President Trump chose to end 2018 with one of the dumbest political moves in American history. In an effort to fulfill his signature campaign promise, a wall on our southern border, the president shut down the government. Disregarding the unpopularity of the act itself, the optics of the situation were troubling to say the least. In a televised sit-down with soon to be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, he not only came off as a spoiled child, but took credit for the upcoming shutdown. As in “I am proud to shut down the government,” kind of credit taking. Shortly after the confrontation with Pelosi and Schumer, the government ran out of funding, putting some 800,000 federal employees out of a paycheck (it should be noted that this was just before Christmas).
And so it stayed for 35 days, becoming the longest shutdown in American history. To say that Trump handled the shutdown with any sort of tact would be an outright lie. He went back and forth doubling down or trying to reflect blame onto Congressional Democrats. In between this strategy and using his cartoon-ishly out-of-touch family as a P.R. team, Trump even claimed that the shutdown was harmless because most government workers were democrats. Needless to say, this wasn’t a good idea. His polling sunk lower than ever, even shedding some numbers off of his seemingly rock-hard base. After weeks of deadlock and right wing media figures egging him on, Trump finally caved and agreed to a short term funding deal that didn’t include money for his beloved border wall.
The temporary funding bill was meant to buy time for the House and Senate to come up with a bipartisan solution to funding the government and propping up border security. In the end, there was an increase in border security funding, but a wall wasn’t included. Rather than quietly taking the defeat and moving onto another more achievable or even popular goal, the President took an action he has been hinting at for weeks. One that sets a dangerous precedent, greatly expanding the powers of the executive branch and possibly changing the face of American government forever. To build the wall, he declared a national emergency.
The wall itself is a stupid solution to a non-existent problem. Illegal border crossings are at the lowest that they’ve been in 20 years. Most of the human and drug trafficking that Trump and his ilk have been harking about comes through at other ports of entry, and for that matter, how the hell is a wall going to effectively keep anything out? It’s Bronze Age technology for God’s sake! A lot of the illegal immigrants who currently live in the country arrived on planes and currently reside on expired visas. How can a wall combat that? Are we going to build it high enough to keep Mexican Airlines from flying into the country? Also, tunnels and ladders, the most effective wall repellents for the last 4,000 odd years. . Even if you took away the billions it would take to build and handle upkeep for this monument to racism (far more than the 5 billion Trump is asking for), it’s just totally non-effective. Like all of Trump’s other policies, it’s a simple solution to a far more nuanced problem. And, again, really stupid.
With that tiny rant out of the way, there are some earth-shaking ramifications to Trump declaring a national emergency. Typically, a national emergency is only declared over an actual national emergency. Something like 9/11 or the Swine Flu outbreak of 2009. Whereas here, it seems a lot less like an emergency than Trump just flailing to get a win from his base. National emergencies should be reserved for times when they’re actually needed. Not when the current balance of power prevents legislation that would enact extreme and widely unpopular policy from being passed.
Trump’s presidency has broken many norms. His latest actions are some of the most erratic. The idea of a president being able to declare a national emergency to get any policy he wants, no matter how unpopular or in this case downright immoral, is dangerous. Under the last few presidencies, the executive branch has increasingly been expanding its powers. Both 44 and 45 have been awfully fond of executive orders (though in 44’s case this was to bypass a GOP held congress that was in full obstruction mode), but declaring a national emergency is something else entirely. It’s one step further down the slippery slope of fascism that Trump has already been gleefully skipping down.
It has always been an unpopular position, if they couldn’t do it with full control of the government, they’re certainly not going to do it now. And if the so called crisis at the border is so dangerous, why wasn’t a national emergency called earlier? Ultimately, more than anything else I think that Trump’s national emergency will come back to haunt Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP.
If Trump can declare an emergency for his pet wall, what’s to stop the next democratic president from doing something similar? President O’Rourke could declare an emergency to enact universal background checks and an assault weapon ban after one of our seemingly endless mass shootings. President Harris could put forward the Green New Deal, climate change deniers be damned. Or (gasp!) President Warren could use an emergency to make a few billionaires pay their taxes and install universal healthcare.
Like triggering the nuclear option to ram Neil Gorsuch through to the Supreme Court, this is just another precedent set by the GOP that they will regret in time. Snowflakes and libtards of the world, for now, take pleasure in the president’s latest tantrum. It might’ve just given your team an excuse to fight climate change or pass Medicare for all.