The current government shutdown, which is just a few days short of being the longest in US history, may very well be irresolvable. It could be the closest thing to an Unstoppable Force paradox ever witnessed in American political discourse. Donald Trump’s fetishistic preoccupation with a border wall with Mexico is, of course, the misbegotten linchpin of this particular lamentable impasse. To understand how this could happen it’s useful to know a bit about the history of this wall.
When Donald Trump first began exploring another run for president, his campaign managers and advisers concocted the notion of a border wall as a sort of mnemonic device. It was a way to make sure their candidate — who disliked reading from scripts but adored boasting about himself and his genius as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration. Immigration soon became a signature plank in his nascent campaign’s platform.
Sam Nunberg, an early advisers to Trump, remembered putting it this way to Roger Stone, “How do we get him to continue to talk about immigration? We’re going to get him to talk about [how] he’s going to build a wall.” A stupid idea, they knew, but one that was rich in political symbolism and easy for a racist, uneducated, gullible base to quickly understand and assimilate in a minimum of small words. And so a bigoted star was born. “Build that wall!” became a chant for the glassy-eyed, every inch as memorable and savagely satisfying as “Lock her up!,” twin latter-day substitutes for “Sieg heil!”
It did its job and helped Donald Trump get elected. Unfortunately for America, Trump liked the idea of a wall every inch as much as the drooling nitwits who chanted about it at his rallies, and like them he is too stupid and immature to admit when he’s wrong. Meanwhile nearly a million Americans, many with families to care for, are running out of money, and Trump couldn’t care less. He imagines that his implacable stance makes him look “courageous” and that, as usual, is all that he cares about.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.