So, we are going to build Trump’s wall. The White House has pressured the U.S. military to divert $3.6 billion away from more than 100 national security projects to start building the fence.
You will not be surprised to learn that Mexico won’t pay for this; U.S. taxpayers will. We can’t afford toothbrushes or flu shots for immigrant children seeking asylum, but we can, apparently, afford to build a $60 billion wall over mountains and through deserts.
By the end of 2020, just after the election, Trump says there will be 500 miles of completed wall. Thus, he will be able to reassure his supporters (four out of every 10 voters) that he is keeping his promise to wall off the southern border. All the experts – all – agree the wall will be difficult to build, will not end illegal immigration, will cost far more than any current estimates, will mean landowners will have their property seized and in time will become a despised white elephant.
But Trump’s wall is something he can be photographed with and which will, of course, be named after him. Trump’s supporters don’t seem to care that he is not keeping his other promises — to restore U.S. manufacturing, bring back the coal industry, stop Russia from interfering in our elections, fix health care, rebuild America’s infrastructure, stop North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, drain the swamp.
Historians will look at the Trump era as a waste of time and resources, a time of hate. They will be appalled at the resurgence of racism, white supremacy, dismissal of women’s rights, the end of America’s self-appointed role of spearheading human rights.
They will puzzle at Trump’s insistence on a wall that will not work while tearing up treaties that would have slowed the advance of climate change, while tearing up regulations designed to protect the air and water for future generations, while shredding the relationships with allies that have kept overall world peace for decades and while vastly enriching himself and his family at the expense of taxpayers.
But perhaps the most damage Trump has done is to our self-respect as a nation. We have dumbed down our expectations of what it means to be a good, effective and moral leader. We have accepted the “new normal” of American leadership as self-absorbed, materialistic and provoking one outrage after another, week after week.
The other issue is the power of the presidency. Even as a Category 5 hurricane swept over the Bahamas and threated the east coast of the United States, Trump decided to take emergency response money from the military and the Federal Emergency Management Administration for his wall on the border with Mexico.
He had just backed away from using an obscure emergency power to order U.S. companies out of China, adding to the economic uncertainty and instability caused by his trade war.
After 12,000 Trump lies – all provable — to the American people, the only recourse we have is to hope that we don’t have another 2000 or 2016 election, where the popular vote was outweighed by the Electoral College. Already, bad actors in Russia, Iran, China, North Korea and in the U.S. are readying huge disinformation campaigns to sway voters against whoever the Democratic candidate is. The major aim is to convince people not to vote, that their vote doesn’t matter and to tamp down any enthusiasm for Democrats.
And Democrats aren’t making it difficult. They are doing little to excite or reassure voters. What visions they do have are so costly, impractical and unlikely to be enacted that people are scoffing openly.
On the other hand, the grass roots movements against Trumpism are spreading and gaining muscle.
Two-thirds of Americans are worried that women, in particular, are losing their rights under Trump. Ninety percent want background checks before people can buy guns. Americans worry about the destruction of the environment.
Forty-one percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing. The average for all presidents in their 10th quarter in the White House is 54 percent. But Barack Obama had a 41% approval rating at the exact same point in his presidency, and he was re-elected.
Trump is counting on “optics,” such as his wall, negative and divisive tweets and media lust for the turmoil he causes to get re-elected. Right now, those who think he can’t possibly be re-elected, and those who say he will, have a 50% chance of being correct.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.