Much hay was made about how Nancy Pelosi got the better of Trump when he agreed to end the government shut-down a few weeks ago without getting his wall money. That was a bit premature, since all they did was kick the can down the road a couple weeks.

It’s now a couple weeks later, and that bit of kabuki has gone into the history books, supplanted by the outcome of that can-kicking. A border security deal was struck, and Trump didn’t get his wall.

He got some fence, he got some token money that could be considered a “progress payment,” and indeed he and some others spun it that way. By any rational measure, though, he failed to get what he declared he must have.

All along the way, Trump had threatened to invoke the National Emergencies Act if Congress didn’t give him his demand. Immediately after signing off on the funding bill that didn’t give him his wall, he carried through on his threat.

Many wanted him to do so, many did not. Among the latter were those who feared that it would set a precedent for future presidents to do something even broader, such as an action against gun ownership (and indeed, Nancy Pelosi raised the specter of this bogeyman. Foolishly, in my opinion, because all those who feared thus already thought thus, and she merely gave the Right a nice piece of ammunition for the next election).

I’m not convinced about the “precedent” angle, since the respect for precedent has mostly been abandoned in the legislative and executive branches, and I figure a future President who’d be so inclined would not feel restrained in the least by any restraint the Untethered Orange Id exhibited during his tenure.

I do think that the Emergency declaration is unwarranted, unnecessary, and a foolish extension of this quixotic pursuit of a pointless and distracting Wall that will be stalled in the Courts for years. But, that opinion is of no matter to Trump and his supporters.

What does matter is the political calculus ahead of his re-election effort. And, by that calculus, Trump has nothing to lose in making the declaration.

He promised a Wall, and has been very public about it. To his credit, he’s been a better promise-fulfiller than most previous Presidents, my reservations or disagreement with some of those promises’ premises notwithstanding. So, he’s trying to do the things he got voted into office for. Agree or disagree, it’s worth giving him the nod for the fidelity. He tried to get his wall, didn’t get the deal he wanted, then lost some leverage and ended up with a worse deal than he might have otherwise had. It was a miscalculation to be so bold about his “must-have,” but the public-servant angle that politicians fulfill makes them a bit different than private deal-makers and negotiators, who can keep their cards closer to the vest, so in a way, he didn’t have much choice about that boldness.

So, since he didn’t get it through legislative means, he’s attempting to get it via executive overreach (yes, that’s a loaded word, but lets be honest – it is, whether you agree with the goal or not). It’ll be up to the courts to legitimize or knock back the over-reach, but even that’s of little consequence in the political calculus. What matters, from that perspective, is his effort.

If he gets something built, or at least funded, he can claim to have fulfilled his promise. If he is tied up in court, he can claim that he needs more time to fulfill his promise. If he gets knocked down in court, he can claim that he needs the House to return to the GOP, so that he can try again via legislation. And, in all this, he further cements Nancy Pelosi as the villain against whom he is striving mightily.

Trump-era politics is all in-the-moment, win-lose dualism, and the immigration issue is of utmost importance to a big chunk of his base. By going with this emergency declaration, he’s fulfilling his promise to that base – principles, legality, and separation of powers notwithstanding.

More importantly, to everyone else, it’ll be a non-issue come election time. Those who don’t support him wouldn’t be voting for him anyway. Those on the fence aren’t going to be swayed by this particular affront, especially since it’s 21 months until we get to vote for President again – this action will have blended well into the orange soup by then. And, those inclined to support him based on the state of the nation, economically or however else matters to them, aren’t going to be flipped by this nugget.

I don’t condone or endorse this action, but I understand it. Politically, for him and based on who he is, it’s the most logical thing to do.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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