“House to test Trump on wall.” So reads the headline (paper edition) of the lead story in today’s Washington Post.
The statement is true. However, it’s also true that Trump will test the new House. I think the test he poses might be the stiffer one.
The Democrats have a constituency — government workers — that will clamor for an end to the shutdown. Trump has no such constituency. Not as long as the partial shutdown is managed well enough to prevent ordinary folks from experiencing pain or significant inconvenience.
But the more salient point is that Trump probably has more flexibility than Nancy Pelosi.
The president can compromise somewhat on the wall — e.g, on the amount of money allocated for it and, relatedly, the form of the structure itself. His base isn’t likely to quibble over the exact amount of funding or how much of the wall is built with concrete.
Pelosi may be more constrained by the raucous members of her caucus. They may demand that she hold firm to her “hell no” position (no new funding) on the wall. Pelosi herself has called the wall “immoral.” Leftist Dems aren’t likely to let her forget this ridiculous assertion.
If she had to, Pelosi could obtain enough Democratic support to get a compromise package through the House with GOP support. But after surviving (presumably) the left’s challenge to her role as leader, she won’t be in a good position to let Trump off the hook (as the left would view a compromise) in the first battle of her Speakership.
If I am right about Trump having more flexibility than Pelosi, this should provide him with an important advantage in the upcoming public relations battle over the partial shutdown. He can present himself as the one who is more serious about reaching a deal.
As always, the Dems also have an advantage — the mainstream media’s willingness, indeed eagerness, to shill for them. But unlike the mainstream media, the public views illegal entry into the U.S. as a serious problem. And it certainly perceives no moral imperative to abstain from walling illegal immigrants out.
An extended shutdown over funding a wall would present some political peril for both sides. However, Trump’s position is at least as strong as Pelosi’s, and I believe he’ll test the House at least as much as the House will test him. Probably more.