WHAT DONALD TRUMP JUST LEARNED
The government shutdown which ended two days ago (January 25th) was a learning experience for Donald Trump. Others were forced to relearn what they already knew, that shutdowns always fail. It is true, that the new continuing resolutions that fund the effected departments and agencies are only designed to last three weeks and then the shutdown could begin again. Everyone, now probably including Donald Trump, knows that just is not going to happen. The President is saying that the three weeks will provide enough time to really negotiate with the Democrats for his beloved wall. Nancy Pelosi and her triumphant Democrats will negotiate money for a wall about the time that Mexican President, Andres Obrador, shows up with a train load of pesos to pay for it.
The President’s fall-back position is that he can still declare a state of emergency and have the American military supervise its construction. That isn’t going to happen either. The public has certainly heard all it wants to hear about walls (even the misguided souls who cheered for the “big beautiful wall” at all those rallies have to be tired of hearing about it). President Trump is now 72 years old. He could hit the century mark, and be years out of office, before legal challenges to constructing the Wall will be over. The truth is what most people knew it to be back in 2016: There is not going to be a wall! Trump’s dream of something like the Great Wall of China, with his name on it, is just not going to happen.
So, what have we relearned? We have relearned that government shutdowns don’t work. They are designed to allow either people in the Congress or the President to avoid the work of getting something accomplished democratically. They are really an attempt to gain something through blackmail. And, as Donald Trump has just learned to his dismay, they always kill their fathers.
Donald Trump seems to have believed that the longer the shutdown went on, the stronger he would become. Instead, as the fallout from the shutdown became more severe, his position became weaker. He also became more vulnerable to mishap (what would have happened had there been a major plane crash overseen by overworked and unpaid traffic controllers?). In the end, to paraphrase Senator George Aiken back in the Vietnam War, the only thing to do was, “to declare victory and get out”.
Many in the media dislike Donald Trump who, they feel, is abusive, ignorant and unprepared (the dislike is certainly mutual). They will, over the next few days, rejoice at what they view as his richly deserved humiliation. Still, the shutdown may have produced some positive results: Since the beginning of the New Deal more and more power has come to be handed over to the president (it is easier for members of congress to let the president decide). Donald Trump with his clear preference for the weakening and destroying of any thing he doesn’t understand, may finally have demonstrated that the transfer of powers has become too great. It may well be time for a healthy rebalancing.
And, thanks to Nancy Pelosi’s firm leadership, Donald Trump now knows, and we are all reminded, that the Founders did intend this to be a divided government. The truth is that the House and the Senate seem to be the hapless branch partly because, over time, their members have given too many powers over to the president. So many, that they don’t feel that they are responsible for much. Members are now free to waste time raising money and fighting each other. Nancy Pelosi does feel that she is responsible, that she, with the Congress, are the president’s equal. The leadership of both parties may learn from her. Clearly President Trump was forced to learn.
The issue is what the President will do as a result of what he just experienced. He is going to go through a really difficult period. He made the mistake of bringing about the shutdown because he wishfully hoped that the Democrats in the House would ultimately act as the Republicans had. He didn’t bother to understand how devastating their past shutdowns have been for Republicans. He also must now face withering criticism from right wing media icons like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, who make a great deal of money being conservative. Some of his diminishing phalanx of rally goers will certainly desert him. The fallout from Special Prosecutor Mueller’s investigation is looming just over the horizon. Subpoenas sent over from the Democrats over in the Capitol will fall like the rain.
Still, despite the almost universal criticism, Donald Trump, by ending the shutdown as he did was being presidential! It is true he could have signed the same things fifteen days ago and saved a great deal of agony. But, in the end, he took the heat and did what had to be done. That is what presidents have to do. Ideally, he should ignore his critics, keep his head down, and do some honest work. He probably will not do that and if he does not, the balance of power will tip to the Congress and, later, in 2020 to the voters. The wisdom of the Founders back in 1787 will, happily, be on display once more!