Home National Politics Trump and the Wall: The Most Bone-Headed Political Play I’ve Ever Seen

Trump and the Wall: The Most Bone-Headed Political Play I’ve Ever Seen


So what does this genius of a president do? He threatens to hold the whole government hostage, with but a week to go before shutdown-time, unless Congress gives him money for his (in)famous Wall.

How is this stupid? Let me count the ways.

He was sure to lose. A government shutdown would be damaging politically. But so is backing down. It was a good bet that he’d back down, and he did.

The North Koreans are watching. Whether they’re crazy or not, surely the North Koreans can see that Trump has a pattern of caving on his threats. When the commander-in-chief becomes the bluffer-in-chief, he’s playing this present hand in a way that undermines his ability to play some much more important hands in the future.

Nobody wants this wall. Well, some of his base does (or at least they enjoy seeing regular advertisements for something that nobody will ever buy). But the public as a whole doesn’t. The people in the region of the proposed wall don’t. The Senators and Representatives from the border states don’t. So why go to the mat for something so unpopular. Does it make sense for a president to further turn off the 60% in order to cater to his faithful 40%?

Raising the Wall issue with a focus on the money just calls attention to how bogus his whole “Mexico will pay” theme was. He’s still saying that Mexico will pay some time, some how, in some alternate universe. But can even his base believe that. Why would a president press the Wall issue in a way that exposes all the more what a fraud he is?

I’ve read that his most devoted supporters still eat this up.  “He’s trying,” some report his base concluding from this. Really? I guess the base has bought so much nonsense, it’s hard to know where their gullibility ends, and reality kicks in. But wasn’t this guy supposed to be a Winner? Wasn’t it a big selling point that he was going to deliver victories until we all were sick of them?

There’s a name for trying without result. It’s called “Failure.” There’s a name for getting defeated on effort after effort. It’s called being a “Loser.”

Won’t failing and losing quickly corrode what support this most unpopular president still has?

Maybe not. There’s a kind of crazy loose in the land. We’ve got millions of people who have witnessed the past 100 days and are still glad to have voted for Trump.

But if this Wall play of Trump’s wasn’t bone-headed, I’ll have to look into whether I’m the one living in an alternate universe.


  • Trump’s supporters didn’t put him in office to actually accomplish stuff. Voting for him was just an anti-Establishment gesture; a way for them to flex their muscles and say, “See, if we wanted to, we could try to put a stop to your agenda.” As long as Trump TALKED about building a wall, and then got elected, that’s enough to satisfy his base, because the main victory isn’t in the actual building of the wall, but rather in the fact that he wasn’t forced to back down till after the election.

    Even if the wall WERE built, it would just be symbolic anyway, due to its limited effectiveness as a border-control measure. The wall’s true purpose is to annoy progressives, but since that goal has already been achieved just by putting Trump in the Oval Office so that he could make a token effort to try to build the wall, why bother actually breaking ground on the wall project? It would be overkill, much like it would’ve been overkill to have actually prosecuted Hillary. They made their anti-Hillary point just by electing a politician who SAID he was going to throw her in jail. There’s no need to actually follow through on it.

    • Andy Schmookler

      What you say, Mr. Larson, seems plausible: “Trump’s supporters didn’t put him in office to actually accomplish stuff.” A couple of questions about that.

      First, how confident are you about that judgment– i.e. that what they care about is not results, but merely gesture?

      Second, as you imagine these supporters, do you see them as KNOWINGLY not being concerned about Trump accomplishing stuff? Or do you imagine them believing that they were voting for results, when in fact their real desire was just for the gesture?

      I have imagined them to be voting very much from an emotional place — anger, resentment, bigotry — but also to be truly concerned about having their own situation improved, and wanting to give power to someone they thought could deliver such improvement.

      • It’s just my personal pet theory, based partly on reading a lot of their writings and seeing how ideologically incoherent they are, especially on economic issues. They don’t actually agree on a lot, other than nationalism. Within the pro-Trump movement, there’s a mix of populists and libertarians who don’t see eye-to-eye on issues like single-payer healthcare, but come together on cultural issues.

        When it comes right down to it, especially outside the Rust Belt, a lot of what drives the desire for a wall is a belief in racial and cultural separatism, rather than a belief that it’s going to make us economically better off. In this movement, there’s a strong element of anti-globalism, i.e. worrying about the triple-parenthesised global elites’ achieving world domination by forcing multiculturalism on every country, and thereby weakening their ability to present a united front against international moneyed interests.

  • RobertColgan

    “A kind of crazy loose in the land.” Definitely.
    The only way to describe the Trump phenomenon is madness.
    Giving any credence of saneness to his actions———except for the continued trickle-up of all wealth to the already wealthy which makes PERFECT sense to them——-is an exercise in Gordian Knot unraveling.

    No question that America has long been subjected to creeping insanity…..starting with the all-consuming fears of McCarthyism and atomic war…..a fearful populace —as Mencken etc have said—is easily controlled. That profits for General Motors, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Goldman Sachs, Wall Street in general, big banks, based on warfare and driven by mass consumption —are propagandized for the electorate’s delectation as “The American Dream.” . . .privatization of all social services part of that dream …to have produced an ignorant citizenry oblivious to the Treasury Goods going to ends that profit only the few while producing possible irreversible ecological damage to the world.

    Trump is the final icing on that “government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy” which is now hurriedly driving the final nails in the coffin containing The Commons….and Sanity.