Trump never believed Mexico would pay for the wall. His supporters never believed Mexico would pay for the wall. Trump lead chants at rallies where he would ask: “Who is going to pay for the wall?” The crowds responded: “Mexico!” They never stopped to ask: “How is it that Mexico will pay for a wall?”
Political Philosopher Slovoj Zizek would identify “the wall” as a “signifier.” A “signifier” serves to bind a community around a unifying fantasy. It is sufficiently vague to play into people’s desires in order to bind them together and align them towards or against certain objects, such as ideas, political parties, and people with certain characteristics.
The “wall” is an “empty signifier.” It doesn’t matter whether Mexico pays for it. The “wall” serves as a racist symbol around which it’s supporters can rally against “the “caravans” of brown people seeking to come to America.
If the Democrats give Trump his wall, they will be building a symbol of hate that will only further divide our nation.
That’s where we stand. The “wall” is a symbol. If the Democrats give Trump his wall, they will be building a symbol of hate that will only further divide our nation. Like a confederate statue, the moment the “wall” is built there will be someone standing in front of it saying: “Mr. President, tear down this wall!”
Mexico is not going the pay for the “wall.” Trump now wants taxpayers to pay for it. The truth is if Trump wants his “wall, he’s going to have to pay for it.
There is a deal to be made. Trump had two years when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, and he didn’t get his “wall.” Now with Democrats in control of the House, Trump is going to have to give up something big if he wants money to build a wall.
An outline of Democratic demands might include the following: First, demilitarize the border. Pull the additional troops back and begin processing immigration and asylum claims normally.
The Administration must conform to federal and international law in processing applications and in the treatment of refugees and detainees. Specifically, the Administration must comply with all court orders in all matters, including reuniting with their parents all the children wrongfully detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Next, the administration must reform ICE to increase its focus on processing applications lawfully and humanely. Law enforcement activities should be restricted to drug interdiction, human trafficking, and unlawful migration. The reform must include but not be limited to a change in the agency’s name in order to signify its more service-oriented focus.
If Trump wants his largely symbolic wall to rally his base, the Democrats must demand a more than symbolic name change to rally their base. Abolishing ICE is about more than a name change, it’s about a change in mission. If Trump wants his “wall,” he’s going to have to “abolish ICE.”
Finally, Trump is going to have to agree to a pathway to citizenship for all dreamers, those who were brought here unlawfully as children and have lived here all their lives. If Trump wants Democrats to give him a “wall” to satisfy his base, he will have to give Democrats something big to satisfy their base.
Trump wants a dividing wall to divide America. Trump is a demagogue who taps into the fears of white Americans in order to manipulate them. Democrats need to oppose a divisive “wall” at all costs. They should continue to offer Trump something he can call a wall that isn’t actually a wall.
Democrats should offer Trump money for a high-tech smart wall that would be more effective than a physical barrier. They should offer to build physical barriers where it makes sense so long as the rights and interests of local stakeholders are taken into consideration, including the concerns of the Tohono O’odham nation whose land straddles the border. There may be places where a physical barrier makes sense or where existing fencing needs repair.
Democrats should avoid simply rejecting the “wall” outright without making a counter-offer. While Americans are against the “wall,” we are also against government shutdowns. To win the shutdown wars, Democrats must offer Trump a way to get his wall short of shutting down the government and declaring a national emergency.
If Trump wants his wall, he is going to have to pay for it. The first thing he should do is to put his money where his mouth is. He should donate millions of his own dollars to build the “wall.”
After that, he’s going to have to give the Democrats what they want. The sooner he recognizes this, the better off we will all be. If the President wants a wall, all he must do is pay for it.