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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Trump proves building walls can be as historic as tearing them down

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" thundered Ronald Reagan in West Berlin, Germany, on June 12, 1987, a short but salient demand from the peace aspiring American president to not only achieve a physical accomplishment – removing the dreaded Berlin Wall -- but also to eliminate the psychological barrier that’d separated east from west for over forty years.

Over three decades later it’s common knowledge that Reagan’s advisors at the time counseled against the president making a bold statement in such a dramatic way since it might disrupt the perpetually tenuous Trump on border wallpeace and disarmament talks between the world’s two military superpowers. The détente Reagan and the relatively new Soviet premier began fostering at Geneva a little over a year and a half previous lay in the balance.

But Reagan understood Gorbachev’s temperament better than his foreign policy team – after all, he was the one who’d conducted the one-on-one talks with the leader of the communist world. The Gipper also recognized his defense buildup strategy was putting tremendous pressure on the Soviet leadership to back away from their decades-old Cold War intractability. So, Reagan went ahead with his famous command and the rest is… history.

It’s more than a little peculiar that today the American president is again talking about walls – this time one to be built, not torn down. Adding to the irony is President Donald Trump threatened to shutdown the U.S. government if funding isn’t included for the U.S./Mexico border wall in next year’s budget.

And Trump’s threat wasn’t directed at a foreign power either – or even against his political opposition, the Democrats. No, Trump was talking straight to the congressional leaders of his own party without even mentioning them by name. S.A. Miller reported at the Washington Times, “President Trump said Monday that he wouldn’t flinch from a government shutdown this fall over border wall funding, injecting confusion into what had been an unusually orderly and productive appropriations process for the Republican-run Congress.

“The threat bucked an agreement on spending bills Mr. Trump struck last week with Republican leaders, put immigration front and center in the midterm election campaigns and raised questions about exactly what sort of shutdown the president had in mind. Fed up with years of debate that accomplished nothing to secure the border or fix the broken immigration system, Mr. Trump said he wanted results or else.

“’If we don’t get border security, after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown,’ he said at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.”

Trump spoke the words on July 30, so here it was exactly two months from the September 30 end of the current fiscal year (when the federal budget runs out) and the president was already firing a test shot across the bow of the skittish Republican leaders’ leaky political ship. No doubt the news wasn’t received well in establishment Republican-land where party figures are instructed to read from standard talking-points and not to make trouble in front of a mass audience.

As mentioned above, Trump's "threat" of a government shutdown wasn't aimed at Democrats (though the media probably assumed it was) – no, it was meant for GOP ears, meaning if Republicans again failed to use their majority to pass important party agenda items they’d face not only the enmity of their president, they'll also need to deal with the wrath of the voters.

Trump’s was an ingenious political move designed to rouse the sleeping GOP masses just ahead of the fall campaign season, providing impetus for conservatives to pay close attention to the leaders’ actions and open or close their checkbooks accordingly. And instead of tucking their heads in turtle shells like they do every two years (in advance of Election Day) the Republican congressional brain trust will actually have to put themselves on the line this time.

Voters from all across the ideological and political spectrum will be watching intently. If Republicans give Trump his wall, the faithful will come out to support party candidates; if they don’t, then make sure to get a good vantage point for the blue wave to come. It’s up to Ryan and McConnell. Keep their promises or risk looking up at Nancy Pelosi behind the speaker’s podium come next January. Yuck, the thought is gut-wrenching, ain’t it?

Democrats likely had a different reaction to Trump’s intimidation. “Did you hear what Trump said? He just indicated he’d shutdown the government if he didn’t get his wall money. We’ll never give him a dime, so those stupid Republicans will be responsible for a stoppage right before the elections! Oh joy!”

Well, yes and no. Not so fast, Democrats. Miller reported Republicans are actually making progress on devising and passing regular appropriations bills this year (the fulfillment of another longtime promise) so it’s possible Trump would only have to veto one such bill – for Homeland Security – to get what he wants and even then, the “essential” personnel from the department wouldn’t be affected. The borders would still be patrolled, put it that way.

There would be little or no visible effects from such a “shutdown” so the media wouldn’t get images of disillusioned World War II veterans waiting helplessly outside their open-air memorial (barred by Obama’s park police from entering) to broadcast on the evening news. The media talkers would only be able to show distraught bureaucrats sitting at home this time – what fun is that?

Meanwhile, Republican leaders should be happy to comply with Trump’s call for border wall funding. The president has already provided them with plenty of issue fodder to run on…why not make the base happy too? The gross domestic product growth spurred by the Trump administration’s policies is impressing skeptics.

Legendary economist Arthur Laffer wrote at The Hill, “While the GDP growth of any one quarter can be offset, revised or magnified in subsequent quarters, a pattern appears to be emerging under the stewardship of the Trump administration, which makes a lot of sense, at least to me. I believe that people individually, and the economy collectively, respond strongly to economic incentives…

“The latest GDP figure is a great number that aids our recovery from the awful 16 years under Bush and Obama. It will also reduce deficits in the long term if such robust economic growth continues. But the challenge is far from over. We have a lot of work to do to fan the flames of prosperity and to hold at bay the prosperity killers. But one step forward is still one step forward, and it is a heck of a lot better than one step backward.”

