Unsatisfied with the bipartisan agreement to allocate roughly $1.4 billion towards new barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in order to get the full amount of funding that he requested in order to build his infamously advertised wall. This executive order overrides the powers of Congress, which served as one of the biggest blockades in the struggle for Trump to get his wall constructed. In addition to Trump forcing down the obstacles that stood in the way of getting his wall, White House officials claimed that this declaration would relocate money meant for things such as military construction projects and counternarcotics programs towards the wall as well, bringing Trump’s current budget for the wall to a whopping $8 billion.
Trump has not only further devalued the foundational ideas of a democracy by using such aggressive tactics to fund a wildly unpopular border wall; the president is also setting a worrisome standard for the balance of powers that may continue even after Trump leaves office. President Trump is not the sole cause of the extremely partisan climate plaguing Capitol Hill right now, but he has done nothing but escalated this division, and in doing so, highlighted disappointing behavior from both major political parties in America.
Aside from the fact that many have expressed public outrage over a seemingly nonexistent emergency, what’s also worth noting in Trump’s most recent political strategy is the concerning standard he could be instilling in a political environment that has already shifted to the point of hyper-partisanship. In his speech where he declared the national emergency, Trump even made the point of saying that “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster… I just want to get it done faster, that’s all.” The president himself confirmed that this wasn’t a legitimate emergency, but rather a means to efficiently fund his wall, which significantly undermines the importance of this executive power.
This obvious abuse of power is now being challenged both in lawsuits and House resolutions, but Trump has shown no signs of bowing to any opposing forces that may come against him or his wall. Pertaining to the resolution introduced by the House to try and block the national emergency, Trump said that he would “one hundred percent” veto it. Some might say that Trump’s actions may only be representative of him and his governing style. But the way he’s choosing to behave in addition to the shifting ideologies of the Democratic and Republican parties may be indicative of a decline in the willingness to negotiate and have collaborative bipartisan efforts. It’s already shown in the Gallup polls how wide the partisan gap has grown over this past decade in relation to certain issues, some of which have been plastered all over the media for its extremely divisive debates. The biggest splits are shown in areas concerning healthcare, immigration, gun laws, abortion and taxes. Even when Trump eventually leaves office, there is a credible concern for whether the next president, regardless of the party association, is also going to weaponize national emergencies in order to achieve personal agendas. What further drives this startling theory is the amount of issues that feature major partisan cleavages; this emphasizes how disagreement will remain resoundingly present regardless of who takes office in 2020 and beyond. It’s only a matter of whether presidents to come will also declare nonsensical national emergencies in order to push legislation past an uncooperative legislature.
Despite the sitting president’s usual influence over the current political environment and ability to foster bipartisanship, Trump has opted instead to prioritize pleasing his base. As many issues are currently present in the government with vehement opinions and opposing ideas attached to them, this particular topic isn’t as partisan as one would assume it to be. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican legislators have warned the president about the cost of declaring a national emergency. However, McConnell, despite leading the Republican coalition that was urging Trump to refrain from abusing his executive powers, still told Trump he would support him if he were to follow through with declaring a national emergency. This epitomizes what’s wrong with the divisive environment in D.C. right now — choosing to stick with party loyalty, even when fully aware that someone from their respective party is acting irrationally. Rather than having the gumption to confront the president and call him out for his wrongdoings, Republicans have shown a disappointing compliance with the declaration of a national emergency.
Still, Trump has managed to secure about $3 billion more than what he requested from Congress for the wall, but at a mixed cost: on one hand, he has received backlash from a majority of people who agree that this move is unconstitutional, but Trump achieving his wall could also be interpreted as further legitimizing him in the eyes of his supporters. Trump faced a backlash when he chose to shutdown the government for a historically unprecedented amount of time for the sake of his border wall; not only did he emerge from the shutdown empty-handed, but he was hitting record lows in approval ratings. Also, when taking a closer look at where Trump sourced some of this border wall, it exposes the contradiction between the for the wall and the resources Trump is sacrificing in order to get his way. Trump is pulling $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs, which might slow down the efficiency of their projects, yet he stated that building the wall was necessary because “We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.” Given this claim, it’s bewildering how Trump was willing to take such a sizeable amount of funding from a body that is tasked with preventing drugs from being smuggled into the country.
All these unconventional tactics Trump used to finally get his wall funds are drawing a lot of attention. One could say he kept his biggest campaign promise, but the amount of those who simply see it this way may be shrinking. The wall was moderately popular at best and the amount of livelihoods he put at stake in order to achieve this goal may undoubtedly be in the minds of voters as they evaluate whether or not they want to give Trump a second term. In addition to the dissatisfaction that has grown amongst the public towards the executive, the 2018 midterms already showed swing states such as Pennsylvania turning blue, an indicator of how Trump’s prospects for a second term may be in danger.
Declaring a national emergency isn’t new, but the reason why this most recent one was ordered definitely is. It’s astounding that Trump was willing to go to these sorts of lengths in order to fund his border wall, but his stubbornness on this issue has certainly been met with disapproval. As the American public grapples with such a violation of democratic institutions, what’s worth taking away from this is that something must be done in order to repair the widening gap in partisan politics. It’s unsure whether or not we’re going to witness a further drift from compromise in the future, but blind party loyalty is at an all-time high and must be broken down if we want to preserve the spirit of debate and compromise that is so foundational to our democracy.