On Monday, President Trump announced that he would be addressing the nation on the humanitarian crisis on our southern border. He tweeted:
I am pleased to inform you that I will Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border. Tuesday night at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2019
This is the right move for the president. He must take the issue directly to Americans, who seem largely bewildered by the rationale for the current government shutdown – in reality, Democrats simply refuse point blank to fund the wall to the tune of $5 billion. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has stated openly that she will not give more than $1 for the wall; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and others have stated that they believe a wall somehow violates American values.
Americans largely blame President Trump for the shutdown, thanks in part to terrible media coverage, and thanks in part to President Trump’s originally nationally televised statements that he would happily “own” the shutdown. In late December, The Economist found that 51 percent of respondents blamed Trump, with 44 percent blaming Congressional Democrats. But within one week, a YouGov/HuffPost poll found the opposite: 51 percent of Americans disapproved of Congressional Democrats’ handling of the shutdown, with 49 percent of Americans disapproving of Trump’s handling. Congressional Republicans, predictably, received a 58 percent disapproval rating. FiveThirtyEight notes that polling related to government shutdowns generally has no lasting effect on presidents or Congress.
That means that the only real question here is general perception on the issue itself: will Americans take away the message that Democrats are open-borders extremists? They certainly should, since Democrats are expressing themselves that way. See, for example, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA):
My favorite part of the conservative outrage responses to this tweet is the “but the Berlin Wall was to keep people in” argument. Missing ENTIRELY that a wall is a wall no matter what side of it you are on. It’s medieval. It’s a symbol of “us and not us.” And that is not U.S.
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) January 6, 2019
Yes, that’s what walls do. That’s also what borders do.
Now, Trump should avoid offering Democrats the out of declaring a national emergency and attempting to build the wall with defense funding. Trump stated late last week that he would consider utilizing 10 USC §2808 or 10 USC §284 in order to use the military to build the wall. Both would be a misuse of the law and set a terrible precedent for future Democratic presidents misdirecting defense resources toward infrastructure projects more to their liking without Congressional approval. Trump should continue to hold the line on the wall and make the Democrats defend why they will not spend an amount equal to about 11 hours of government spending on a permanent barrier that will help Border Patrol keep track of those attempting to enter the country illegally. A national address directed toward explaining the border crisis and why a wall would help would go a long way toward forcing Democrats on the defensive – and toward creating political cost for their inaction.