President Donald Trump had not even begun his address on Saturday outlining a government-opening deal to extend DACA protection to the so-called “Dreamers” in exchange for $5.7 billion in wall funding before prominent Democrats rejected the deal. The brevity of the Saturday negotiations highlighted two facts: first, neither side really much cares whether the government remains closed; second, attempting trade-offs within the context of immigration is probably futile since the objectives of the two sides are diametrically opposed. One side winning implies the other side losing—that is, the immigration issue is a zero sum game.
Republicans do hold one bargaining chip, however, that the Democrats might want passionately enough to give the president the whole wall and a law on nationwide, mandatory E-Verify besides.
The name of that chip is Merrick Garland.
Battles over government shutdowns usually and primarily have been conducted in the realm of public relations: who gets the credit and who gets the blame? So, too, the initial focus of the current shutdown has been on the perception of responsibility; whose shutdown is it really?
The passion of each side in this immigration battle, however, and the long lead time until the next election have lessened the importance of getting marginally more or less of the blame for the shutdown itself; and the question lurking in the background has been about who, when the rubber meets the road, will will capitulate first?
It turns out, however, that there really is no rubber and there is no road.
It is probably not so surprising that the GOP and its adherents are unconcerned about 800,000 government workers sitting at home—keeps them out of mischief after all. But, perhaps because only a fraction of the government is shuttered, the Democrats are having a similarly difficult time getting their base to care. It seems that many Democrats are not going to be moved by the plight of some well-paid bureaucrats, even if most of them are Democrats. Indeed, there seems to be support among elite Democrats for the notion that if the furloughed workers are Democrats they should take glory in sacrificing themselves for the glorious cause of undoing the results of the 2016 election.
Which, of course, is what this is actually all about.
No rational analysis can really be advanced that walls of the type proposed by the president have no value in the actual, on-the-ground struggle to curtail illegal immigration. Pelosi’s poppycock claim that the wall is immoral has only gained traction with her liberal followers because of the angst they continue to suffer over Trump’s election. The wall is immoral because it got Trump elected and Trump’s supporters who are calling for the wall must themselves be immoral (read: racist).
Liberals are not even necessarily opposed to border security (though some of them are indeed for open borders). Opposition to the wall—or, as they unfailingly put it, Trump’s wall—is a profoundly irrational reaction to the pain-laden psychodrama of millions of Democrats whose individual lives have not contained enough vitality to save them from a self-destructive obsession.
Obviously this situation doesn’t leave Democrats with much negotiating flexibility.
Therefore, to end the impasse, either Trump has to capitulate or else he has to find a glowing magical ruby that has as much visceral, neurotic appeal to the Democrat base as opposing the wall has.
Enter Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Like so much of the dynamic operation of the Left in this past two years, the impetus to canonize “the notorious RBG” can be traced to the 2016 election. As the last Red Cross Knight standing in the way of a generational “Trump court,” Ginsburg’s ideological purity together with her cancer-fighting resilience and iron-woman workout have risen to mythical status. If Trump (the very Scourge of Women) ultimately replaces Ginsburg on the court with a pro-life, conservative, young woman like Amy Coney Barrett, stand by for tens of millions of the Sisters (and Brothers) of Ruth to set their hair on fire en masse.
The conclusion should be obvious.
Trump should offer to nominate and support Merrick Garland for Ginsburg’s seat on the court if and when she retires in exchange for support for his immigration policies.
Note, however, that this seat is a jewel for the Democrats of priceless value—meaning, it’s worth more than a piddling $5.7 billion. (It would be of great value to Republicans, too, as Democrats finally would shut up about the Supreme Court’s “stolen seat.”) If Trump gives Garland as a gift to the Left, he should insist on the whole, sea-to-shining-sea wall (or whatever is really necessary) and he should absolutely demand passage of a bill making E-Verify mandatory.
That last, enormously popular idea would do more to control illegal immigration than any physical barrier could ever do. Indeed, it would encourage illegal aliens to go home in many cases. And it would allow Trump to use the Democrats to help undermine the Chamber of Commerce Republicans who systematically oppose the priorities that won him election in 2016.
Political deals that cross the aisle rarely exceed the scope of the issue in contention. But the current stalemate has become a poured concrete barrier that calls for the kind of out-of-the-box negotiating style at which the builder Trump excels. A hostage exchange—Merrick Garland for the Forgotten People—will earn Trump re-election and a lasting legacy that could otherwise prove elusive.
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