Two or three times a year Trump whiffs on an opportunity to play hardball with Democrats over the wall, Coulter and a few other nationalist ideologues react by getting mad, and then we spend a few days pretending that Trump’s base might rise up in anger against him. That is, we pretend most right-wing populists are nationalists rather than Trumpists. They aren’t. Coulter is, Ingraham is, Tucker Carlson is, but voters tend not to be strict ideologues. Trumpers will be momentarily annoyed if he caves on the wall but the good news is that there’s always a new crisis around the corner to rally the troops. Mueller will indict Don Jr, or Hillary will say something stupid about “deplorables,” or the Redskins will sign Colin Kaepernick and that’ll be where the new political or cultural battle line is drawn. The Trump presidency is first and foremost about culture; specific policies, even ones as central as the wall, are secondary.
And look. Even if he never builds the wall, which seems likely with Democrats now set to take power in the House, he’ll go on insisting to his final day in office that it’s about to be built. And most of his fans will believe him, or at least will give him enough benefit of the doubt that he can make a great big beautiful deal happen that they won’t punish him politically for not having done so yet. He’s already lying straight to their faces in public, claiming that “a lot of wall has been built.” That’s a hard lie to pull off compared to “Trust me, it’s in the works.”
Still, having people like Coulter and Fox News primetime pissed off at him is dangerous potentially, not because they’re going to convince untold millions of Trump fans to abandon him over this single issue but because they’re signaling that right-wing identity still stands somewhat apart from devotion to Trump himself. You can hold him accountable for failures and still be a populist-nationalist in good standing. That’s not a message he’s eager to see circulate, especially with his legal trouble mounting.
“Either Trump never intended to build a wall and was scamming voters from the beginning or he hasn’t the first idea in how to get it done and no interest in finding out,” conservative author Ann Coulter told TheDC in an email, adding “my prediction is his support will evaporate and Trump will very likely not finish his term and definitely not be elected to a second term.”
More from the Daily Caller:
“They’re about to have a country where no Republican will ever be elected president again,” Coulter said. “Trump will just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he’ll have no legacy whatsoever.”
When asked if she would vote for Trump in 2020 if there is no wall, the author of the book “In Trump We Trust” said, “No. Nor will, I think, most of his supporters. Why would you? To make sure, I don’t know, Ivanka and Jared can make money? That seems to be the main point of the presidency at this point.”
If he doesn’t finish his term, it won’t be because he choked on building the wall. And if he isn’t elected to a second term, it won’t be because his base abandoned him. Far more likely is that he loses because everyone *but* his base has. Trump got elected the first time thanks to the potency of negative partisanship, the idea that no matter how bad your guy is, the other party’s guy is worse. Admittedly, there’s no one in the Democratic field in 2020 who’ll make that argument as easy for Trump as Hillary did, but it will be made irrespective of whom the nominee is and it will be highly effective in turning out populists. Is Amy Klobuchar the antichrist? The answer is yes, if she ends up as Trump’s opponent. Even if not a single brick (sorry, not a single “attractively designed steel slat”) has been fixed at the border yet. Coulter helped create this personality cult. If she doesn’t like where it’s led, well, welcome.
Ask yourself this if you’re trying to gauge how much flak Trump is likely to get for failing on the wall. How much flak does he get from his fans for lying in his subsidiary promise of making Mexico pay for it? He still spins half-heartedly about that, insisting that Mexico is kinda sorta going to pay for it via trade even though that claim is transparent nonsense. But he doesn’t need to. No one on the populist right is outraged that he’s demanding $5 billion from Schumer and Pelosi instead of from the president of Mexico. He’s already gotten away with that lie, and he’ll get away with the lie about building the wall too. All he needs to do is remind people that he called for McConnell to end the filibuster for legislation months ago and was ignored. If the Senate GOP had listened to him, the Republican Congress could have appropriated the wall money themselves. It’s someone else’s fault, not Trump’s. His supporters will happily accept that since they hate McConnell and Paul Ryan already.
In lieu of an exit question, here’s a surprisingly contentious exchange on the wall between Kellyanne Conway and the beating heart of Trump TV, “Fox & Friends.” Steve Doocy in particular seemed aghast in an intro segment this morning that Trump looks prepared to sign a short-term funding bill that will postpone the big wall-shutdown fight until … Pelosi is in charge of the House. Why wait for a moment when the White House has (marginally) less leverage than it does now to pick this fight? Makes no sense. But as I say, we’re only one cultural-crisis news cycle away from everyone being back aboard the Trump train again.