A Wall, a Shutdown and a Stalemate

The shutdown has temporarily been put on hold for three weeks but the stalemate over the wall remains, due to Trump’s resolve not to renege on a campaign promise.

The consequences of the partial government shutdown have taken on surreal proportions. With unpaid bills and rents, threats of eviction, debts piling up, entire sectors of the economy stalled, and tourism down, many more than the 800,000 federal workers working without pay have been affected. The ripple effects are enormous. There is no American delegation at the World Economic Forum and the State of the Union address is postponed. In New York, LaGuardia Airport had to stagger plane landings because of an unusually high rate of absenteeism among those who are supposed to work without pay. At the origin of all this disorder are the slippery negotiations in Congress over the $5.7 billion that Donald Trump is demanding for the wall he wants to build between the United States and Mexico. Democrats resist. Trump insists. Chaos persists. The partial compromise reached on Friday, Jan. 25 – a temporary reopening of the federal government for three weeks – is a small truce, a breather. It does not, however, resolve the underlying problem. Negotiations still collide with the wall.

This shutdown has raged on since Dec. 22. It is the longest in American history. It has created a deplorable image of today’s America, a country deprived of a budget bill. Its cost has surpassed that of the wall. It has been the object of a violent war of nerves between the president and Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the third most important person in American politics. And it could reappear beginning Feb. 15. Trump wants his wall. All he appears ready to do is exchange concrete for steel and make vague concessions concerning illegal immigrants already on U.S. soil. That is insufficient for the Democrats, who refuse to sell their souls to the devil. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been taken hostage and made victims of an extreme political polarization that is ever more harmful to the functioning of democracy. As far as confrontational politics are concerned, Trump, inclined to listen only to himself, certainly has a knack for it, except that when the president sneezes in this way, the entire country gets sick.

The stalemate has gone on too long. This wall is not only immoral; it would above all be ineffective. Authorities in America’s main border towns, confronted with the reality of the land, are the first to say so. Now, here’s the reality: Trump’s stubbornness comes more from his ego than from any real belief in the wall’s effectiveness. He clings to his wall for dear life because he made it one of his campaign promises. Now that he is caught in his own trap, he does not want to lose face. He is ready to unleash chaos across an entire country, far beyond the federal employees for whom he has little regard. It is impossible to govern with symbols and deceptive promises.

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