The President, DACA, and the border wall

I’ve seen and heard recently a number of supporters of President Trump grumbling that he has no business making deals with Democrats over DACA, and needs to “build the wall” along the US-Mexico border, rather than just talking about it.  They view his deals with Democrats as a betrayal of his preelection promises.

To them I can only say:  have you forgotten the nature of our constitutional system of government?  The President may propose policy, but only Congress and the Senate can pass laws to implement those policies – and despite having Republican majorities in both bodies, the Republican Party has steadfastly refused to get behind the President’s policy initiatives.  He can’t get Republicans to do what he wants them to do.  The “old guard”, the “denizens of the swamp”, still control the Stupid Party, and they’re not about to let “that upstart Trump” spoil their fun.

President Trump finds himself at an impasse.  He’s been elected to do what he promised, but those who have to implement what he promised are refusing to do so.  He has three choices right now.

  1. He can abandon his pre-election promises and policies.
  2. He can try to work within the system, attracting what bipartisan support he can for those policies that can be passed under the present impasse, and postponing those that simply aren’t feasible, given current legislators.
  3. He can try to assist the election of legislators who will work with him, rather than against him, to implement his policies.

I think President Trump won’t even consider the first option;  so he’s employing a combination of the second and third approaches.  He’s willing to work with anyone in Congress – even the Democratic Party – to accomplish what is politically feasible at the moment.  That does not include the border wall, because he can’t muster enough votes to pass a law funding it.  He’s stymied.  On the other hand, by agreeing to certain points that are important to Democrats, such as DACA, he can gain their votes to support other measures that are important to him.  It’s a give-and-take situation.  He’s making the most of what he can get.

At the same time, he’s unashamedly campaigning for a better set of legislators with whom to work.  I think his intervention in the Arizona Senate race for 2018 is a “shot across the bows” to Republicans.  He’s demonstrating that if they won’t play ball with him, he’ll actively seek to replace them with others who will.  I have no doubt he’ll repeat his intervention in the constituencies of other legislators who are actively seeking to undermine his agenda.  Why shouldn’t he?  He has nothing to lose – and everything to gain.

I think the Republican Party establishment has a tiger by the tail.  It hates and loathes President Trump because he’s not “one of them”.  He’s an outsider who’s upset their comfortable arrangements and carefully-plotted deals.  However, he has the power of the Presidency behind him, and unquestionably is more popular with the electorate than either Congress or the Senate.  If they alienate him, he’ll probably use that popularity to strike back at them with those on whose votes they have so far relied.  Can he swing enough votes away from establishment candidates to further entrench “the power of the people”?  He clearly thinks he can – and I think the establishment would be unwise to wager that he can’t.

I think President Trump would like nothing better than to “build the wall”.  Unfortunately, given the active opposition he’s encountering in Congress and the Senate right now, that looks to be politically impossible at present.  I won’t criticize him for not doing the impossible.  Instead, I’ll watch carefully to see what he does next.  This man is known for deal-making.  He’s proved that in business over decades, and every time he’s been down, he bounced right back up.  I’m willing to bet he’s already planning to do the same in the political world.

What’s more, he has the perfect excuse for lack of progress on the border wall.  He can tell his supporters the truth – that he can’t get it done without the support of Congress and the Senate – and then urge them to use their votes, and their voices within the Republican Party and its primary process, to elect representatives and Senators who’ll provide that support.  That might happen within the context of the existing two-party system, or it might upend that system and bring in a populist uprising that may expand it, as Angelo Codevilla has suggested (which we examined earlier this week).

Either way, that will mean kicking out many of those who are currently obstructing President Trump.  That should worry the incumbents, and the party establishment, very much.  It certainly would me, if I were in their shoes.



  1. Yes, I'm waiting for the punch line. As we've seen over the past several months, comment is made — people freak out — the result ends up being different.

  2. Trump likes making deals. He has nothing which he won't give up just so at the end of the day he can say, look I made another deal!

    Having grown up and worked in the NYC area I can tell you anything Trump says today can change 180 degrees tomorrow. It's not about you, his past supporters, his partners, his promises, it's only about what he wants today.

    Saying that he's still better than Hillary and most of the House and Senate.


  3. DACA is bad policy, arrived at unconstitutionally by Obama. Congress could enact the identical policy, constitutionally by legislation and many Republicans in Congress want that. (During the Republican primaries, Marco Rubio explicitly said his intention was to do just that, incrementally so that the frog wouldn't notice the water getting hotter.)

    If Congress were to pass DACA legally, the only real question is would there be enough Republicans on board to make it veto proof – and a Trump veto would carry its own heavy political price.

    Worse, getting rid of DACA but leaving the status quo on border security and birthright citizenship wouldn't be much of an improvement.

    Keeping DACA (assuming that happens) but "building the wall" and fixing the anchor baby mess might be the best deal available.

  4. Trump has managed to accomplish quite a few things, about the limit he could pull off with executive orders. But most of the big stuff is beyond Presidential power to accomplish without the support of congress. That very little has been done after eight months of a Republican majority in both houses and Trump in office I blame entirely on a pathetic and incompetent Republican majority.
    A great many of the things Trump wants to fix are things that the entrenched politicians are much more comfortable leaving in place as they make great talking points for soliciting campaign donations. If they get fixed whatever will they do to gather the huge amount of funding they require to protect their cushy jobs?

  5. Trump excels at setting up a negotiation so that he wins no matter how it plays out. Consider:

    1. The Republican establishment votes funds to build the wall, as part of a DACA deal. Trump wins.

    2. The Republican Establishment doesn't vote funds for the wall and instead vote against Trump on an amnesty with the Democrats. This all happens right before the 2018 primaries. A bunch of them lose their seats. Trump wins.

    3. The Republican establishment doesn't vote funds for the wall, and the Democrats walk away from a deal that includes it. DACA is done because Congress was gridlocked. Trump wins.

    While you can come up with scenarios where Trump loses, most seem to require him being kind of dumb. That's not where the smart money is betting.

  6. Angelo Codevilla has a good recent article. He argues that Trump should start his own party since the Rethugs are stooges of the Dems. My brother, a radio talk guy in Cincinnati, came up with a similar concepts few weeks ago. He urged Trump tocrin ad an independent in 2020, since Trump would get his base of 40 to 43%. A closet in a 2-man race. But a winner with 2 party hacks running. Seems plausible to me.

  7. The only thing I saw that might bother me, is if the dems 'promise to pay us Tuesday for a hamburger today', so to speak.

    And as far as Dreamers in the military goes (or any non-citizen in the U.S. military), if they are serving honorably, they deserve a fast track to citizenship.

  8. RE: Borepatch's comment, above: It wouldn't surprise me if, when Congress legislatively tries to establish DACA after Obama did it unconstitutionally with "a pen and a phone," Trump holds the bill up in front of the cameras and says "you elected me to build the wall and control immigration and Congress refuses to support that so I'm vetoing this bill and suggest you elect different people to Congress in November."

    Congress could, of course, override Trump's veto; that would be a terrific example of mass suicide I'd buy front row tickets to watch.

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