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Trump’s Government Shutdown Would Be a Catastrophic Self-Own

The Republican president is threatening to shutdown a Republican-controlled government right before a vital election for his fellow Republicans

President Trump

Evan Vucci/AP

Last weekend, President Trump tweeted that he is willing to shut down the federal government if Democrats don’t support his list of border security measures. It wasn’t clear at the time whether the president was serious, or whether this was just another one of his Twitter “opinions” that shouldn’t be taken literally. He’s repeated the idea in the days since, most recently at his Thursday night rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he pondered aloud whether he should shut down the government before or after the November midterms. “A lot of well-meaning Republicans say, ‘Look, we’ve got the best economy ever. We’re doing great. Maybe we don’t want to complicate it,’ the president told rally-goers. “And I understand it. And I’m a little torn myself. But I’d personally prefer before.”

Republicans have objected to the idea of a Republican president shutting down the Republican-controlled government immediately prior to one of the most significant Congressional elections in years. “It’s a negotiating tactic. I hope it’s a negotiating tactic,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told reporters Monday. “We’re just going to try and get our work done and get it done on time. Hopefully the president will sign those bills.” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) added that “it’s not to anyone’s advantage to shut down the government.”

A shutdown would derail the efforts of Senate Republicans to pass a number of spending bills, which they have been doing successfully. But spending bills are not an issue that resonates with Trump’s base — or the president himself — quite like the drama of a government shutdown. Trump has been honing his attacks on Democrats around the issue of border security for months, and a shutdown would be a formidable foundation on which to hammer the crime-loving Democrats in anticipation of the fall midterms. It would certainly give Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh plenty to talk about, and it’s no surprise they appear to be guiding the president’s thinking on this issue.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that “there is no way that the Democrats will allow” the situation at the border to be fixed without a shutdown. It’s consistently been the president, though, who has thwarted efforts to make progress, ostensibly for no other reason than that he is incapable of agreeing to anything that could be construed as a compromise, even when he’s getting the better end of the deal. In March, Democratic lawmakers were willing to include the full $25 billion necessary to fund the border wall in the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, so long as Trump agreed to provide a pathway to citizenship for the 1.8 million “dreamers” — or DACA recipients who were brought to America as children — living in the United States. Trump rejected the deal, insisting that Democrats also agree to a host of other immigration reform measures that several Republicans struggled to support. The bill would ultimately pass without any DACA protections, wall funding or immigration reform measures.

As Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, told the Washington Post at the time, “President Trump had an opportunity to deliver on two promises. One, build the wall. Two, to sign a ‘bill of love’ for dreamers. His desire to slash legal immigration and increase immigration enforcement makes delivering on these promises impossible. To put it another way: Trump had two birds in hand; now he’s got nothing.”

Two months later, Trump instituted the “zero tolerance” border policy that forced the administration to separate thousands of migrant children from their parents. So intense was the backlash that Trump signed a flimsy executive order aimed a keeping detained families together, while simultaneously blaming everything on Congress for its failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform. For the next few weeks, House Republicans tried and failed to agree on an immigration bill. The president only confused the process, vacillating on which version of the bill he supported while repeatedly criticizing Congress on Twitter. Trump ultimately tweeted an all-caps endorsement of a last-ditch effort to pass a more moderate bill, but only did so on the morning of the vote. When it didn’t pass, he lied about having backed it.

A month later, the administration is still struggling to rectify its family separation crisis. On Thursday, they told a federal judge that the ACLU, not the government, should be responsible for locating deported parents whose children still remain in the United States, arguing that the civil liberties non-profit should use its “considerable resources” to track down relatives in foreign countries. Meanwhile, the second-wave realities of family separations are beginning to reveal themselves. Several children who have been reunited with their parents have been severely traumatized, perhaps irrevocably, while a frightening number of allegations continue to surface detailing the sexual abuse of detained minors.

Trump is to blame for all of this, and now, with the midterms less than 100 days away, he wants to shut down the entire government because Democrats won’t supplicate before him and give into his every last demand. The border wall could have been fully funded months ago. He rejected the proposal, though, because to Trump winning is not really winning unless the opponent is totally humiliated. As he continues to wait for Democrats to debase themselves, America will continue to suffer.

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