictable: Opposition at all costs.
The winner will be the one who is less irritating to the voters of the United States.