Trump’s decision to end the shutdown has been greeted by many as a cave … a surrender … a capitulation. He seems to have agreed to bring the federal workers back to their jobs – and get them brought up to date in their wages – without funding for the wall.
Trump’s decision has been greeted on the far left and the far right with celebration and consternation, respectively. The disappointment and rage on the right come from such national conservative icons as Laura Ingraham and a number of local conservative radio folks, such as Joyce Kaufmann in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. They see it as a total betrayal of Trump’s campaign promise. But is that true?
On the left, there is dancing in the streets. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is being praised for both her toughness and political savvy. After all, in the judgment of the #NeverTrump community, she took down a political Goliath. But is THAT true?
As one who thought Trump had the power position — and all he needed to do was to hang tough until the House Democrats started feeling the pressure — I am a bit disappointed in his shift in strategy. But I am not among those who think Trump has thrown in the towel regarding his $5.7 billion request for enhanced border security. He has not ended the government shutdown, but merely called a time out.
In his remarks, Trump made one thing perfectly clear. His funding for border protection is absolutely necessary, and he still demands that it be included in any bill that funds the government for the long run – at least as long a run as the God awful Continuing Resolution (CR) approach that holds sway in Congress will allow.
So what has Trump achieved?
In return for a little criticism from the right and the appearance — just a temporary appearance – of a defeat at the hands of Pelosi, Trump has reduced the pressure that had been building as the shutdown proceeded.
Trump may also have gained credibility and favor among the public. Credibility because he has been able to make a good case for the wall in the interim. His concerns about crime and drugs are increasingly persuasive.
He may be gaining favor by seeming to be more willing to negotiate and compromise – more reasonable. While Pelosi & Co. pre-emptively rejected Trump’s most recent proposal – which included at least a temporary fix for the Dreamers and those with Temporary Protective Status – a good portion of the non-aligned public saw the Trump proposal as a reasonable start – a step in the right direction.
Getting the federal workers out of the crossfire in the highly personal and contentious feud between Trump and Pelosi cools down the situation considerably – and the credit goes to Trump.
He has also made it harder for Pelosi to credibly maintain her no wall/no talk position. Her obstinance was already beginning to wear thin as the shutdown went on. If she refused to consider funding for the border – and continues to avoid the negotiating table – she will own the next shutdown in three short weeks.
Trump has given Democrats three weeks to get serious about real negotiations – essentially forcing Pelosi to the negotiating table as she has promised when the government is back in operation. He has also trumped her petty tactic of blocking the traditional State of the Union Address. To block it now against her own prerequisite would pile petty upon pettiness.
Whether the Democrats have reason to celebrate, or the Trump base has reason to despair is an open question. It all depends on what happens in the coming weeks. Trump has every reason to continue to hang tough on his $5.7 billion request – and there was nothing in this move, or in his explanation, that suggests he will not. This is no time to call the game. There is a lot of time left on the clock before we know who won and who lost.
As far as the interim negotiations go, Trump’s announced proposal remains the opening offer. It is now up to Pelosi to counter. But as long as she will not consider any funding of the wall, the just-concluded government shutdown may wind up being the second longest in American history.