Is The Wall Really the Hill Republicans Want to Die On?



One in ten TSA workers called in sick on Jan. 12 2019.


The government shutdown began at midnight on Dec. 22, 2018. Sadly, there is no end in sight of the partisan trench warfare that got us here. The debacle started when President Trump said he would refuse to sign any spending bill into law that did not give him $5.6 billion (later $5.7 billion) for his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. In a meeting on Dec. 11 with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump made the shocking claim that he would be “proud” to shut-down the government in order to build the wall if need be. Given this statement ensures that the shutdown is directly of Trump’s own making, Democrats feel — and should feel — absolutely no inclination to concede to Trump on the wall. What does this latest batch of swampy insanity say about our political climate?

It must first be said that even though virtually all Democrats do not support the wall as defined by Trump, the prospects of a shutdown originally seemed low. Many members of both parties supported increased border security, using tools such as thermal imaging, sensors and night vision to detect activity on the border. However, a spending bill that many Democrats could agree to would likely appropriate about $1.3 billion for border security of this nature, which is far less than what Trump desires to build his wall.

Many Republicans used to have reservations about the wall or Trump’s proposed amount of funding for it; however, many have since solidified their support of the president’s ultimatum. Even many previously “moderate” Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are startlingly in lockstep with Trump on this. Graham, of course, was a longtime supporter of the DREAM Act, which would give some eligible minors brought to the United States a path to permanent resident status. Many of these Republicans have changed their positions to avoid angering their voter base, who (with the possible exception of moderates and “Never-Trumpers”) are firmly behind Trump. They also feel that they must cower to the base to avoid the wrath of popular primetime hosts on Fox News, such as Sean Hannity. Hannity posted the phone number to the U.S. Capitol switchboard, which connects callers by phone to the offices of Representatives and Senators, on his show to encourage his voters to call their Republican members of Congress to push them to keep fighting for Trump and the wall.

I don’t know how the government shutdown should end. It’s doubtful either of the two bills proposed on Jan. 22 by both houses of Congress will come to any fruition; one likely stopped by the Democratic House majority and the other hindered by the Republican wall-or-nothing mentality. This shutdown is unprecedented in scope and intensity, but this shutdown is a sad depiction of the current state of the Republican Party. Most Republicans still in Congress are firmly and uncompromisingly behind Trump. Many of the more moderate or “Never-Trumper” Congressional Republicans who served during the first two years of Trump’s presidency, such as Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Corker (R-TN), retired. Others, such as Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) were ousted by voters during the 2018 midterms. The most well-known Congressional Republican critical of Trump, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), tragically passed away in August 2018. The so-called “feedback loop” between the current Republican Party and Fox News is frighteningly real. Primetime Fox hosts seem to support almost anything and everything Trump supports, and vice versa. Even if Trump had any reservations behind the scenes about the nature of this shutdown, he likely would not voice them to avoid enraging his favorite media personalities. Fox News works as a propaganda-like outlet in support of his agenda and clearly helped him get elected, so for most Republicans to vocally oppose the Trump/Fox agenda is seen by many right-wing partisans as near blasphemous.

But what is most concerning about this shutdown is the precedent it could set. We must never lose sight of the 800,000 federal workers currently furloughed as a result of this absurd spectacle. Many of them are working without pay. Many Republicans are privately appalled by the length and circumstances of this shutdown. However, that does not mean very much when they stand behind Trump so firmly by claiming, “no wall, no deal.” I fear that if Trump gets his wall, this shutdown may establish that it is acceptable to close the government and hold hundreds of thousands of hardworking Americans hostage in pursuit of a partisan agenda or political goal. We can only hope such a precedent never becomes the new normal.