Not the first time he’s made this point but a useful reminder after this morning’s news that public opinion in Mexico is a variable in this equation too. I can’t find any polls of Mexican opinion on paying for the wall but the fact that their leaders insist publicly at every turn that they won’t pay gives you a clue about which way popular sentiment is running. Mexico’s refusal to pay for the wall was reportedly one of the few policy matters raised by Enrique Pena-Nieto when he met with Trump in August. Two days after the election, Mexico’s foreign minister vowed again that they wouldn’t pay. Fox, the ex-president, has promised repeatedly that the country won’t pay.
TRUMP, when will you understand that I am not paying for that fucken wall. Be clear with US tax payers. They will pay for it.
— Vicente Fox Quesada (@VicenteFoxQue) January 6, 2017
It’s a matter of national pride, I assume: If Trump is so eager to keep Mexicans out that he’ll pay billions to do it, that’s on him, but Mexicans aren’t going to pick up the tab for their own exclusion. Trump has his own personal pride on the line too, having promised so many times on the trail to get Mexico to pay, but there’s probably more room politically for him to back down than there is in Mexico for Pena-Nieto to cave. New data from Pew:
Two-thirds of Republicans say the wall is at least somewhat important but only 16 percent of Democrats agree. By comparison, every other measure listed above draws 41 percent support or better among Dems. (Among Republicans, 46 percent want to establish a way for illegals to stay legally and 60 percent want those who came to the U.S. illegally as children to stay.) The wall is one of the few aspects of immigration that’s hyper-polarized along partisan lines — which is probably due partly to the prominence Trump has given the issue. “The wall” isn’t really about the wall, it’s about Trump keeping one of his showiest nationalist campaign promises. Even if it gets built, you may see no better than 50 percent support for it for exactly that reason, because Democrats are strongly encouraged for partisan reasons to give it a thumbs down.
But I digress. The point is, there’s *some* space politically for Trump to back down on the wall if he wants to. It’s not even the most popular measure among Republicans of the eight listed above. And people don’t expect him to keep his promise in the first place. Back in September, ABC asked Americans if they expect Mexico to pay for the wall and they split, um, 13/78. Another poll taken shortly after had it 21/76. If not for Trump’s obsession with dominance, I think it’d be enough for him to build the wall and treat that as a major achievement, irrespective of who’s paying for it. But because he’s set this up as a test of wills with Mexico, he’ll have to figure out a way to claim that they paid. Like I said this morning, it’ll probably come down to him pointing at American companies like Ford that have canceled plans to outsource jobs and saying that Mexico “paid” that way.
Here’s an interview with Fox last year about “that f***ing wall.” Profanity warning.