Having offered an olive branch to Democrats on the prospect of an immigration deal, the president has opened himself to criticism from a base that has come to expect he will be an immigration hardliner.
But here’s the thing: If Trump continues to offer a DACA deal in return for a relatively low border allotment of security money, he’ll be seen as the one who is being most flexible. And that matters, because when it comes to government shutdowns, the victor is whoever is seen to be the most flexible.
More broadly, whether they love him or loathe him or don’t really have much of an opinion either way, most Americans recognize that Trump ran on a platform of a stronger military, border security and a crackdown on special interests. If he pushes for a moderate deal on DACA (which is what he’s doing at the moment) and Democrats shut down the government by demanding more, Trump will be seen as the deal maker stymied by Washington elites.
And if anyone is an effective messenger to his base, it’s Trump. This will be a fight Trump relishes.
In turn, I expect the White House will refuse Democratic offers for parity on domestic spending increases in return for military spending hikes. They’ll justifiably point to the dramatic up-spend in domestic programs that has occurred over the past 15 years and the risk of keeping defense spending capped in an era of threats like those posed by Iran and North Korea.
Trump has already hinted at this strategy with his Friday morning tweet.
….Because of the Democrats not being interested in life and safety, DACA has now taken a big step backwards. The Dems will threaten “shutdown,” but what they are really doing is shutting down our military, at a time we need it most. Get smart, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
I may be wrong, but I think Trump wins if the government gets shut down.