Originally published by The NY Times
Suddenly, Washington is awash in talk about deal-making. On Wednesday, President Trump agreed with the Democrats on a plan to increase the debt limit and fund the government until December, enraging his Republican allies. This sudden thaw sets up the possibility of an even bigger deal: In exchange for making the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program permanent law, the Democrats would agree to maybe a couple of billion for the president’s beautiful wall on the border.
Should the Democrats accept such a deal? A part of me would like to say they should. Hey, it’s an actual compromise, just like Washington politicians used to make!
But alas, no, the Democrats should not. The reasons reflect both Americans’ views on these two policies and, more broadly, a brutal truth of our polarized politics today.
The simple fact is that voters support the liberal position on DACA. In one recent poll, 58 percent of respondents said the program’s participants, known as Dreamers, should be allowed to stay and have a path to citizenship. An additional 18 percent favored letting them become legal residents, but not citizens. Only 15 percent opted for deportation.
Letting the Dreamers stay is also the position of many Republican leaders – House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Lindsey Graham most notably in recent days, but many others as well. It’s gone from being the liberal position to what we might call the common-sense humane position.
At the same time, Americans do not support a border wall. A survey in late July – conducted by the polling company Rasmussen, generally considered to lean toward Mr. Trump – found that 56 percent of respondents opposed the wall, and 37 percent backed it. This is a big change from late January, the week after Mr. Trump took office, when in another Rasmussen survey a slight plurality supported the wall.
Now toss into the mix the president’s own sagging approval numbers. On Tuesday, Gallup had him at 37 percent.
So let’s review. We’ve got one policy that enjoys broad public backing, as well as bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. We’ve got another policy that has little public backing, which congressional Democrats oppose implacably and leaves even some Republicans ambivalent. Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, said Tuesday that he hopes to punt the wall-funding question to December. Under these circumstances, making a DACA/wall deal would be like Rafael Nadal saying to his 75th-ranked opponent, Sure, I’ll let you win half the time.
I’ve been surprised in recent days to see some prominent liberal commentators venture that maybe the Democrats should take such a deal. What’s $1.5 billion, goes the argument? That won’t build a wall. In exchange, the Dreamers are safe.
It’s tempting. But once Democrats agree to one payment of $1.5 billion, the door to many payments of $10 billion or $20 billion has been flung open. And – here’s the crucial point – they will have lost all ability to make a principled case against Mr. Trump’s wall.
I’m normally fairly comfortable with tactics and pragmatism, but this is one of those cases where that would constitute self-defeating politics. The Democrats need to be thinking about the midterm elections. Midterms are always base elections and referendums on the incumbent president. The Democrats should be heading into 2018 standing firm against the single most conspicuous symbol of Mr. Trump’s racial policies and attitudes, not cutting deals with him on it.
And this brings us to a brutal truth of our polarized time: Pundits don’t like obstruction. Experts at think tanks bemoan it. But voters rarely punish it.
In fact, they more often reward it. Look at how the Republicans fared in the two off-year elections during Barack Obama’s tenure. In 2010, they took six Senate seats and 63 House seats, recapturing control of that body. In 2014, they gained just 13 in the House – they’d about maxed out there – but picked up a whopping nine Senate seats.
These elections represented Republican voters rewarding their senators and representatives for saying no to President Obama on every major initiative. Democrats were outraged when the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said in October 2010 that the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president. But not Republican voters. Two weeks after he said it, they gave Mr. McConnell six new Republican Senate colleagues to work with to try to accomplish that goal.
I report this with no joy in my heart, but it is what it is. There may be some solutions for this state of affairs over the long term. But in the short term, one party can’t unilaterally disarm on a core issue.
As for the Dreamers, Democrats should be able to find other ways to help them. As the six-month deadline approaches, the hue and cry will be thunderous. Republicans will feel enormous pressure. There will be other horses to trade then. But giving an unpopular president money for an unpopular idea is how a minority stays a minority.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/08/opinion/swap-daca-wall-funding.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region®ion=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region&mtrref=www.nytimes.com&assetType=opinion
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