In his piece Laffer laid out the details of what’s fueling the Trump prosperity and cautioned against excessive government spending. He also expressed hope for the future if the positive momentum continues, a much rosier outlook than what we experienced under the previous two administrations when practically everyone groaned 2 percent (or less) growth was here to stay.

People do respond to economic incentives and they also stand up for political enticements like the border wall. Nobody but the most ardent libertarian would get a rise from a government shutdown but people need reasons to support a political party.

The average citizen doesn’t follow politics to the same degree people inside the beltway bubble do. Longtime Washington residents (which certainly includes the establishment media) think every little bit of policy news immediately generates some sort of political backlash against whomever dares to upset the status quo. If a poll indicates x number of Americans is against building a border wall then ALL Republicans would be voted out, right?

Nonsense. People out there in the hinterlands witness the country eroding from within because of uncontrolled borders and lack of enforcement (sanctuary cities). They also notice how drugs and violence is affecting their communities due to the influx of illegal gang members. This isn’t just happening in the big cities, either – anywhere there’s a concentration of industries dependent on cheap labor the social problems crop up.

The border wall is only one step in the overall process to reform America’s sieve-like immigration laws. Trump also seeks to end the catch-and-release policy as well as make more room for skilled immigrants to come here. Trump understands certain businesses are being held back by not having enough educated people to hire – these jobs aren’t going to be taken by someone who’s just crossed the border illegally either.

Every civilized country chooses who gets in and who stays out. The United States doesn’t lack compassion by setting its own rules. As Trump has said many times, a country without borders is not a country. Republican leaders need to recognize this and do whatever’s necessary to build the wall (Congressman Jim Jordan said it well). Trump doesn’t mince words. Why should he?

Still there are those naysayers who claim Trump’s straightforward style hurts the party. The normally reliable Jay Cost wrote at National Review, “Trump does not even try to maintain the balance. He has totally rejected the informal demands of acting like the head of the nation and instead continues to behave as if he is in the Republican primaries in the winter and spring of 2016. We have had misbehaving presidents before, but never have we had a president act in such an undignified manner for all the country to witness, every day, live as it happens.

“This is a big reason why Republicans are set to lose a substantial number of seats in the 2018 midterms – because Trump is refusing to meet the bare minimum of public expectation regarding the presidency. We the people do not want the dog-and-pony show of the British royals, but we expect a little class from our president — a little touch of the Washingtonian mystique. Trump lacks it, and his party is going to be punished for it in November. Bigly.”

Cost’s theory is advanced by #NeverTrumpers – and all liberals -- as the main reason why the GOP is due for a shellacking in three months. Polling evidence supports (or refutes) it but still this line of argument relies primarily on the hunch of whoever’s saying it at the moment.

Every president gets criticized for conduct but Trump draws additional scrutiny because he’s so different than his predecessors. They knocked Obama for being arrogant and aloof and he was said to have few friends and wasn’t approachable. George W. Bush was chastised for being a lightweight and failing to hit back at his critics. Even Ronald Reagan drew his share of sneers for being “Teflon” and phony, a man whose children came out and contradicted him in public.

I won’t claim a president’s conduct or character doesn’t matter but I highly dispute the notion many people base their votes for party candidates on it. The vast majority aren’t so shallow. And if personal “likability” of the president really mattered on midterm Election Day, wouldn’t the country be full of Democrats -- because everyone considered Obama to be such a great guy?

In addition, Cost writes for National Review, a publication where the editorial board has moved towards boosting the stuffy ruling class establishment point-of-view in recent times. He also used to work at The Weekly Standard, another den of #NeverTrump hostility. No doubt Cost’s heard a healthy dose of “people don’t like Trump and that’s why Republicans are going down” warnings. Time will tell if there’s any truth to it (there certainly wasn’t in 2016).

Other reputable people are saying similar things, however. Byron York spoke with three GOP “experts” and reported at the Washington Examiner, “[A]ll three strategists are keeping hope alive. Even the first strategist, rattled after those 30 bad days, sees the problems of the Democratic Party and remembers that Nancy Pelosi — just saying the name — is a great motivator for Republicans to get to the polls. Put that together with the Democrats who have embraced the unpopular issue of abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and that's a party a lot of voters do not want to embrace.

“So GOP victory remains possible. What Republicans would like now is the absence of noise and distraction coming from the White House.”

For every establishment consultant whining about Trump’s behavior, what’s their response to Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Nancy Pelosi or Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Chuck Schumer or Dick Durbin? Wouldn’t the average suburban woman be just as turned off by this eclectic collection of intellectual morons as they would be by Trump?

Personality isn’t going to determine the outcome of the 2018 elections either way. What will matter is GOPers sticking to their promises and ensuring President Trump gets funding for his border wall. If Republicans just do their jobs, no government shutdown would be necessary.

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The Border Wall and Timing

Now, before the primary elections, is the best time to fight hard (whether against the Bolsheviks of the "Democratic" Party or the Mensheviks in the Republican Party) to build the Wall! As Richard Viguerie often says, "It's the Primaries!" Standing strong on border security will energize Republican voters to nominate real conservatives in the primaries, which will in turn raise the enthusiasm (and thus the turnout) of conservative voters in November. Not only is it an issue of principle for Trump and the Republicans, but an issue of survival of the Trump presidency.