New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman tweeted out an interaction between acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and panelists on the president’s favorite television network on Friday morning.
Haberman abbreviated their interaction in her Twitter post, mentioning the mere details. “Fox crew pushing Mulvaney on how to square changing from ‘wall’ to ‘steel slat fence’ is not going to be seen by Trump voters as bending to Dems on a core issue,” Haberman wrote.
The supposed concern by Fox panelists highlighted by Haberman piqued my interest — not because I believe it’s a genuine fear that President Donald Trump should worry over, but rather because I believe his base of supporters will back him up no matter what happens on the issue of a southern border wall.
We can look at this from a game theory perspective to prove my point. Let’s suppose it’s the start of the year 2018, and Trump has to decide how hard he should fight for a border wall. There are only two outcomes: a wall is built, or a wall isn’t built. Trump also has two choices: fight like hell to get the border wall, or try to create a cooperative effort to maybe get one.
If Trump makes an attempt to “fight like hell,” he wins over his supporters no matter what. It was, after all, one of his campaign promises, according to reporting from PolitiFact (which also points out he pledged to get Mexico to pay for the wall). The outcome doesn’t matter at this point, because it’s the action, not the result, that matters more to Trump’s base of support.
Should Trump win the wall debate, then he gets the wall and his supporters call it a victory. Should he lose the debate, his supporters witness Trump, through his ranting and raving online and in real life, fighting for their supposed interests, and consider the “loss” not of his making. It’s Democrats — and possibly wayward Republicans — who are to blame.
The only way Trump “loses” support from his base on the matter is if he acquiesces, or shows timidity on the issue. Even then, if Trump can get a compromise deal — say, a wall alongside a promise to give immigrants already living in the United States a track toward citizenship — most of his supporters will still give the president props for getting the border wall construction started.
Most Americans, of course, don’t support the idea of building a wall, much less the move to shut down the government in order to get one. As previous reporting from the Inquisitr points out, both moves are considerably unpopular, and won’t help Trump in his re-election campaign in 2020.
But neither will distancing himself from his base of supporters. Trump is banking on them to make it to the polls in droves two years from now. In order to get that to happen, he needs to be the same Donald Trump he was in 2016. On the issue of the border wall, he’s demonstrated, at least to his core voters, that he is that same candidate.