President Donald Trump told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier this month that he would own the government shutdown if it happened. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck,” Trump said, according to reporting from CNBC. “I will take the mantle.”
Presently, however, he’s singing a different tune. “The Democrats now own the shutdown!” Trump wrote on Friday morning, per a tweet he put out hours before the shutdown became official.
That goes against how most Americans feel about the shutdown: according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll released last week, regarding the reasoning for the shutdown (the proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico), only 31 percent believe that closing down the government over that issue is worth doing, while 55 percent say it’s the wrong way to go about things.
A separate poll, from USA Today/Suffolk University, found that most Americans would find Trump at fault for a shutdown. The poll, which was conducted before the shutdown happened, found that 43 percent said they’d put the blame on the president and Republicans if it would happen, while just 24 percent would blame Democrats. Just 30 percent put the blame on both sides, according to reporting from Newsweek.
— The Hill (@thehill) December 23, 2018
As time goes on, the blame will likely continue to fall on Trump’s shoulders. After all, a plan to keep the government open, without funding for the wall, was presented earlier last week. Trump decided that wasn’t good enough, and became determined to hold his breath on the issue of a border wall, and hold the government hostage, in order to get his way.
That’s enough reason to believe that, when it comes to this particular issue, Trump will “lose” political capital (what little he has left) when it comes to the government shutdown. But another reason exists, and it has to do with the time that is left between now and when the new Congress convenes.
The longest government shutdown that ever occurred in modern history, according to USA Today, lasted for three weeks. Democrats are set to take over control of the House of Representatives in less than 11 days. That means, after that point, Trump will absolutely be required to negotiate a deal with Democrats — one that presumably won’t include a border wall.
With reporting from the New York Post indicating that the shutdown will last at least until next Thursday, the 27th of December, all Democrats would have to do is to wait a few more days, until January 3, to assume office in order to defeat Trump’s demands, and force him into negotiating on their terms. In other words, Trump can hold his breath all he wants to force Congress to consider his wall as being necessary to continue funding the government, but he will look foolish in doing so after that January 3 deadline.
In short, there’s no easy way out for the president at this point, but there is an option that is best for him. He can decide to agree to fund the government for now, through February as was proposed previously, and continue to push his demands, if he thinks they’re still viable, through that point. It may be that he cannot get his wall after Democrats take control of the House — but as it stands right now, he’s not going to get his wall anyway, even though his party controls both houses of Congress.
If he continues to hold his breath now, he looks foolish. If he acts in a responsible way, and loses, at least he’ll save face. Unfortunately for this president, the latter choice isn’t the one he typically aims for.