The government reopened this week but the debates and maneuvers from each side continue. The debate centers around the likelihood that government will fund a wall, the potential for Trump to declare a national emergency, and the many government employees working without pay. In all of the vociferous debate I’ve rarely seen a key point that makes this Trump’s hidden victory.
Close your eyes and imagine the first furious days of a congress led by newly-emboldened Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That agenda consists of a variety of left-wing causes. This includes the claim that they are making it easier to vote. They would also pass ethics legislation meant as a backhanded slap at the president and “influence peddling” Republicans, and they would use their committee assignments to demand his tax returns.
Few of these bills would pass the Senate, let alone a potential veto from the president, but they would dominate the headlines. While it would seem like weak attempts by political observers, many average people see little more than the headlines and would be more likely to see Republicans as denying voters rights, opposing ethics, and hiding Trump’s returns. While they could have solid cases voting no, the optics and impression left is still bad.
But instead, almost none of that is happening. Congress hasn’t even been in session until this week, and the headlines have been dominated by the food fight of the shutdown. Moreover, it shifts the debate to a bread-and-butter topic. As I said after the midterms, Trump will continue to advocate for a wall, and every time another Kate Steinle is murdered or a migrant caravan riots, Trump can say that he wanted to build a wall and point an accusing finger at the Democrats in the House. It’s a simple and winning issue for him because it represents legitimate economic and security concerns of many Americans that liberals ignore. He is winning because he is shifting the debate from issues like ethics reform and voting rights that Democrats can use against Republicans, to one that favors Republicans.
The federal government has reopened this week which makes some conservatives and many liberals claim that Trump caved in. But the move strengthens his hand in several ways. First, it gives paychecks to federal workers. This prevents the extra-long lines at airports, and it takes away their being used as victims in fawning mainstream media pieces. It also makes it look like he is working with congress. This may not seem like a big deal to most, as Trump was elected to fight the establishment and drain the swamp. But it gives him additional cover when he ends up declaring an emergency and building the wall (as I believe he will). When attacked by congressional Democrats for an unfair, dictator-like move, he can reasonably argue that he’s been negotiating for months, offering compromises, and reopened the government for yet more weeks to reach a solution…and obstructionist Democrats forced his hand.
So Trump reopening the government has given him a secret victory. He is sucking up the oxygen of the new congress and their ambitious agenda of making Trump look bad. He changed the conversation to his signature campaign promise, and puts the Democrats in the position of defending MS-13. Finally, he has strengthened his position by helping the supposed victims of the government shutdown, federal workers, and by giving himself ammunition for when he eventually declares an emergency and builds more walls. When all is said and done, at least a quarter of the year will have gone by without America hearing much at all from the congress and their legislation except that they seem to dislike American security. Sometimes Trump sounds crazy, but often times he is crazy like a fox.