Jan. 28, 2019 – President Trump and Republicans made the 2018 midterm elections a referendum on immigration, and lost badly. They thought that stoking fear and hysteria about a migrant caravan would turn the tide. It didn’t. Xenophobia backfired. Democrats won the popular vote by the largest midterm margin in history, flipping 40 House seats, limiting Senate losses, and making huge inroads in state capitals.
Analysts such as Republican pollster David Winston, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, and journalist Ron Brownstein concluded that Trump’s strategy and the GOP’s complicity directly contributed to the GOP’s wipeout in 2018.
Instead of learning this lesson and course correcting, Trump and the GOP embarked on a rerun of the same failed strategy. By demonizing immigrants, dividing the country and demanding the country bend the knee on his unpopular border wall, Trump kicked off the longest government shutdown in American history. The predictable result? Xenophobia backfired, again.
With polls showing that the strong majority of the American public blames Trump and the GOP for the shutdown and opposes the border wall, Trump inflicted pain and suffering on millions of Americans in a futile attempt to get what he couldn’t get when his party controlled all the branches of the government.
Will Trump learn this time? Just hours after flying the white flag of surrender, Trump is again signaling that he wants what he wants and is prepared to shutdown the government again to get it. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal this weekend, Trump said that another government shutdown in mid-February is “certainly an option,” reiterated his demands for a border wall, and cast doubts that he could support any bipartisan conference committee border deal coming out of Congress.
Trump may think his tough guy approach is a winner with his base, but it doesn’t work with the majority of Americans. The President revels in the politics of white grievance but most of the country rejects it. It’s time for Republicans in Congress to check instead of enable a President who refuses to learn the lesson that America wants unity and solutions, not divisiveness and shutdowns.