Defeated by the Democrats and blamed by the voters, Trump may never recover from the fallout of the longest U.S. government shutdown in history.
It was announced on Friday in a speech from the President that the government shutdown is due to end after its 35th day. Trump stated that the government will reopen as negotiations over funding for his promised border wall continues with Congress. However, if negotiations have not yielded the results the President is looking for — namely $5.7 billion funding for a southern border wall — Trump advised that the government could shut down again on February 15, or that he may announce a state of emergency, possibly allowing him to redirect over $7 billion of taxpayer funds to construct the wall.
The past 35 days have been very educational for the people of America, as well as extremely stressful. Some 800,000 workers have either gone unpaid or furloughed due to the shutdown, missing two paycheques and being forced to use food pantries to survive.
But how has Trump fared?
The Pelosi Defeat
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to the President asking him to delay the State Of The Union Address until after the government shutdown had ended. Trump, of course, refused. Shortly after, Pelosi denied Trump the privilege of giving his SOTU Address from the House floor (as is her prerogative). Trump later came out (on Twitter, of course) and stated that he would postpone the SOTU Address until after the shutdown and would not give it from a different venue.
After the end to the shutdown was announced, Pelosi once again informed reporters that the SOTU Address still would not take place on the original planned date, January 29, and that she would work with the President to find a new date after the government reopens.
Trump has an image with his voters of being the tough guy, the boss, the deal-maker, but in regards to the SOTU Address, Nancy Pelosi has been calling the shots the entire time. And Trump, although initially he fought back, conceded to Pelosi not once but twice. Adding to that the fact that Pelosi is a woman — and Trump’s inherent sexism towards women — makes the defeat all the more bitter for Trump supporters.
Trump’s inability to do what he wanted, when he wanted, and Pelosi’s successful chastening of Trump, like a teacher chastening a naughty child, will surely be seen as a weakness and lose him points with his voters.
The Democratic Defeat
Since the Democrats won back majority control of the House of Representatives in late 2018, they have been clear in their message that they will not fund a physical border wall. They went as far as offering Trump up to $5.7 billion in funding for improved border security (see: here) — even going as far as to call it a “smart wall” — in an attempt to compromise and end the government shutdown. Alas, when the bill came to vote on Thursday, January 24, it failed to gain the required 60 votes in the Senate to pass. The next day, Trump announced the government was to reopen anyway.
Although negotiations haven’t ended just yet in regards to the border wall funding, this is a major victory for the Democratic Party. The party kept its promise of not funding a physical border wall and due to the GOP not compromising on the “smart wall” proposal, the government will now reopen without the Democrats conceding anything. After a 35-day impasse, Trump retreated with nothing.
Trump has been pushing an anti-Democrat narrative since his presidential campaign in 2016. To see him be the one to fold first, especially over his campaign-defining border wall, will be seen by many Americans as evidence of Trump’s ineptitude as a politician and as a deal-maker. This is even more poignant as the Democrats were willing to negotiate up to $5.7 billion for border security. The fact that Trump and the GOP refused this offer has made many believe that this whole shutdown has been less about border security and more about Trump asserting his power to the Democratic-controlled House and an attempt to bolster his 2020 re-election campaign. An attempt which has so far backfired.
The American People
Ultimately, it is the American people who will have the last say once voting season comes around again.
The biggest blow to Trump will likely come from the 800,000 U.S. citizens, and their families, who have gone unpaid or furloughed for two paycheques, forcing many to use food pantries and pawn precious items just to survive. Although they should be receiving their back pay within the next week, the possibility of another shutdown in three weeks will be less than pleasing for these already stressed citizens.
Trump still retains his most ardent supporters but even they have been irked by the shutdown. The Washington Post reported that even Trump voters had begun to blame the President for the shutdown. In fact, a Washington Post-ABC News poll show that 53% of Americans blame Trump for the shutdown and only 29% blame congressional Democrats.
The economy affects everyone but its effects are felt by the citizens the most. Many live paycheque-to-paycheque in the current economic climate and the shutdown hasn’t done them any favours.
It’s not just the 800,000 workers who have been forced to miss two paycheques but all U.S. citizens may be forced to endure yet another recession due to the historically long shutdown. The Wall Street Journal reported that the cumulative effects of the trade fight and slowing global growth have already raised the risk of another recession, and the historically long government shutdown has further weakened the American economy’s resilience to one. The majority of the country already blames Trump for the shutdown, a recession due to the shutdown could push those numbers much higher.
2020 Reelection Campaign
This entire debacle was never just about a border wall (if at all). If it were really about border security then the GOP would have accepted the Democratic-proposed bill. The government would have begun reopening Thursday, January 24, and the GOP would have won up to $5.7 billion to spend on bolstering security at the U.S.-Mexico border. Everyone wins. Except, that’s not what happened.
Recently, Trump has been receiving much criticism over his current failure to construct a southern border wall. This wall was one of Trump’s main campaign promises and went towards his victory in 2016. Two years later, his voters are still asking the question, “Where is the wall we voted for?”. It is a valid question, considering for two years the GOP controlled both the Senate and the House of Representatives. This means that for two years they could have passed almost any bill they pleased. But yet still no border wall.
With the Democrats success in the 2018 midterm elections, taking majority control of the House, Trump’s battle to construct his wall just got much, much more difficult. The government shutdown, and the Democrats resolve over their no-wall policy, is striking evidence of the difficulty Trump — and the GOP — is now facing to pass anything through Congress.
Without a wall, Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign will be a difficult one to sell. If he cannot deliver on his main promise from his previous campaign then why should anyone vote for him? These are the kind of questions which will likely be asked by both voters and political rivals.
Of course, the President could go through with his threats to declare a state of emergency and use his power to relocate over $7 billion to constructing his promised border wall. At least then his voters will be happy, won’t they?
Well, not exactly. Another main point of his campaign promise is that Mexico would foot the bill for the wall and not a cent would be paid by the American taxpayers. However, if Trump follows the state-of-emergency plan of action then it won’t be one cent but $7 billion of the taxpayer’s money that will be used to build a glorified steel fence. It’s not exactly what he promised his voters in 2016. An actual wall, as Trump promised, has been estimated to cost anywhere from $20 billion to $50 billion.
All of the above combined will likely result in voters losing faith in Trump’s ability to close deals and honour his campaign promises. What’s more, the events of the shutdown have shown that Trump will concede to the Democrats and that, at least for now, Pelosi and the Democrats have put him in his place.
Trump’s ability to allow so many American citizens to miss two paycheques and still walk away with absolutely nothing will not be forgotten and the effects of which will ripple all the way out to the 2020 elections.
With no physical wall, no wall funding secured, and a crushing defeat by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, Trump’s image and reputation with his voters is the lowest it has ever been. Furthermore, calling a state of emergency may get Trump a glorified fence at the border but it could serve to lower his standing even more. Trump’s voters won’t be happy with a fence nor that they ultimately paid the $7 billion price tag for it.
It’s clear that Trump may never recover from the shutdown fallout and speculation has already arisen as to whether the GOP will be forced to choose a more electable candidate.