Yes, you heard that. I think the democrats should give Trump the $5 billion he requested for the wall. I think the wall is a dumb idea. I think we already have physical (natural and man-made) barriers that do good where they’re needed. I think the eminent domain issues will be tied up in court for the better part of a decade, at least. I don’t think it’s a good use of our funds, but it’s about 0.13% of the proposed FY2019 budget, it’s a fraction of important things like the $39 billion budget for the National Institutes of Health, and I just don’t care enough about it to advocate keeping federal workers from getting their paychecks.
Even more, I think giving Trump the money is a political win for the democrats in the long run. He will claim victory, and he’ll scream and yell about his signature accomplishment…but what will that be. He built a stretch of wall on the southern border? Like many things, it reminds me of a West Wing scene. President Bartlet was been having trouble sleeping after a fight with one of his advisors, so they called in a psychotherapist for him to talk to. In the discussion, the therapist (Stanley Keyworth, brilliantly played by Adam Arkin) starts to explore how the president judges himself, and the tremendous curve he’s judged on as president.
BARTLET:I have abilities.
STANLEY: And now you have an opportunity to use them.
BARTLET:I think I have.
STANLEY: That room I passed down the hall, on the left, it’s got a name, right?
BARTLET: I think you’re talking about the Lincoln Bedroom.
STANLEY: Right. This is a hell of a curve you get graded on now. Lincoln freed the slaves and won the Civil War. “Thank you. Next! And what will you be singing for us today, Mr. Bartlet?” “Well, we’ve had six straight quarters of economic growth.”
BARTLET: That’s not easy.
BARTLET: It’s not easy.
STANLEY: I believe you.
The part I copied from the transcript above starts at the 56-second mark in the video.
It’s an excellent scene, and I agree that six straight quarters of economic growth isn’t easy, but I also think we should think about it in the long term. In the end, even if Trump is able to oversee construction of a giant wall, his signature accomplishments will be maintaining the economic growth that started under Obama (not easy, and something to be proud of), and building a wall. Compare that to freeing the slaves, holding a country together after the most deadly attack on US soil, revolutionizing the health insurance system, inventing medicare, ending the cold war…building a wall. From a political perspective, putting aside all else, it just seems too easy to paint as measly and small-minded. So give it to him and let him hang himself with it.
Even better than giving him $5 billion, I’d offer him more. I’d offer him $10 billion, but he’s got to throw in a fix for DACA. He’s got to throw in voting rights protections. Whatever he can. Give him more, but make him give something in return.
And, if we were living in a reasonable world (which sure seems like a stretch), every time anybody on the right complained about debt and budget deficits, point to this. Every time somebody on the left brings up some gun control measure that the right thinks won’t work, point to this. Democrats don’t think the wall will work, but are funding it anyway, so give up your gun control fight and let it happen anyway. Predicting that it won’t work is no longer a reason to stand before an attempt. Great.