Editorial: Understanding Trump is to know why Dems can’t cave
What happens when Democrats and Americans begin to confront Trump? When they call his bluff and simply say, “This will hurt you more than it will hurt us.”
Democrats are at that point with the government shutdown and they have three important reasons not to give in:
• First, they’re in the right; it’s not just that the wall is immoral, but rather that security experts everywhere debunk Trump’s position that a bigger wall will stop drugs and crime. Report after report says it won’t. Drugs and human trafficking for the most part come through already established legal checkpoints. What would help reduce that illicit flow is increased funding for more personnel, and improved security systems, at those check points. Building a bigger wall across the desert does exactly the opposite of what’s needed by reducing the funding available for hiring those added security forces.
• Second, Americans have become savvy to how Trump operates and it’s not something any nation wants to encourage. Trump’s strategy is to create a crisis, then offer to help resolve the crisis only if his opponents concedes to a separate demand. Trump calls this “leveraging” and negotiating. Democrats call it “hostage taking,” referring to the 800,000 federal employees caught in the political crosshairs. But most Americans would look unfavorably at anyone who did something similar to them; just as the construction firms still do at being stiffed by Trump in previous deals. No one likes to be hoodwinked.
• Third, if Democrats give in on this, why wouldn’t Trump believe the same tactic would work on other issues coming up? That point was emphasized by New Jersey Democrat Rep. Tom Malinowski in his comments in Wednesday’s New York Times.“There’s an overwhelming consensus that this is about establishing that shutdowns are wrong,” said Malinowski. “From my standpoint, and I think this is the consensus of the caucus, everything is negotiable. Border security is negotiable. Immigration policy is negotiable. Shutting down the government is not negotiable, and we’re angry about it… If we give in to this tactic in any way we will validate it, and there will be no end to these shutdowns, and the people who suffer today will be suffering again and again and again.”
What Americans, and the world, knows by now is that Trump believes in a zero-sum game: that is, there is no win-win scenario. In Trump’s view, there are just winners and losers and you’re a loser if you lose.
Now that Democrats, and more importantly the American voter, understand this, a general consensus is building that until Trump learns that he can lose more than he gains in such tactics, he’ll keep doing them. Once he loses, however, he’ll do whatever is necessary not to put himself in that position again because he hates any circumstance that marks him as a loser.
And that’s Trump’s sorry state of affairs. Two years into his administration, Americans — and large parts of the world — are about to call his bluff.
According to a foreign diplomat interviewed by the Washington Post, he said Trump initially unnerved European leaders with his rhetoric, but no longer. “Now you just know what he’s going to do and you kind of shrug it off. You can’t totally ignore him because he’s the president of the United States. But he doesn’t scare people like he used to.”
A further problem is that Trump’s ignorance limits his ability to resolve the crises he gets himself into.
“This guy is not really good at thinking his way out of the problem,” Timothy Naftali, a clinical associate professor of public service at New York University, told thePost. “He just ups the ante and hopes the pain he causes others pushes them beyond their pain threshold.”
That might have worked for Trump in the business world, but what’s particularly galling about Trump’s behavior as president is that he is nonplussed to push the pain onto working Americans — forcing federal employees to work without pay and furloughing hundreds of thousands of others — while smugly suggesting he has the stronger hand in the political debate and will come out on top.
The correct public response to Trump’s disregard for these furloughed American workers is nationwide protests. To change Trump’s tactics, the political fallout has to cause him enough pain that he seeks other options. If there were federal work stoppages, and other acts of civil disobedience, Republicans and Trump might think twice about the political consequences.
As for the Democrat’s response, they’re right to be willing to spend money on border security, but to spend it on the things that security experts say will help solve many of the problems: new scanning technology to detect drugs and weapons, improvements in infrastructure at ports of entry and more personnel, including more immigration judges to reduce the long waits of people seeking legitimate access into the country. And if Trump wants to seriously negotiate with Democrats to get parts of his wall funded, he can sell out his base and figure out ways for Dreamers to stay and an amnesty program for other migrant workers who meet specified conditions. Short of that, they should hold firm.
Otherwise, short of impeachment, Americans are looking at two more years of manufactured crises and infantile threats by this president to please his base — and that’s no way to run a country.
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