The Morning Jolt

White House

Democrats May Crack under the Pressure to Build the Wall

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House, January 4, 2019. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Freshmen House of Representatives Democrats start to feel some pressure over the shutdown, Trump walks away from the table, a question of how accurate the populist portrait of America feels with a booming economy, and a bit of ranting about the new coach of the New York Jets.

The First Cracks in the Democratic Wall about the Wall

This is the best sign for the White House in the government shutdown so far:

Now, as the shutdown drags into Day 19, the frustration is starting to reach a tipping point for some who fear the prolonged stalemate could do real political damage in vulnerable Democratic districts.

“If I am getting comments and contact from my constituents expressing concern that the Democrats are not prioritizing security, then I think we can do better,” said freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.).

Spanberger, who represents a district won by President Donald Trump in 2016, spoke up at a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday morning to warn Democrats were losing the messaging war in her district and needed to be more clear about the kind of border security measures they support.

The freshmen arranged an impromptu 90-minute meeting over the weekend at a retreat in Virginia because several new members were “freaking out” about the ongoing shutdown and the party’s strategy, according to a Democratic source who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

This is where the messaging has to be focused: “We want to make a deal, but the congressional Democrats aren’t willing to make any concessions and they’re not serious about border security.”

Of course, if you want to appear conciliatory and eager to reach a compromise, you should probably avoid being the first to walk away from the table.

Trump to Democrats: Bye-Bye!

Does President Trump strike you as a man who’s deeply worried about being blamed for the shutdown? Yesterday he tweeted:

Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!

Polling indicates about half the country blames the president; about the third blames the Democrats. Neither the president nor Republicans should be surprised by this turn of events, as Trump declared in the Oval Office with the television cameras running, “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.” Trump seemed to think that surprising statement was a show of strength that would intimidate Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. It didn’t work. He’s now insisting this is the “Pelosi shutdown.”

Do congressional Democrats strike you as lawmakers afraid of getting blamed for the shutdown?

If congressional Republicans had their way, either the government would be open and funding for the wall would be passed, or the government would be open as funding for the wall (or fence, or a barrier, or slats, or whatever we’re calling it this week) was debated. But congressional Republicans don’t have any real leverage here — they can’t make Trump reopen the government without wall funding, and they can’t make Democrats abandon the filibuster for a funding bill that includes money for a wall.

And Trump has insisted he won’t sign a funding bill without some money for the wall; Schumer and Pelosi have publicly pledged that they will not vote for any money for the wall at all. The “middle ground” of giving Trump, say, half of what he wanted would strike them and their base as a wholesale surrender on the “morality” of the wall.

Nobody who has the power to work out a deal — the president or congressional Democrats — feels enough pain yet; both sides fear the consequences of conceding on the issue of the wall more than they fear the consequences of the government shutdown continuing.

Senate Republicans are trying to put together the bigger DACA-and-H1B-visas-for-the-wall deal that many have speculated would be the natural compromise.

Back on December 21, I wrote:

I guess the plan is to have a long shutdown, put the squeeze on as many federal workers as possible, and hope that the federal workers pressure Democrats to throw Trump a bone and approve a few billion in funding for the wall. But if you’re a Democratic lawmaker, the consequences of the government shutdown have to get really bad before they get worse than the consequences of surrendering to the president on funding for the border wall.

This situation was not difficult to see coming.

How Much Does the Populist Portrait of Dystopia Match What You See in Your Life?

More arguments about Tucker Carlson’s monologue on National Review!

This isn’t a direct response to Michael Brendan Dougherty, but a broader question: Are there any economic conditions where the populist argument starts to feel outdated and irrelevant? Populists paint a portrait of greedy corporations making mass layoffs, factories shutting down, opportunities drying up and disappearing, and men sitting on couches, playing video games and dropping out of society. And no doubt in a country as big and diverse are ours, you can find communities that match that dire portrait.

But . . . we’ve had unemployment below 4 percent for the past eight months. The country created 2.6 million new jobs last year, including 281,000 new jobs in manufacturing. That is the most manufacturing jobs the economy has added in a year since 1997. Blue-collar jobs are increasing at the fastest rate in 30 years. In July, the unemployment rate for those without a college degree hit 5 percent, the lowest ever. In that allegedly forgotten and neglected “flyover country” of the Midwest, there are 463,000 more job openings than jobless workers. The work-force-participation rate is moving in the right direction. Yes, the numbers on wages, once adjusted for inflation, aren’t where we want them to be. But by a lot of measures, this is pretty close to the economy we would want. At what point does the argument, “We’re willing to work hard and want to get ahead, but those selfish and exploitative elites won’t let us” start to sound like an implausible excuse?

Actually, I will address one point from MBD, where he and other NR writers appear close to agreement:

Once that’s done, we can get on to more ambitious proposals. [Kevin] Williamson wants to see these marginal men matched up to the many unfilled, well-paying, industrial jobs that do exist in America. So do I — but I have an odd intuition that falling fertility rates over the last two generations have destroyed the primary means through which men find these type of jobs: their extended kin networks. Be that as it may, we might consider Oren Cass’s suggestion of labor reform that would allow German-style worker co-ops that have the ability to train men and match them to opportunities. Doing this would involve another status game, as it might mean thinking about this issue more and serving the interests of our bloated university system less. So be it.

I don’t think you would find many conservatives who would object to this, and earlier this year Congress passed and Trump signed legislation directing the Small Business Administration to make its loan-guarantee programs more readily available to employee stock-ownership plans and worker-owned cooperatives. A small step, but movement in the right direction.

MBD concludes, “We need to work for the creation of a free market that contributes to rather than hinders the formation of strong families and communities.” Absolutely right. This probably will require flexibility in workers’ hours (particularly parents or those taking care of an elderly relative), more maternity and paternity leave, more charitable giving, and companies seeing themselves as stakeholders in their communities. Matt Shapiro has an eye-opening and depressing portrait about how Amazon ended up unintentionally greatly worsening Seattle’s homelessness problem by driving a sudden increase in housing prices. As he notes, this isn’t a simple issue of malevolent corporations; it’s an unforeseen side effect of suddenly creating a lot of high-paying jobs in a city: “It’s foolishness to say that Amazon is responsible for homelessness. But it is similarly naive to say that they play no part in this dynamic.”

ADDENDUM: Since a lot of you are likely to ask, no, I don’t feel that much different about the New York Jets hiring former Dolphins head coach Adam Gase this morning. Could this work out? Sure. Plenty of coaches have found more success the second time around, learning from their mistakes the first time: Bill Belichick, Dick Vermeil, Pete Carroll, Tony Dungy, Tom Coughlin, Marv Levy. (Bill Parcells got slightly less successful which each successive team.) Andy Reid is working out quite well for the Chiefs. But this requires Gase to be a significantly better coach than he was in Miami. If you’re an NFL fan, did the Dolphins strike you as a particularly well-coached team for the past few years? Innovative? Dynamic? Groundbreaking? Did they even seem like they were headed in the right direction? For a long time, the Dolphins struck me as overhyped and underperforming. There was always preseason talk that they were ready to “turn the corner,” and they never quite did. Maybe that’s not all Gase’s fault, but it’s hard to believe he’s blameless.

Yes, he’s been around a lot of good quarterbacks over the years, and Peyton Manning gushes about him. I would absolutely love to be wrong, and if the Jets thrive under Gase, I will sing from the rooftops that I was a fool for doubting him.

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