The impasse over President Trump's demand for a wall along the Mexican border has brought the U.S. to the brink of a national emergency. The President refuses to fund the government until Congress appropriates money for his wall, while the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives refuses, as is its prerogative, to fund the wall. The debate has focused on whether a wall can be effective or whether it's really necessary, but the real sticking point, despite whatever Democratic leaders say, is that as far as their primary base is concerned, Trump's proposal is a "racist wall" and an affront to their idea of America. Trump can try to cite support for stronger border barriers on the part of past Democrats, but their motives are presumed to be different and definitely less sinister than his. He could have done something to change the narrative during his recent national address, simply by citing the number of Mexicans or Central Americans who've entered the country legally during his presidency to refute the inference that a wall means that Hispanics aren't welcome. He didn't, however, maybe because that's not what his supporters want to hear but mainly because he sees the wall as a national security issue and prefers to justify it with crime statistics that inevitably have been challenged. Such arguments annoy those who see talk of drugs, rape, etc. as a smear on all who want to cross over, but national security doesn't work on the "innocent until proven guilty" principle. Emphasizing our continuing openness to legal immigration may not have won over those who think that any limits are based on bigotry, but it might have swayed those who remain uncertain about what the wall means.
As things stand now, the Democrats may well want Trump to declare an emergency, since that would play into the "authoritrian" narrative without really putting anyone in danger. They definitely don't want to be seen giving in so soon after reclaiming power in the lower house. But just as Speaker Pelosi told Trump last fall that elections have consequences, so the consequences of the 2016 election remain in effect. Trump's veto power is unassailable and he's unlikely to be shamed into abandoning a defining item on his agenda. Compromise may be unpalatable but it seems inescapable. A wall may seem offensive to many but Trump's election is a mandate for it. We may as well indulge him in it until he's out of office. Then if the electorate is so inclined, you can tear down that wall.