The shutdown failure has come to epitomize the Trump presidency. Over a month ago, it seemed he had given up with no fight—a spending bill was on its way through Congress that would include no wall funding and seemingly put an end to any optimism about his presidency. At the eleventh hour, he put his foot down, and decided that he was willing to shut down the government to try to extract a deal for the wall. Fumbling through missteps and missed opportunities, Trump had once again done just enough to string his base along and keep his presidency alive.
He used the right rhetoric and took preliminary steps in the right direction, but when it came time for action, he backed down, leaving the goal unrealized. Instead of following his instincts, and the desire of his base, Trump listened to people like Jared Kushner and other deep state agents who do not have his best interest in mind.
After the failure, Trump did what has come to most define his presidency: whine on Twitter. He aired his grievances against the media for the umpteenth time. He made the case for the wall for the umpteenth time. The battle lines have already been drawn. Everyone knows what the media is up to. Everyone knows what the wall would do and what it symbolizes. People either support or oppose these things—no one is being persuaded.
The time for the argument is over. It is time for action, and Trump has shown that he is not a man of action.
He is doing the same thing he did before becoming president, back when the moment called for a fierce debate over immigration. Now that the moment calls for a president who can effectively wield his power to take action on the issue, President Trump is nowhere to be found, only a watered-down Campaign Trump, tweeting into the ether, as if he has no power to do what he promised. It’s as if he is trying to make the media portrayal of him as an incompetent, tantrum-throwing child as accurate as possible. Far from the authoritarian figure he was supposed to be, Trump has proven himself to be timid and deferential in the hour of action—a bumbling figure easily manipulated by powers he ought to enforce his will upon.
The moment has passed, and he has been exposed as a bluffing buffoon.
If Trump is going to redeem himself, it is going to be through serious action. No longer do “based” tweets about South Africa, Covington Catholic, the media, or anything else have the ability to string his support along. It is obvious what needs to happen next: A National Emergency declaration (or Insurrection Act or Public Law 85-804 invocation) to build the wall in its entirety. Then, an executive order on birthright citizenship must be issued. After that, serious measures need to be taken to reduce legal immigration and quicken the pace at which illegal aliens are deported. These actions could afford him a second term, where he could continue down the lengthy list of actions that he was mandated to take by the voters who elected him to protect America during the existential crisis it now exists in.
Trump is unaware, unwilling, or unable to perform these duties.
His capitulation has gotten him nothing but contempt from both sides. His enemies mocked him and took a victory lap, while his supporters wondered how he could cave so weakly. When it came time for bold action, Trump delivered less than nothing.