• Harriet Ireland

What does the shutdown mean for Trump in 2019?

As Britain muddles through the ramifications of the Leave campaign’s false promise of £350 million for the NHS, Trump’s 2016 promise to build a wall across the entire Mexican border has finally caught up with him. Mexico’s refusal (on multiple occasions, even before Trump’s election) to pay for the wall has forced Trump to turn to Congress. In December the President threatened to shut down the government if money for his wall was not put into the US budget.

However, now entering its fourth week, the US government has surpassed its 1995 record, of 21 days, for the longest ever government shutdown. 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed and without pay. Agencies are unable to provide basic needs for Americans, national parks are without staff, federal museums have been shut and DC has ground to a halt.

Trump couldn’t secure a deal with Congress even when it was fully Republican controlled. When the Democrats took over the House in January, new speaker Nancy Pelosi, promised Americans that she would end this unnecessary shutdown. However, negotiations since have stalled and President Trump walked out of the latest meeting, tweeting after that it was “a total waste of time”. The Democrats have offered multiple alternatives on border security, but Trump wants a wall or nothing. His stubborn determination means he is unlikely to waver and end the shutdown. Therefore, it is hard to see a resolution to this crisis in the foreseeable future.

What are Trump’s motives? Trump believes honouring his promise of a wall will reinvigorate his conservative Republican base, who believe strongly in the issue and is being seen by many as the first evidence of Trump laying groundwork for his re-election campaign. However, this refusal to budge on the issue of immigration can also be seen as Trump just not wanting to lose another fight. His administrative accomplishments so far have been limited especially in consideration to immigration policy, one of the most important issues for his right-wing voters. So, Trump’s ego comes in to play, and is he taking the US government to the brink of despair just to save face?

As the shutdown continues public opinion has started to shift. A recent poll claims that 53 percent of Americans now blame Trump and the Republican congress. [1] Making it increasingly harder for Trump to continue playing the blame game. With no clear end date in sight and with tight elections in the near future for many Republican legislators it won’t be long before Republicans in Congress start to question their support for the president.

But what does this mean for 2019? With the government shut indefinitely, a split Congress and a President who is used to getting his own way there is little hope for those in Washington. However this gridlock only serves as a prelude for what’s in store for 2019. With partisanship at its height on Capitol Hill and Trump not afraid to use his veto power, it is unlikely that there will be many legislative successes for either party. It will be interesting to see what Trump has to offer at his State of the Union address at the end of January both in terms of his legislative agenda and in terms of the wall, whether an agreement is met or if the government is still shutdown. But the Democrats are surely hoping this unpredictable leadership will lead to a changing mood ahead of 2020.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/americans-blame-trump-and-gop-much-more-than-democrats-for-shutdown-post-abc-poll-finds/2019/01/12/9c89aff2-16a9-11e9-90a8-136fa44b80ba_story.html?utm_term=.a1d1f8487823

At the time of writing, Harriet Ireland is a third year student at the University of Edinburgh, currently on a year abroad at The George Washington University in D.C. She is studying History and Politics. Areas that interest her the most are US politics and UK foreign relations.