America’s president again upped the ante yesterday morning by threatening to close the border with Mexico if he does not receive the billions he demands for his famous wall. This is a losing game, since far from producing the result he expects, the government paralysis his administration has caused is beginning to turn on him.
Like a desperate gambler trying to win back his losses with one throw of the dice, Donald Trump has been upping the ante all week long.
“[I]f you don’t have that, then we’re just not opening,” he declared on Christmas regarding the shutdown which has partially paralyzed the government since Saturday, Dec. 22.
Upon seeing that his threats were ineffective, he resorted to his old border obsessions of drugs, gangs and other criminals, after his return from Iraq on Thursday, Dec. 27.
He was unsuccessful. The Senate went on recess the same day, right behind the House of Representatives, making a vote before 2019 unlikely.
Alone in Washington, the president fell back on Twitter. Besides closing the border, he threatened to cease free trade with Mexico and to cut American aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, all with the insinuation that a new migrant caravan was forming.
This is a far cry from the assurance of the president who, at the beginning of December, pronounced himself “proud to shut down the government,” promising not to blame Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi for this move. And blaming Pelosi is exactly what the White House tried so hard to do on Dec. 28.
The Democratic congresswoman, however, refuses to compromise with the president for fear of losing the necessary votes to become House speaker, according to White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and press secretary Sarah Sanders.* It remains to be seen whether things will move in the opposite direction.
Will withholding funds for the government result in Congress giving in on the border wall? After more than a week of fruitless gridlock with no end in sight for another two weeks, Trump’s bet seems more and more risky.
At this point, polls indicate that most Americans blame the Trump administration for the situation.
Is this any wonder? Currently some 800,000 government workers are being deprived of their salaries for an indefinite period, right during the holiday season. They have families, friends and social networks with whom they share their fears of not being able to pay for their mortgages, medications and groceries. Even if some of them support the wall, they never asked to pay for it themselves.
Possible compromises for this predicament have been proposed around Washington in recent days. One compromise is the least expensive option, and involves a “barrier” or even a “fence.” We will see.
Trump has pushed himself back against his own wall. Until public opinion changes and comes to consider the Democrats equally responsible for the impasse, no one has any reason to pull him away from it.
*Editor’s note: Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives on Jan. 3, 2019.