Why Democrats Will Be Blamed for the Shutdown

By Andrew R. Arthur on January 6, 2019

Even before the current government shutdown began, there was a question of who would be blamed for it. President Trump, in a December 11, 2018, meeting with then-House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, as reported by CNBC, actually offered to take the blame:

"If we don't get what we want, one way or the other, whether it's through you, through military, through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government," Trump said, as Schumer sat staring forward and not meeting the president's eyes.

"We disagree," Schumer responded.

"I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. ... I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down," the president said.

In the end, however, the Democrats will be the ones blamed, largely because of how they and the media portray the president: as a short-tempered idiot, or as a petulant child.

Reporting from the meeting actually proves the latter point as to how Democrats view the president. Specifically, after the meeting, CNN reported that an aide to Pelosi said that the House minority leader had stated that she "was 'trying to be the mom'" during that meeting. If she was the "mom", then someone necessarily had to be the "child" (or more correctly, "the children", although I doubt that she meant the dig at Schumer). That article went on to state:

Pelosi continued: "It's like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing."

I will get to that back to that quote in a moment.

Similarly, a December 2015 Vanity Fair article describes the author's experience with then-candidate Trump, which occurred 29 years prior:

I spent a long, awkward weekend with Donald Trump in November 1996, an experience I feel confident neither of us would like to repeat.

He was like one of those characters in an 18th-century comedy meant to embody a particular flavor of human folly. Trump struck me as adolescent, hilariously ostentatious, arbitrary, unkind, profane, dishonest, loudly opinionated, and consistently wrong. He remains the most vain man I have ever met. And he was trying to make a good impression. Who could have predicted that those very traits, now on prominent daily display, would turn him into the leading G.O.P. candidate for president of the United States?

As for the president's idiocy, as the BBC explained in a December 12, 2018, article:

The link between the term "idiot" and pictures of President Trump emerged earlier this year, with some linking it to the fact British protesters had pushed Green Day's song American Idiot to the top of the UK charts during a presidential visit in July.

That was followed by users of the website Reddit posting articles that contained pictures of President Trump alongside the word "idiot", in an attempt to manipulate the search engine database, in a practice known as Google bombing.

In fact, the Google search term "Trump idiot" returns 136 million results.

A Guardian article from June 2017 is captioned: "Naomi Klein: 'Trump is an idiot, but don't underestimate how good he is at that'". A so-called "satire" from The New Yorker carries the headline: "DNA Test Reveals Donald Trump, Jr., Is Fifty Per Cent Idiot". You get the implication. A December 2018 article from Newsweek, citing the Washington Post, reported:

European media has taken a particular liking to spoof Trump and his administration. Germany's Heute-Show, presented by comedian and journalist Oliver Welke on the ZDF network, named Trump a Goldener Vollpfosten — translated as "Golden Idiot" or "Golden Dumbass" — for the fourth year in a row, sharing this year's title with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un and the whole United Kingdom, among others.

There are "Trump Idiot GIFs", and Trump idiot T-shirts. A December 2018 Salon article is headlined: "Harvard prof. Laurence Tribe calls Trump a 'compromised," "f**king idiot'". I could go on, but you get the point.

The problem for the Democrats and the media is, as Mark Twain once remarked: "Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience." Now I don't know whether the president is an idiot or not, and in fact I once suggested that he might be a "secret genius". Rather, when an adult gets into an argument (or worse, a taunting match) with either a child or an idiot over something that the latter wants, the one who ends up looking bad is the former.

For proof, here is a thought experiment: You're standing in a checkout line at the supermarket, and a child wants a specific candy item from his or her parent. If the parent says no, and the child stops asking, you would likely think of it is good parenting, or a well-behaved child. If the child continues to demand the candy, however, and the parent continues to say no, eventually you would ask yourself why the parent doesn't just give in. Worse, if the parent gets into a shouting match with the child, you would start to wonder what is wrong with the parent — petulance from a child is to be expected, but the adult is expected to be, well, an adult. Eventually, your sympathies would start to side with the child, if you are anything like me.

