Objectively speaking, Donald Trump’s first hundred days have been a disaster. His approval rating is historically low. Protests against him have been historically fierce. Scandals threaten to eat him alive. And he has yet to gain meaningful ground on any of his core campaign promises. Now he’s rather desperately betting everything on the gambit that he can blackmail the Democrats into paying for his border wall – and if it fails, he’s finished.
Even though Trump’s own Republican Party is in control of both houses of Congress, the U.S. is at risk of a government shutdown. Trump can’t even get enough Republicans in Congress on the same page with him to pass a budget. And so as of today Trump is making the rather odd play of trying to make the impending shutdown the fault of the Democrats. Nevermind that the Democrats lack the votes in the House of Senate to block the new budget from passing. But Trump is nonetheless openly threatening to sabotage ObamaCare and risk allowing the government to shut down on his watch, just so he can get funding for his wall.
Trump gave away his strategy this morning in a series of tweets. He began by delivering a threat to the Democrats by implying that he’ll cut off health care funding: “ObamaCare is in serious trouble. The Dems need big money to keep it going – otherwise it dies far sooner than anyone would have thought” (link). Then he tried to blame the Democrats for the fact that he doesn’t have sufficient support for his wall from either party: “The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members (link). Then Trump appeared to realize that he had just demanded the Democrats pay for the wall that he had spent the campaign promising he would make Mexico pay for.
So he added “Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall” (link), a tweet which largely got him laughed at by Twitter respondents. And so there you have it. Trump is threatening to bankrupt ObamaCare and let the entire government shut down unless the Democrats give him funding for his wall from their side of the aisle.
This shows just how weak of a position Donald Trump is in with his own Republican Party. All he would need it most Republicans in the House and Senate to vote for his wall and budget, and he wouldn’t need the Democrats at all. But he doesn’t have that kind of support on his own team, so now he’s trying to blackmail the Democrats into joining with the Republicans who still support him. This is how far Trump now has to reach just to try to cobble together a simple majority.
If the Democrats stand their ground and Trump fails to get his wall funded after all this noise he’s making about it, or if the majority of the public blames Trump for the shutdown, then that’s it – Trump’s approval rating will drop another five points and his political muscle will drop to zero. He’s putting all of his few remaining chips down on his wall gambit, even though the odds are far from being in his favor. Contribute to Palmer Report
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report