Donald Trump is losing his political fight over the border wall. He’s already shed several key GOP senators, chief among them Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who doesn’t eff around when she starts taking sides. He’s lost the absolute fealty of at least some journalists at his state-run media outlet, with both Fox News’ Chris Wallace and Shep Smith providing key fact checking on Trump’s bogus claims. And just before Trump’s Oval Office Hail Mary speech, a Reuters-Ipsos poll found a growing number of Americans—now 51 percent—blame him for shutdown, while just 32 percent blame Democrats (7 percent blame congressional Republicans).
Trump’s in a real pickle, to put it mildly. He doesn’t have enough political capital to persuade anywhere close to a majority of Americans to his side; he therefore doesn’t have enough leverage (not to mention good will) to get Senate Republicans to hold the line on his indefensible position; and he no longer has a House majority to shield him from the realities of governing.
In short, Trump has never lifted a finger to make his policies appeal to a broad swath of Americans, and now he chosen to die on a hill that only his most rabid supporters even give a damn about. Trump prosecuted this very same anti-immigrant campaign in the midterms and lost on it, but he has neither the grit nor the leadership skills to stare down his base and find another way.
Increasingly isolated by the limits of his slim skill set—which chiefly includes lying and nativist fear-mongering—Trump said Wednesday in the Oval Office that he might still declare a national emergency in order to raid military coffers to fund his wall.
“I think we might work a deal and if we don’t, I may go that route,” Trump said. “I have the absolute right to do national emergency if I want.” Asked what the threshold for taking such an action would be, Trump responded, “My threshold will be if I can’t make a deal with people that are unreasonable.”
In other words, if Trump can’t get what he wants (because he’s too politically weak to get it), well then, he’ll go the route of a dictator and simply declare an “emergency” that doesn’t exist.