Here is another thought experiment: You are at a sporting event where alcohol is available, and an over-served fan gets into an argument with a seemingly sober fan (idiocy is in the eye of the beholder, and this is the closest scenario I could imagine without offending someone). Even if you did not approve of the intoxication of the first fan, you would quickly start to become annoyed with the sober fan for getting into an argument with a drunk. This would especially be true if the pair began exchanging taunts — "You're sober, he or she is drunk, why are you arguing with the drunk like that? Calm down."

And yes, as the second Pelosi quote above shows, this has been a taunting match since the beginning. When the highest-ranking member of a political party starts to question someone's manhood, the former has already lost.

In fact, if you look at the president's Twitter feed (his direct connection to the American people), the president looks downright reasonable. For example, there is this:

And this:

And especially this:

"Let's make a deal?" That's what the American people sent representatives to Washington to do, in an ideal world at least.

Denigrating the president, and then refusing to give in even a little bit on something that costs relatively little in the grand scheme of the federal budget to the degree that citizens are deprived of services and hundreds of thousands of government workers are not getting paid will eventually put the majority of Americans in the position advanced by Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), who stated: "This is such a silly and asinine debate." Granted, this is a partisan statement, but one borne out by logic. "Just let the kid have the Mentos and leave already." "Who cares if that was a strike/fumble/moving pick/slash? I'm trying to watch a game here."

Democrats may not accept the logic, but they should not avoid the analogies. They would be better off treating the president as a master negotiator, with whom they are engaged in a high-stakes game.

But instead, they and their media supporters have just been pulled into a debate over the merits of a wall (or other barrier) that does not make them look good. Take, for example, this excerpt from Jorge Ramos in Splinter:

The main problem is that a wall would prevent neither people nor drugs from entering the United States. Many immigrants arrive here with a visa, by airplane, and illicit drugs are smuggled in through tunnels and airports. Nevertheless, Trump wants his wall.

It's very difficult to understand why a man who describes himself as a genius — and a great entrepreneur — would ask Congress for $18 billion to build a project that will not work. According to reports from The Wall Street Journal, the money would be used to add about 350 miles of fencing to an existing 654-mile border wall; even if the project were completed, about 1,000 miles along the border would still have no physical barrier.

It's worth noting that we've had a similar debate before. Former President Bill Clinton put Operation Gatekeeper in place in 1994 with the purpose of restricting the passage of undocumented immigrants to San Diego from Tijuana. The program increased the number of border patrol agents in the area and built miles of new fence (yes, Democrats have also voted to build a wall along the Mexican border).

In the end, Operation Gatekeeper failed. Undocumented immigrants stopped entering San Diego through Tijuana, but they started crossing deserts and mountain ranges and passing through other states. The crossing became an extremely dangerous undertaking. Over the years, thousands died attempting it.

Operation Gatekeeper was like placing a big stone in a moving river; the water just ran around the sides. Neither more walls nor more agents prevented the growth in the undocumented immigrant population, from 3.5 million in 1990 to 11.2 million by 2013, according to data from the American Immigration Council.

Now look at the end of the third paragraph and the entirety of the fourth, as well as the first sentence in the fifth. What do I draw from that? The conclusion that we should build a wall across the entire border, a position that I don't normally advance. Want to stop people from entering? Build a wall. Want to stop people from dying in the desert? Build a wall. What other choice is there? Do you want people to die? Not to mention the fact that the first paragraph supports funding for more ICE agents to apprehend visa overstayers.

Even better, the last sentence in the third paragraph undermines now-Speaker Pelosi's assertion that: "A wall is an immorality between countries." If Democrats (including Bill Clinton) supported building something that's immoral, what does that say about them?

Twain was right. And, the longer the shutdown drags on, the more people will agree.