Donald Trump will be speaking to the nation tomorrow night about the government shutdown and his border wall.
Trump will probably say that immigrants are coming across the border and trying to kill American citizens. Yes, there have been people killed at the hands of undocumented immigrants. This is a tragedy and the loss of a human life should never be taken lightly.
But, as I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, the chance that an American will die at the hands of a refugee terrorist is about one in 10.9 million per year. One is more likely to die from walking across a railroad track or having one’s clothes spontaneously catch fire. Yet Trump has managed to convince some Americans that Mexican immigrants are imminent threats to their safety. This is the foundation of his immigration policy and his commitment to the border wall. And one could argue that the wall is at the heart of his political brand. It is based on fear.
If Trump wants to build a domestic policy around protecting the lives of everyday Americans, he should be spending billions on cancer research, heart disease research, diabetes research, the opiod crisis, Alzheimer’s research, safer systems of transportation, and suicide prevention. These are the largest causes of death in the United States. Or how about spending money on long-term issues that will save lives–the protection of the environment, the reduction of the number of abortions in the United States, and affordable health care?
Do we need border security? Yes. Do we have an immigration problem that needs to be fixed? Yes. But if Trump really wants to keep more Americans alive he can spend that 5 billion in more fruitful ways.
More specifically, Trump will probably appeal to the so-called “4000 known or suspected terrorists” coming into our country illegally. On Sunday, Chris Wallace debunked this claim in dramatic fashion before a national audience:
By the way, Chris Wallace works for Fox News.
Trump may try to declare a “National Emergency” based on this false information. He will also accuse the Democrats in Congress that they do not care about the safety of our country. But there is no national emergency. I recently heard CNN Phil Mudd wonder when the last time a President of the United States had to go before the American people to persuade them that we were in the midst of a national emergency? Aren’t national emergencies pretty obvious? And don’t they usually get bipartisan support? Maybe some of my presidential historian friends can help me with that one.
And finally, Trump may say that most of the American people support his decision to shut-down the government in order to get a wall. This is another lie. One recent poll found that 78% of Americans approve of some kind of compromise on border security.
Trump recently told the press that he “can relate” to the hundreds of thousands of people who are not receiving paychecks because of the government shut down. Really? He added: “I’m sure the people who are on the receiving end will make adjustments; they always do.” I’ve seen this before. Trump seems to be making some kind 18th-century appeal to political virtue. In other words, he believes the federal workers will be willing to give up some of their own self-interest (in this case their paychecks) in order to support a greater good (security through a border wall). The Founding Fathers tried appeals to virtue in the 1770s and 1780s and they did not work very well. They do not seem to be working very well today either.