It was funny reading news stories over the last few days about White House staff scrambling to figure out how seriously to take his threat to close the border immediately to stop illegal immigration.
“He’s not really crazy enough to do this.”
“But what if he is crazy enough to do this?”
They had to prepare, just in case. The preparation took two forms, notes WaPo: First, looking for ways to ease the ensuing economic pain (Larry Kudlow took to gabbing about keeping “truck roads” open), and second, trying to talk him out of it, for the love of God. Mission accomplished, it seems. As of early this afternoon, the border closure had been postponed to 2020 at the earliest.
I’m guessing that the “one-year warning” is more like an 18-month warning. Trump’s not going to play economic Russian roulette a few months out from an election by closing the Mexican border.
How was he convinced to change his mind? With two forms of economic arguments, I think. One was the marco argument, that the national economy would take a major hit and auto manufacturing in particular might be brought to its knees if the border suddenly turned imporous. Some of the estimates were gruesome:
Completely shutting down the U.S. border with Mexico, as Trump has threatened, could halt all U.S. automotive manufacturing within a week, impacting at least 1 million jobs, said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research. She said virtually all U.S. auto production relies on some key parts from Mexico or Central America and that these products are brought into the United States on trucks or trains.
Sen. John Kennedy estimated a potential economic cost of $ 1-2 billion per day. Shoppers would have noticed immediately at the supermarket too, with some produce suddenly scarce or conspicuously more expensive. A man who’s looking to install political allies on the Fed to keep the policy path clear for sustained economic growth before he faces voters again next fall obviously doesn’t want to obstruct that path himself with something like an indefinite border closure.
But there was a more specific argument for Trump not to do it as well: In two words, Beto O’Rourke. What I mean is that Texas Republicans adamantly opposed any closing of the border, knowing how severe the impact would be on their home state. Ted Cruz issued a statement strongly denouncing the plan; even Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Trumpiest high-ranking politician in the state, urged POTUS not to do it. Officials in Texas border towns fretted to the media that they’d be ruined without commerce from Mexico, a development “akin to dropping a bomb on its economy” wrote WaPo of the town of Eagle Pass. If Texas were in the bag for Trump next fall that might not have weighed heavily on him. But Cruz’s close call with O’Rourke last year has party strategists worried that Texas may be purpler than thought, particularly considering that Trump is less popular there than Cruz is.
The odds of Texas going blue next year are slim but not as slim as they used to be, especially if native son Beto is the Dem nominee. Trump can’t take any risks that might alienate Republican-leaning swing voters there. And so, inevitably, his threat to close the border immediately became a threat to maybe do it in a year. Possibly.
Either way, it’d be good if he had a policy of not threatening to do stuff like this unless and until he intends to follow through. The threat can have adverse consequences, you see:
“Hurry up and sneak in before America locks the back door” is inevitable opportunistic advertising among coyotes and a price worth paying *if* you really are in the process of shutting the back door. If you aren’t then merely threatening to do so encourages a stampede to no end.
Here’s Newt yesterday on “Fox & Friends” advising the show’s biggest fan not to close the border. I think the fact that so many people who normally devote so much time to cheering him on, from Gingrich to Cruz to Patrick, were warning him against this really drove home to Trump what a mistake it would have been.