Season 116, Episode 1

Alan Zendell, January 4, 2019

You might think from what I’ve said or written, that I’m one of those Democrats who Senator Orrin Hatch (R, Utah) ramblingly described as hating Trump so much I would do anything to defeat him, regardless of what was good for the country. You’d be partly right. My disdain for our president is clear, but it’s precisely because I love this country more than Donald Trump does. The America he claims to love is viewed through a prism of wealth, celebrity, and entitlement. Like most of you, I see America for what it is. It’s isn’t always pretty, but I love it anyway, all of it.

My view of Donald Trump is biased. I despise him as an immoral, self-serving human being. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be objective about the things he says and does. It’s not very hard to see the truth most of the time.

Take an objective look at the first week of the 116th Congress, and the Government shutdown/Border Wall controversy. Nancy Pelosi (D, California) is the new Speaker of the House. Mitch McConnell, (R, Kentucky) and Chuck Schumer (D, New York)  remain Senate Majority and Minority Leaders. There’s political spin in everything they all say.

My objective read on the week is that after enduring two years of unrelenting, largely unprovoked personal attacks by the president, Pelosi and Schumer are finally in positions of leverage in dealing with him. The voices of 113 million people who voted in the midterm elections made it so.

The House of Representatives immediately passed a bill to re-open the government while (in Pelosi’s words) the leaders of our country behaved like adults trying to find on a consensus on border security. Based on recent polling, that sounds like what a sizable majority of Americans want. It would be naïve to think that Pelosi isn’t playing to the sentiments of the Democratic base, but that assertion is complicated.

We all know who Trump’s base are, but who are Pelosi’s base?  She’s wrangling with a new class of representatives that includes more nonwhites and women than ever before, ideologically charged to pull their party in a dozen different directions. They’re all passionate and they’re all angry, mostly because they feel betrayed by the president.

Trump’s disrespect of women and his frankly racist attitude toward immigration are despicable, completely separate from his identity as a Democrat or Republican. Many newcomers to the House are furious about his refusal to acknowledge the need to react to and counter climate change. They resent his implication that they don’t care about border security; it’s their constituents who suffer the most harm from illegal immigration. And they hate the new tax law that they believe enriches the elite and increases our national debt – not incidentally, making less money available for health insurance and the general welfare of most Americans.

Yet, given all that anger and revolutionary fervor, Pelosi has kept the vitriol from her side largely in check. There have been individual statements that are regrettable, like Rashida Tlaib’s (D, Michigan) comment that they were going to impeach the mother******, but when Republicans trolled Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for dancing on a rooftop, she responding by posting a new video of her smiling and dancing into her office. Drafting a reasonable bill supported by a majority of Americans to keep the Government functioning isn’t a game. If it looks like playing to some hypothetical base, maybe that’s because it’s what most people want.

Mitch McConnell has made clear that he won’t help the Democrats fight Trump. He will try to keep anything the House passes from reaching the floor of the Senate for a vote. With his party in the majority the Senate could easily nullify the actions of the House and avoid forcing Trump to veto them, unless…he’s not sure of his majority. Two of the fifty-three Republican senators, Gardner (CO) and Collins (ME) have already spoken publicly in support of Congressional action along the lines of the House Bill.

McConnell doesn’t want a public debate among his own caucus. It would upset Trump’s base, and even worse, he might lose. The last thing McConnell wants is to play any part in forcing the president over a barrel. He’s up for re-election in 2020, too.

Finally, here’s the objective reality. Too many people have spoken out recently – security experts, law enforcement, border control officers – for there to be any doubt. The wall is a totally specious issue. Of the 1000 miles of border where a wall would even be possible, 700 of them have had physical barriers in place for years. And given modern technology, hardly anyone believes a wall is the best way to secure our border.

Donald Trump knows this. He told Senator Schumer the other day that he can’t compromise with the Democrats because he’d look foolish. That’s what it’s all about, folks. Our president’s ego and thin skin make it impossible for him to back off from any position he’s staked out. So what if compromise is what the entire country is screaming for? It’s not what Donald Trump wants.

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