On the one hand, the Trump government shutdown will likely reduce support for Trump among his fans. It only takes a few missed paychecks before people start to wonder if maybe they support for this grifter was a bad idea. Retirement funds are already losing value dramatically. With the majority of our food now going without inspection, it’s only a matter of time before we see deaths from food poisoning. Perhaps more powerfully, when air travel ends and the millionaires who benefit most from his presidency will rethink their investment in Trump.
And if Trump gets his funding–funding he doesn’t really want, or else he would have gotten it when he had a Republican-controlled Congress–and moved ahead on a wall (which is unlikely, given that, though he has contracted to spend about 90% of funds currently dedicated to border security, most of them have not been spent, which might not sit well with Trump supporters who thought they were voted for a candidate who was prepared to start moving dirt), he’ll have to face a bunch of angry Texans who aren’t so keen on giving up their land. He’ll face challenges to his invocation of his imminent domain claims, and it’s possible he’ll provoke another Ruby Ridge-like standoff. Remember that this fall, Texas, a state with 38 electoral votes, nearly elected a charismatic, handsome, young Democrat to the Senate this year. And I think we can expect to see one of the nation’s most exciting politicians–Joaquin Castro–jump from his position as Representative to a more powerful job sometimes soon. A blue wave in Texas isn’t an impossibility at all, and images of Texas ranchers leveling rifles at federal agents there to seize their land may help that.
In short, nothing about this shutdown is good for Republicans. The one thing Trump was supposed to do for them–not negotiate, but win–he can’t do. The rest of us know that he’s shiftless and talentless and has no negotiation skills or business sense, but his followers still believe that the “Art of the Deal” is true and think that they’re watching a master in action. As their social security claims are denied and their down ballot candidates lose, maybe they’ll change their mind.
On the other hand, the suffering from the shutdown is real.
Trump’s power is that he doesn’t care about others’ suffering. If we hope to persuade him or his followers to end the shutdown because people, science, or nature is being harmed, we’re wasting our time.
So what might work?
For as shameless as he is, Trump is also very sensitive to shame. It was his embarrassment at Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh’s criticism of the obvious–that he couldn’t negotiate his way out of a paperbag (with the underlying implication that the only reason he has anything in this world is because he was born into wealth)–that prompted him not to sign an earlier budget that didn’t include $5 billion for a wall.
Any way out of this mess is going to have to address his shame. So here is what I suggest:
There can be no funding for any actual wall now. Democrats have no political incentive to fund a wall. Any funding for a wall would be like negotiating with a terrorist or a toddler. Do it once, and you’re doing it every day.
But someone might whisper in Trump’s ear that he could get a barrier between Texas and FIVE Mexican states with Democratic support. He’s look like the negotiator he claims to be and be the hero of the end of the budget standoff.
He’s just have to invest in the Rio Grande.
Above, violent gang members cross the Rio Grande to bring drugs in the US. No, wait, it’s women carrying their babies, trying to save their lives from the violence of life in Latin America and Mexico. Drugs are mostly brought in via air and truck transport. Photo by Danny Lehman/Corbis.
It’s the 4th or 5th longest river in North America, depending on how it’s measured, and it touches Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico. It’s also been decimated by agriculture. There are spots you can cross it without getting your shirt wet. And if Trump builds a wall on the US side of the border, the US cedes to the river to Mexico and makes business impossible in southern Texas. I think we can rule out building a wall in the middle of the river. And we have no authority to build a wall on the Mexican side of the river. So making the river our “wall” is really the only way to achieve Trump’s promised wall without ruining Texas’ economy.
Remediation of the river would be the kind of giant public works project that rural America has relied on. It would allow the US to showcase our best climate and agriculture scientists and geologists. It would combat western desertification and signal to the rest of the world that we have the skills to address this global problem.
Trump could sell it to his supporters as a wall with greater economic benefits to the regional economy than any steel or concrete structure. And, unlike those structures, a river can’t be blown up or sawed through or tunneled under or breached with a ladder you can buy at any Home Depot. He could call it “God’s Wall,” written on the American landscape by the Lord of Creation himself to keep Mexicans out of America. Racists love to believe that their racism is just God’s design for humanity.
And what would Democrats do? Vote against an environmental remediation project?
Above, the Rio Grande at Santa Elena Pass. Photo by John Moore.
Alternatively, Democrats could put forward this idea themselves, selling it directly to Trump voters as evidence that they are the party best equipped to address border security. Republicans keep circulating footage of Democrats arguing for a wall, supporting deportation measures, and caging kids caught at the border. (All true–Obama was our “Deporter-in-Chief.” His choice to be an immigration hawk was probably a defense against accusations that he was soft of crime, a way of appeasing an audience concerned that a black man might not care too much about protecting white hegemony. We see where that got us.) Democrats could own that, mocking claims that they support “open borders” and delivering a Rio Grande bill that packages environmental remediation, agriculture support, and green jobs with an anti-border crossing stance. Given that Trump is unable to actually govern, there will be little chance he could get anything done on this project before the next election, giving Democrats the chance to point to his ineffectiveness at getting anything done.