by Anne Jaclard
On Jan. 25, after 35 days of holding the country hostage to his desire to build a wall across the US-Mexico border, Trump capitulated and agreed to end the government shutdown without getting a penny for his wall. The shutdown, the longest in US history, began Dec. 22 and closed all federal government agencies that had not been funded previously. Trump refused to sign a funding bill passed by Congress that he had previously agreed to, or any short-term continuation of current funding, unless the law also contained $5.7 billion for the construction of his border wall. The Democrats in Congress said no, hung together, and refused to budge. Trump got nothing and was humiliated when his signature campaign promise failed.
On the very same day, Trump’s friend and advisor for 40 years, the notorious conspiracy theorist, Roger Stone, was indicted at Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s request, for lying to Congress about Stone’s involvement with Wikileaks’ release of stolen Democratic Party emails to benefit Trump’s campaign, and for witness tampering. Stone was the Trump campaign advisor who came up with the anti-immigrant slogan “build the wall”; it caught on then and hangs on now, as Trump tries desperately to restore his falling popularity. No one believes that the wall would serve much purpose; the media have taken to calling it “Trump’s medieval wall.”
After over a month of needless suffering by the 800,000 government employees who were either laid off or required to keep working without pay plus their dependents, and the millions more workers for government contractors and local businesses dependent on the government workplaces, as well as still more millions affected by the lack of government services such as funding to Native American reservations, food stamps for the poor, food and drug safety inspections—after all that, Trump gave up and agreed to sign a “continuing resolution” to extend funding for three weeks. During that time, Congress will try to agree on a bill to increase border security by other means.
This was a victory for the government workers and their supporters. It is illegal for government workers to strike, but those forced to work without pay called in sick in record numbers. The “indentured workers,” as they called themselves, and the furloughed ones, walked picket lines and held rallies and marched right into the Capitol building to confront the Republicans in Congress. They stood together. Flight attendants backed up the claims by short-staffed air traffic controllers that flying was no longer safe. So many air traffic controllers and other essential workers stayed out that four airports had to cancel incoming flights on Jan. 25. The aviation system was on the verge of collapse. The economy could have gone into a recession.
Workers around the country organized soup kitchens, volunteered at charities, and tried to help each other get through the lack of pay. They missed two paychecks during the 35-day shutdown, and many were pushed into poverty. Even though the federal employees will receive back pay, the economic effects will be felt for months if not years. Government contractors won’t receive any back pay. The Immigration Courts’ backlog rose to 86,000 cases, meaning that those migrants now camped in Mexico waiting for hearings on their asylum claims must wait indefinitely (Trump refuses to appoint more judges, as part of his campaign to discourage immigration). Public sentiment, which had blamed Trump for the shutdown, turned further against him following TV interviews of crying workers who spoke of imminent eviction from their homes and their inability to pay for medicine and care for their sick children.
Trump Loses Support in a Huge Defeat
Trump and his millionaire Cabinet members appeared callous, if not cruel, when interviewed. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a billionaire, said he didn’t understand why the workers were visiting food banks, because they could just go get loans from banks. “Out of touch with the American people” was the nicest thing newscasters said about Trump and his Cabinet.
Americans blamed Trump and the Republicans for the shutdown, and his approval rating plummeted to its lowest point ever. According to Five Thirty-Eight, on Dec. 13, his approval rating was 42.5%; on Jan. 25, it was 39.3. His disapproval rate rose from 51.6% to 56% in the same period. Republican Congresspeople were beginning to defect from
the party Trump. Clearly, he gave in out of fear of losing so much of his base that it could no longer protect him from the likely impeachment or indictments ahead of him.
This is a huge defeat for Trump. He has clung to his campaign promise to build a wall to keep out immigrants, including all refugees, and has continuously ratcheted up his scare-tactic rhetoric about the dangers immigrants pose, whipping out one lie after another. Most migrants are from Central America and are fleeing violence in their own countries. Last fall, when a few thousand poor people, mostly women and children, formed a caravan to travel to the border to seek asylum, Trump deemed it an “invasion” and ordered the army to the border. We recently learned that his cruel policy of separating and jailing children began earlier than was disclosed and was much more extensive.
Trump no longer even mentions the other part of his campaign promise to build a wall—to make Mexico pay for the wall. He just keeps yelling about the immigrants posing a danger due to the lack of a wall, which everyone should know is nonsense.
Trump’s defeat was a humiliation, especially because the Democratic Party’s refusal to allow any money for his wall was led by a woman, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She kept saying no to him, and she forced him to postpone his State of the Union address to Congress by disinviting him to speak in the House while the shutdown was on. He was so flummoxed at being defeated by a woman that, instead of making a rude nickname for her as he usually does for those who oppose him, he announced that he calls her “Nancy”!
Even in his Jan. 25 speech capitulating on the shutdown, Trump swore he would get his wall, and painted all migrants as vicious criminals, gang members, drug smugglers, and human traffickers. He said they are bringing diseases into the U.S. (but stayed away from an earlier claim by one official that they were bringing in smallpox, which has been eradicated from the planet for decades). His flailing around for a justification for the wall made him look absurd.
The Wall is an Expensive, Ineffective Symbol of Hate
Trump recently stopped harping on immigrants stealing US citizens’ jobs, following publicity about the labor shortage in the US, especially in agriculture, where migrant labor is vital. But he still makes nearly daily speeches about immigrants causing crime. The mayor of Brownsville, Texas disputed Trump’s claims of high levels of crime; in fact, crime on the US side of the border has decreased in recent years. And studies show that undocumented immigrants have a lower crime rate than do citizens.
Yet throughout the shutdown, Trump threatened to declare a national emergency, claiming that to do so would entitle him to build the wall without Congress’ consent. This would probably not survive a court challenge. It should be clear to anyone who is not committed to xenophobia and racism that Trump is lying about there being an emergency—especially since he didn’t seek to fund the wall during his first two years in office, when the Republicans controlled Congress and he controlled nearly every member of the Party.
In a Senate vote Jan. 24 on bills to re-open the government, six Republicans finally broke ranks and voted with the Democrats. Clearly, Congresspeople have been getting hell from their constituents about the shutdown, and not everyone in Congress will continue to march lock-step with Trump.
Trump has accelerated his anti-immigrant hysteria as more and more revelations have emerged about his campaign’s collusion with Russia in the election, and more indictments of his friends and associates have been issued. His battle with the newly Democratic Party-controlled House of Representatives over funding the wall is undoubtedly an attempt to rally his base: he may need them to save him from confrontations with Congress in impending House investigations or impeachment, and with Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation and indictments. By now, it is clear that Trump, his family and his campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election, and they have engaged in massive amounts of other illegal activity.
Trump must go. Go now and do no more harm! Take Pence with you! We call on all who oppose them—the Resistance—to keep fighting until Trump loses all power and is so disgraced that Trumpism will not rise again!