It’s clear to anybody who knows me, or who reads anything I write, that I don’t like President Trump. I don’t like the person I see him as, I don’t like things he’s done, I don’t like his style, I don’t like his approach to issues, and I disagree with his worldview. Even more than that, I am saddened by how many people like him not in spite of these things, but because of them. All that said, I dislike the fight over the wall even more, and I simply can’t find myself getting riled up over it. I’m not a politician, and my interests are different from many politicians (who have jobs to do), but in many ways, as I wrote earlier, I think the democrats should have given him the wall earlier, reopened the government sooner, and let him run on that being his crown achievement. He wants the fight, and his supporters seem to like him more when he’s fighting. So don’t give him the fight. All that said, I think the current outcome might be a little more interesting to watch…
Instead of just getting money for a wall (money that wasn’t nearly enough for the wall, and money that couldn’t have been spent without a protracted legal battle over eminent domain), Trump is getting money and support from republicans in Congress for an emergency declaration. Using the emergency declaration, he’s taking money allocated by Congress, and diverting it to the expense of building the wall. This is going to be challenged in court, of course, but it’s something I’m having a hard time getting riled up about. If the Berlin Wall can come down, so can any wall between Mexico and the United States. No structure is permanent, and the same power that Trump is using to build the wall, could easily be used to take it down. Wildlife experts have described the effect that a wall could have on animals in the area. Environmental experts have described the effect a wall could have on water movement and flooding. These could all create emergencies that need to be dealt with.
Even more than this, it creates an environment (if held up by the courts) that gives the president an enormous amount of power to implement change without Congress. Yes, this is frightening with a president like Trump, but thrilling with lots of other presidents. I like people who seem pragmatic and reasonable. I like those qualities in my politicians. If we grant these vast powers to the president, maybe voters will take that into account and vote for candidates with the qualities that I’ve liked all along. Maybe stuff that I’ve cared about will become more popular to care about…maybe I’m giving American voters way too much credit, and it will still come down to who they want to have a beer with.
We also have to face reality: any immigration problem we have with the Mexican border, any smuggling or trafficking problems we have with the Mexican border, won’t be solved by a wall. If we want drugs to stop flowing across the border, the solution is to help Mexico move toward caring more about enforcing drug laws, and give them the tools to fight them. The image we’ve had for years is that Mexico is the wild west (even though it’s south). We have images of criminals in car chases driving to the border to escape. Of course, that’s not the reality, but it sure seems like crimes that Americans care about stopping are easier to commit in Mexico. Harmful street drugs do, in fact, come through Mexico. China may be the producer of many of these drugs, but the route to the United States is through Mexico. If we want that to stop, we have to change Mexico, not build a wall between us and Mexico. That’s probably a better use of the $25 billion a wall would cost, but it’s also a tough sell to the voters.
One more thought before I get on with my day: The comparisons between what Obama did with DACA is what Trump is doing (trying to do) here has some real holes in it. I think it’s fair to criticize folks who were outraged by the perceived endrun around Congress by Obama on DACA to be questioned about their support of Trump now. That’s fair. At the same time, I would be accepting of a response that was something along the lines of, “Obama made new rules, we’re just following them now.” It’s somewhat like a politician being supported by PACs, while being opposed to the existence of PACs. They play within the rules of the game, and work to change the rules, but it’s not fair to expect them to play by different rules at the same time. I could live with that response by republicans today. I haven’t heard a response like that yet, but I think that’s reasonable. But more than anything, I think the argument that Obama was abusing power in DACA is and was a flawed argument, and doesn’t compare to this. Perhaps this is my misunderstanding of Obama’s actions on DACA, but that decision seemed more about setting policy. It was prosecutorial and enforcement discretion for the large part. That’s something that we’ve had all along. We have finite resources to fight crimes, so we decide which crimes get the most attention. We can’t put police with speed radar guns on every single street in the country, so we only put speed traps in places that are most dangerous (or most likely to net revenue in speeding tickets). In that sense, Obama’s move on DACA wasn’t what he was criticized for doing, but Trump’s move here was exactly what republicans claimed Obama was doing, and fought back against.
Of course, this is far from over, and time will tell what happens, but this issue is really just not one that gets me steamed up.