Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Wall

WaPo has an article about how Democrats look to be in a more favorable position come government shutdown and budget time.  TL;DR: The Freedumb Caucus is unlikely to support the Trump budget or a continuing resolution to keep the government open.  So in order to keep the government working DESPITE HAVING CONTROL OF BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENCY, the GOP will have to reach out for Democratic votes.

This is, in part, the continuation of the Republican Civil War, and the assumption - which could very well be false - is that it will continue into the budget-writing process.  There could also be the same dynamic with health care, in that moderate Republicans can't sign off on Trump's ridiculously draconian budget either.

One thing that stood out was the double-edged sword that Democrats are faced with.  The left wing of the party wants a McConnell-style Party of No strategy that denies the Republicans ANY victories and forces crises on a government that seems ill prepared to handle them.

That's not necessarily a bad strategy.

However, it's a strategy that has two big flaws.  The first is that Democrats believe in good governance.  McConnell could make the government fail, because the GOP message is that government is a bad thing and it fails all the time.  You muddle the message of "We can make government work" if you are helping to make government fail.  Maybe.

The second seems to be where do you draw the negotiation line?  The article lists a few things that Democrats will absolutely insist on in any budget that has their fingerprints on it. Planned Parenthood is one, and that's probably smart, because funding PP is actually pretty popular outside of the hard core anti-abortion crowd.

The big fight, it seems, will be over the defense budget and the border wall.  Democrats have said that a huge increase in defense spending at the expense of needed programs across the board is a non-starter.  Frankly, many Republicans agree.  Except for the maroons in the Freedumb Caucus, most GOP Congressmembers can agree that, say, the CDC is a good thing to fund.  And let's not kill Big Bird while we are at it.  Again, they are wrestling with the reality of what their campaign rhetoric has been versus the reality of governing.

Presumably this means that they can slash Trump's defense budget and re-apportion money to needed programs.  Which brings us to the Wall.

The Wall looks like is is becoming a proxy for all of Trump's agenda.  He's not going to reform health care (Who knew it could be so complicated?); he's not going to be able to reform the tax code, which is more complicated than health care.  That leaves that "f%^#ing wall" to quote Vicente Fox.

The Wall has an atavistic hold on Trump supporters.  During his rallies, whenever Trump felt the crowd slipping away from him, he would pivot to talk about the Wall <applause> and how Mexico would pay for it <wild applause>.  The Wall was the great symbol of how Trump would be their hero against those murky brown hordes pouring over the border, which is why Cleetus Down The Road is abusing the Oxycontin.  Or something.  Hating on the Mexicans was less about over racism - although it was overt racism - and more about finding something or someone to blame for the fact that Cleetus Down The Road is hooked on Oxycontin and Mabel is taking disability, even though she's fine and all the stores that I went to when I was growing up are closing down and the jobs are gone, and Junior is still at home and... Well, basically the hollowing out of small town America.

The fact that this hollowing out is very real, doesn't mean that Mexicans are to blame.  In fact, time and again small town people are horrified when ICE agents show up and grab THEIR Mexicans.  The Wall was not about taking Jorge back to Mexico, it was about stopping the idea of "bad hombres" who are always somewhere else doing godawful things.

For Trump and Trump supporters, the Wall is everything.  Trump has to realize at some level that retreating from the Wall is not an option.  It would be the ultimate betrayal of the 37% who still think he's doing a good job.

From the Democrats point of view, therefore, beating Trump on the Wall would be awesome.  Many of the saner members of the GOP are not interested in spending billions on the 2nd century BCE technology of a wall. Budgets are about priorities, and it's not their priority.  It's a colossal waste of money.

And yet....

That f*&^ing wall is indeed really popular.  For people who don't see why we DON'T have a wall, opposing a wall is just PC bullshit.  The Wall is popular because walls are easy to understand.

Democrats don't need to win rural districts, necessarily.  They just need to lose them by closer margins.  Making the Wall the centerpiece of your resistance to Trump risks cementing those voters to him.  Resist the Wall be all means, but don't make THAT the rhetorical centerpiece of your resistance.  Focus on how the GOP budget will gut assistance to those communities.

I am not, not have I ever been a Sandernista.  But at some point Democrats need to start speaking the language of class over the language of race, ethnicity and gender.  The Wall is a race and ethnicity touchstone.  Democrats should absolutely oppose it.  But opposing the wall shouldn't be the focal point.  It should be preserving needed social programs like public health and addiction services or environmental protections.  Oppose the Wall quietly (except on Univision and Telemundo), while speaking an inclusive language of class.

That's how you create a wave in 2018 and 2020.

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