‘Bye Bye’ Wall? Funding Fight is About Politics, Not Money

The 2018-19 government shutdown isn’t the longest on record…yet. However, if the most recent meeting with President Trump and Democrats is an indicator, it’ll likely go down as a record breaker. Both sides appear unwilling to budge, with Trump still demanding billions for his border wall and Democrats refusing to cut the checks.

Apparently, Trump stormed out of the most recent meeting with Democrats, telling them “bye bye” right before exiting. Trump later recounted a similar story on Twitter:

Let’s make this clear, however: it’s not about money, it’s about politics. While $5.6 billion (what Trump requested to build his wall) is nothing to sneeze at, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a lot either. According to Wikipedia, that $5.7 billion amounts to just .11 percent of federal spending.

So what’s the deal? Politics. Trump has been promising a border wall since his time on the campaign trail back in 2016. Yet despite Trump’s claims that building a wall would be easy, so far little progress has been made.

So why are Democrats so unwilling to budge? As is often the case in politics, polls come into play. 54 percent of Americans oppose the wall while only 43 percent support it. Worse yet for Trump, 62 percent of Americans oppose shutting down the government over border wall funding. And perhaps most importantly, 51 percent of Americans would blame Trump and Republicans, while only 37 percent would blame Democrats in Congress.

In other words, if Democrats stand pat, Trump risks shouldering most of the blame for the shutdown. This would damage him politically. At the same time, if Trump caves, he may look weak, or in Trump’s own words, “foolish.”

Apparently, Trump is well aware of the potential political damage. Meeting with Democrats, Trump said: “Right now, if I did something that was foolish, like gave up on border security, the first ones that would hit me are my senators. They’d be angry at me. The second ones would be the House. And the third ones would be, frankly, my base and a lot of Republicans out there.”

Trump has a point, especially on the latter. 79 percent of Americans believe that there is either a crisis or problem at the border. Among Republicans, 72 percent believe there’s a crisis while 19 percent believe there’s a problem. Just four percent of Republicans believe there’s no problem. This suggests that if Trump backs down, he could lose support among his base.

Apparently, the Trump administration has backed down from its $5.7 billion demand and is now requesting roughly $2 billion for security and $400 million for other immigration priorities. Democrats have balked at this as well, standing firm on their $1.3 billion for border security.

So now, the president has found himself in a bit of a dead end. Democrats won’t budge and likely won’t take much blame for the shutdown. This means there’s more pressure on the president to cave but he risks losing too much support if he does. With 2020 fast approaching, the president can’t risk a drop in support.

All of the considerations taken together suggest that the government shutdown could extend for a long time.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Brian Brinker

Brian Brinker is a political consultant and has an M.A in Global Affairs from American University.

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