President Trump has threatened to shut down the government if Congress refuses to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. While establishment Republicans fret over the potential fallout, such a move offers only political upside for Trump and the GOP. Republicans should gleefully add a third three-letter chant to their present repertoire of “lock her up” and “build the wall”: “shut it down.”
Conventional wisdom holds that the public disproportionately blames Republicans for government shutdowns. The disproportionate election of Republicans to the U.S. Senate following the Republican-led shutdown of 2013 should have put that canard to rest. Voters reward Republicans for fulfilling campaign promises, and no promise more clearly defined President Trump’s winning campaign in 2016 than building the wall. Even beyond the policy’s popularity, the news cycle moves so fast these days that public rancor over particular issues simply cannot survive past the next tweet.
Fretful Republicans point out that a shutdown would further diminish border security and likely lead to a temporary surge in illegal immigration. Who cares? A government shutdown promises one of two outcomes. Either Trump succeeds in convincing flakey Republicans and swing state Democrats to fund his wall, fulfilling a central campaign promise and curbing illegal immigration, or wall-to-wall news cycles—pun intended—show unvetted, mostly male, frequently diseased, often criminal illegal aliens pouring over our border, priming a slew of Republican campaign ads for the 2020 cycle. Countless public opinion polls show Americans oppose open borders. Republicans should relish the opportunity to drive a wedge between the reasonable voters on whom Democrats rely and the party leadership beholden to its radical activist base.
If the shutdown fails to secure border wall funding, Republicans will find themselves in no worse shape than they already can expect once Democrats take control of the House in January. If the shutdown succeeds to fund the wall, all the better. Either way, at least Republicans will have tried. Politics presents few win-win situations for partisans on either side. Republicans should seize their opportunity: shut it down.