January 18, 2018

Government Shutdown, Trump, Durbin and "The heat"

Last week the president met with members of both parties to discuss DACA, immigration, and everyone's wishlist. It was well received. It was a master stroke of refutation of the mainstream media's Fake News meme that's he's senile and dangerous (especially when followed in short order by a doctor's analysis that Trump himself requested, indicating he was in excellent mental health).  But that's not the real push here for president Trump.  He even said he'd take the heat for any bi-partisan bill put to him on immigration. Similarly, Democrats had an ulterior agenda as well.

Dick Durbin immediately tried to quiet any praise being received by the president's well managed meeting by asserting, without any real substantiation, that the president made racist remarks towards Haiti and African countries. He did that for either one (or both) of two reasons. 

  1. He wanted to cut off any potential change in the narrative that president Trump is unfit for the presidency, and
  2. Democrats are angling for a government shutdown (which they can count on the mainstream media to pin the blame on Republicans)

But president Trump clearly had an agenda as well.  He wants a wall because it was a campaign promise.  He wants a budget deal.  Knowing the Democrats would tie the DACA issue to a government shutdown thinking they have all the leverage, there's no doubt he had a Plan B.

In fact, that may have been a covert signal to Republicans that if the deal fell through, they would not have to worry about the fallout.  The heat he said he'd take may have been not so much about DACA as it was about the potential government shutdown and the 2018 midterm elections.  So on to Plan B - Durbin's outrageous claims are what killed the DACA deal and have led to a possible government shutdown. 

President Trump is no stranger to taking the heat.  It's what he's been doing since he announced his candidacy.  The reason he is so persistent at firing back is because he is persistently being fired at by the media.  He has the bully pulpit of the presidency to have his voice heard.  He uses Twitter to go around the media and directly to his supporters.  He's counting on his ability to stand firm in the face of a shutdown and not have the Republicans shellacked in the 2018 midterms.  He's counting on a robust economy to put the wind to his back in the argument on the budget and on immigration.  He's counting on his supporters to continue to back him, and therefore Republican candidates in the 2018 midterms regardless of what polls are saying (and the pollsters did not tell the correct story in 2016, despite being within the margin of error - he may be counting on that scenario too).  And he's counting on support for him personally to not only exceed what pollsters are seeing but also to extend to the Republicans in congress.

That's a lot of things to count on but they are not meant to be counted on individually.  He's hoping for some strength in each of those areas, to varying degrees, to

matter come November.  He's right - to some extent each of those things will help him.  What's not clear is the extent to which each will help and whether cumulatively they will turn the Blue Tide of November Red. The economy alone should make a huge difference - I believe it will - but it remains to be seen.

Lined up against those things are the mainstream media, a "Republican-caused" government shutdown, apparently low job approval for the president and potential Republican disunity and the perception on the left that the president is mentally incompetent.

The shutdown is a gamble for Republicans and the president.  Caving to Democrat demands on DACA and immigration or anything else is also a risk.  What it comes down to is whether this truly is a divided country. Are voters entrenched in their ideologies regardless of any of the factors above?  If that's the case, don't expect a blue wave or a red wave in the midterms.  Expect gains by both parties exactly where you'd expect to see them - in their home field advantage areas.  Recent one-off special cases like Roy Moore's loss in Alabama are just that - one-offs. The district by district and state by state elections, with few exceptions, will perform as historically expected. That for Republicans is not only not bad news, it's good news for 2018.
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