For someone who sold himself to the public as the great deal-maker (i.e., The Art of the Deal), Donald Trump has made a mess of negotiations with Congress over the federal budget and his own demand for a Wall. In order to strike a deal, one must engage in good faith bargaining. A deal is never arrived at by simply holding one’s position. What is arrived at with that approach is either victory or surrender.
This, therefore, begs the question as to what Trump is attempting to achieve. I saw a piece by a commentator who noted that Trump is the leader of a movement but not the leader of a country. I found such insight quite profound. Trump is, in fact, not looking to craft a deal.
He is attempting to mollify his base and humiliate his opponents. There are many problems with this approach not the least being what I call the “Fletcher Principle:” One never humiliates or attempts to humiliate one’s opponent unless one can annihilate them.
To do so runs the risk of creating an enemy for life.
Trump’s focus on his base makes it impossible to lead the country. Simply put, the numbers are not there. Even if he was not facing increasing questions regarding his relationship with Russia as well as corruption within his own circle, his approach toward the current shutdown should prove his inadequacies—some would call it incompetence—as a leader.
What Trump has decided to do is to shoot the dice with the lives of hundreds of thousands of federal workers in order to prove to his base that he remains their “man” and will stand firm. That he is making no effort to arrive at a compromise is, therefore, noteworthy. He is quite prepared to bring the temple down on himself and everyone else around him.
There are those who suggest that many in Trump’s circle are happy about the shutdown/lockout/forced labor because it reduces the size of government. This may be true but it is not something that can withstand the pressure in the larger ruling class, not to mention the pressure from the people of the USA, for the services that government is supposed to provide. It is also testing the limits of the patience of federal workers who, I would argue, have every right to withhold their services rather than continue to be treated as cattle by Trump.
Since we should now understand that Trump cannot bring himself to make a deal, we must create such intense pressure on the Senate that they will be forced to act around Trump. So far, the Senate has been unwilling to act, but should the sickouts spread among federal workers and be joined by larger public support, the possibilities for ending the lockout are numerous.