Trump is not going to win the Battle of the Wall

The border wall is not the place to, excuse the expression, draw the line in the sand if you are Donald J. Trump. This is not the issue to stop people's income tax returns over or to pose any long-term inconvenience on the American people. This is a battle the president is not going to win, and by betting so much on this particular losing horse he has made a critical blunder.

The American people blame him, not the Democrats, for the government shutdown. And as the shutdown inconveniences them more and more, they are going to become more and more unhappy.

The border wall is, and always has been, so patently and transparently- and expensively- stupid and useless an idea that it simply will never gain traction. A large majority of the American people oppose it. The reason is simple: it's self-evidently absurd. In fact, it's just plain stupid.

The Brookings Institution has pointed out that tunnels defeat walls, and are used- along with drones, catapults, and even municipal drainage systems - to do the bulk of drug smuggling into the United States. Tunnels can be used to smuggle people, too, and often are- more safely and even in far greater comfort than the hazardous trip through the Sonoran Desert. 224 tunnels were unearthed between Mexico and the United States between 1990 and 2016, 13 of them (one running from Tijuana to San Diego) air-conditioned, ventilated, and in some cases supplied with electrical power and even railway tracks! In the unlikely even that the wall was built, the number of tunnels would simply explode.

Statistically, the foreign-born commit far fewer homicides and other violent crimes than native-born Americans. Even if the wall worked- which it wouldn't- the resources the Trump administration is devoting to hunting down undocumented Mexicans might more wisely be spent hunting down the people who actually do commit violent crimes, and they are far more often native-born Americans. The trouble is that the myth of the predatory criminal illegal with which Mr. Trump began his campaign on the day he announced his candidacy (generously adding to his slander of those who admittedly break the law by crossing the border by stealth as "rapists and murderers" the generous concession, "...and I assume there are some good people too") is close to the heart of the Trumpist ideology of xenophobia and fear. The wall is less of a policy measure than a symbol of that fear, of the paranoia on which this president depends for much of his appeal. But the fear simply isn't borne out by the facts. And as Vanda Felbab-Brown points out, "There is powerful and consistent evidence that if people begin to question the fairness, equity, and legitimacy of law enforcement and government institutions, then they stop reporting crime, and homicides and other crimes increase." it's not just that the concentration of law enforcement resources on apprehending illegals rather than actual criminals, whom there is no evidence are more common among undocumented immigrants than among the general population and are probably less so, is a waste of resources. It actually undermines law enforcement agencies in protecting people from more serious violations of the law.

Not that those driven by prejudice and fear- or those who prey upon them for political purposes- are particularly concerned about facts. Facts are not the issue here. The issue is fear and a demagogue's deliberate exploitation of that fear.

It's simply not feasible to check every vehicle and cargo that passes through the 52 checkpoints along the U.S.-Mexican border. Both contraband and undocumented immigrants will continue to pass through those legal checkpoints as a result, as they have all along. Even trying to address the problem would effectively close the border to legal trade and travel between the two countries.

Nor are jobs being taken away from Americans by undocumented workers. In fact, there is something of a crisis in California and other Western states brought about by the recent decline in illegal immigration. Agriculture there depends on migrant workers to harvest crops, which are rotting on the vine because there is nobody to pick them!

No, the wall is not a solution to the problem of illegal immigration, nor (despite the bizarre claim to that effect by some Trump supporters) is opposing the wall tantamount to favoring an "open border." The fact of the matter is that a wall if built would have little if any discernable impact on illegal immigration or smuggling. But then, once again, the wall isn't intended to address either of those problems.

It's intended as a political tool with which the administration can exploit the fears and prejudices of its base. It has no other purpose. And most Americans realize that. They also realize how manifestly pointless the wall is. That's why only about a third of Americans- a number about equal to the president's hard-core base- support the silly thing.

President Trump is not going to win this one. The wall is not going to be funded. He may try to find some face-saving way to built a few miles with money scrounged from here or there. Doubtless, those who admire his habit of blundering in mindlessly and thoughtlessly where angels fear to tread and regard it as somehow forceful or assertive will continue to marvel at his supposedly macho behavior. But the bottom line is that when 2020 comes around, even assuming that Mr. Trump is still in office, the wall is going to remain unfunded and unbuilt. The Democrats in the House hold the winning hand, and Mr. Trump, a losing one. He has blundered in making this the place to make his stand. He simply can't win.

That's what happens when somebody blusters and blunders into things without thinking them through, one of the many fundamental characteristics of Donald John Trump which make him so completely unfit to be President of the United States.

He's not only not going to win this showdown, but he's not even going to be able to convincingly save face. Narcissists do not easily eat crow, and he will eat none. But it seems likely that his behavior on this issue and perhaps on others will increasingly become even more obviously disordered and irrational, and his inherent instability more undeniable.

If he hasn't been removed under the 25th Amendment or resigned after pardoning himself and his sons for deeds unearthed by the Mueller investigation, his already untenable position is going to be hopeless by 2020. Never since the day he announced his candidacy has his popularity exceeded fifty percent and only twice has the consensus of the polls showing him even reaching the break-even point. Ominously, Joe Biden seems at this early date to be the consensus choice of Democrats to oppose him in 2020.

Biden is no bargain, to be sure. But even if he is everybody's crazy uncle, Biden, unlike Trump, at least comes off as some kind of grownup. He makes Donald Trump look so good by comparison that if he- or, for example, John Kerry or another Democrat who isn't completely out of the American political mainstream like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren- is nominated, Donald Trump will go down to a decisive defeat. Trump's biggest advantage in 2016- an opponent as repulsive as Hillary Clinton- won't be working for him this time, and four years of insanity and daily national humiliation will be working against him.

The trouble is that he has so compromised the Republican party and so many good conservatives and Republicans individually who have embraced the wall and the other crazier elements of his deranged agenda that it's hard to see the GOP being a viable instrument of opposition to the Democrats for the foreseeable future.


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