President Trump’s surprising decision to surrender to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the State of the Union reflects a growing reality that the government shutdown is taking a steep political toll on the White House.
Trump could have easily escalated the feud with Pelosi and held the speech at an alternate site, or showed up at the Capitol, but instead offered a conciliatory gesture, agreeing to give the speech in the House chamber at a later date.
Conservatives are outraged by Trump’s decision, viewing it as capitulation and a sign of weakness. And they’re right. The State of the Union was Trump’s best chance to make his case, but he’s given that up — at least until the shutdown is over.
Now, Trump — much to the disappointment of his supporters — may end up compromising on his long-held stance that he won’t reopen the government until he gets his $5.7 billion for the border wall. And it means an emboldened Pelosi is now less likely to give an inch in the border battle.
The latest polls show Trump’s approval rating dipping as most Americans blame him for the shutdown and the ripple effects of hundreds of thousands of federal workers going without a paycheck.
The ramifications of a continued shutdown with no end in sight are starting to weigh on the White House, and it will only get worse. For instance, what if TSA workers start not showing up for their jobs, paralyzingly the airline industry and inconveniencing millions?
Trump will get the brunt of the blame for that.
Yes, it’s partly because the media has portrayed the shutdown as Trump’s fault, but that’s a reality the president has to face. Does he really want the shutdown to drag on through the year, possibly endangering his 2020 re-election chances?
Pelosi is counting on the answer to be no. She played her hand and won the stalemate over the SOTU, probably surprising even Democrats. Now she holds the upper hand and is even more intoxicated with power. Good luck negotiating with her.
Trump won’t give up the wall — he’s too dug in on that. But he will have to agree to some kind of temporary stopgap spending measure that includes some money for border security while reopening shuttered government agencies.
The president can try to hold some political rallies in friendly states, but they won’t have the same impact as the pomp and circumstance of the State of the Union.
That is now the political reality, and one Trump has to face, even if he loses face.
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