As President Donald Trump’s two-year anniversary in the White House passed, our government was midway through the longest shutdown in history. Trump and the House of Representatives were battling over federal funding for the president’s proposed southern border wall.
The Democratically controlled House argued that the wall is nothing more than a waste of funding and a political power move, while Trump argued that it is essential to the security of the United States. Whatever your personal view on the issue, one small detail remains questionable. Why now?
Between 2000 and 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protections found a 76 percent decline in US-Mexican border apprehensions. So why, in 2019, is there suddenly a declared national emergency over the perceived danger from illegal Mexican immigration?
The answer is simple: there is no emergency. The southern border wall was probably Trump’s main promise on the campaign trail, and one that he waited two years to secure funding for. Many critics scratched their heads, confused as to why the president didn’t take advantage of the Republican-controlled congress, prior to the midterm elections of 2018. It’s pretty obvious that he would have had a much easier time finding majority support from elected officials within his own party.
Unlike real emergencies, Trump’s fight for a wall is more about political reputation rather than safety. Once he was elected, his supporters looked towards the president to fulfill his promises. The problem was that after Trump seemingly abandoned the idea of making Mexico pay, he wasn’t sure he would secure the wall funding, even from within his party.
In 2017, USA Today surveyed every member of congress and found that only 69 out of 292 Republicans in Congress said they supported Trump’s request for $1.6 billion in funding.
When his party showed that they weren’t behind him, Trump needed a scapegoat. He waited until after the midterm elections, and when newly elected Democrats came pouring into the House, Trump realized he finally found his villain. If he proposed funding for the wall, and failed to receive it, with a Republican-controlled congress, the president’s base would have questioned him. Failure to garner support from within one’s own party is a pretty obvious sign of ineffectiveness.
But when Trump proposed his request for funding to a Democratic House and it failed, it was extremely easy for him to blame Democratic leaders. His base didn’t mind the lack of wall funding he was able to secure, because in their minds it was just Nancy Pelosi and her minions refusing to compromise.
Now that the 2020 presidential election is in sight, and there are numerous Democratic contenders officially signing on to get their chance at taking down Trump, the president needs to find a way to keep his original base and garner any new support he can find. The first way is by scapegoating Democrats.
The second way Trump is doing that is by fulfilling any campaign promises he can before he finds himself on the campaign trail once again. A recent example of this is the administration’s decision to discontinue federal funding to health care organizations that provide abortion referrals. This is going to end up in Planned Parenthood and similar organizations losing out on millions of dollars, even though it is illegal to use any federal funding for abortion services, according to the 1976 Hyde Amendment.
It is hard to tell whether or not Trump will achieve his goal of reelection in November 2020. From moderates to socialists, the pool for his aspiring opponents is filled to the brim with potential candidates nipping at the bud to take on the debatably most controversial president of all time. But what we do know is that the race is starting early this cycle, and is lining up to be even more entertaining than the last.