Over the weekend Donald Trump caved in over the government shutdown, agreeing to a budget, albeit temporary, which contained no funding for his wall. Those who a few days ago were saying Trump’s inability to compromise was destroying the nation are now hooting and mocking him for compromising. Given another showdown is on the horizon, this might not be very sensible. I’m not one of those people who believe Trump is playing 14D underwater chess, but I do think if another standoff occurs, he’ll be less inclined to back down. The fact that he did this time is pretty remarkable, and the simply truth is he’s been outsmarted by Nancy Pelosi who is a lot better at this hardball politics game than he is. There were good reasons why the Democrats wanted her back as speaker, and not some dimwit in her twenties.
However, in characteristic fashion, Trump may have inadvertently skewered the Democrats in the long-term. One thing I’ve not understood is how the chattering classes in Europe and America are so upset about Trump’s wall. A couple of weeks ago one of my lecturers, who is neither American or Mexican, wrung their hands and said “I do hope it won’t get built.” Now you can argue that the wall is too expensive, or it will be ineffective, or it won’t look nice. What I don’t get is why people think foreign citizens should be free to enter the US for any purpose and any length of time without going through the formal channels. Trump appears to have got whole swathes of the global middle classes to adopt open border policies that were previously the preserve of the lunatic fringes, including the Democrats.
Whatever you think of the crudeness of Trump’s speech and the symbolism of an actual wall, immigration is a major concern to a lot of people, and most sensible folk believe borders should be controlled in some way. Otherwise, what’s the point in having a visa system at all? The Democrats forcing Trump into a humiliating climbdown over the wall won’t change that. Also, those who voted for Trump with the expectation that he will curb immigration are seriously unimpressed. They are asking, not without reason, why he didn’t get this wall built when the Republicans controlled Congress. These people are not suddenly going to decide maybe unfettered immigration is a good thing after all; rather, they are going to vote for someone who is deadly serious about grasping this nettle regardless of his other policies. The Democrats meanwhile have given a clear message to the electorate that they don’t believe their borders should be policed in any meaningful way.
Ultimately, citizens get the politicians, government, and country they deserve. If enough Americans – and indeed Europeans – vote for open borders, then so be it. But let nobody say they didn’t know what they were getting. For all the talk about the dangers of populist strongmen popping up everywhere, it’s yet to dawn on the ruling classes what’s feeding them. I have an inkling we’ve not seen anything yet.