President Donald Trump held a large and raucous rally in El Paso, Texas on Monday, February 11th and there is no doubt that he used it to fire his opening broadside in what will be an almost two-year campaign for re-election. The Democrats had graciously provided the president’s ammunition, and the tone was set for Trump’s platform: 2020 is about preventing a socialist takeover and all the deprivations that would come with it.
While he started out running through the now standard list of economic, trade, employment and national defense accomplishments of his administration, President Trump soon turned to the radical Democratic Party agenda. He hit his opponents on their promotion of socialism, environmental extremism, late-term abortions, and open borders.
Worthy of note was the fact that after the president spoke about border security and immigration issues, he then returned to the left’s push for socialism. It seems likely that Democratic presidential candidates are going to be spending much of their time trying to either distance themselves from the socialist world-view while trying to maintain support from the radical left or attempting to re-interpret socialist ideology to make it appear acceptable to the average American voter.
Rumors of a Deal
The El Paso rally was held against the backdrop of the fight over border security, though. It was billed as the president’s final public pitch for border wall funding as congressional Democrats and Republicans struggle to create a spending bill that Trump will sign. Without that bill, parts of the federal government will shut down – once again – at midnight on Friday, February 15th.
Shortly before the president arrived in Texas, news broke of a tentative deal on spending. Trump himself did not have the details and took a wait and see approach, but media sources reported that the deal included $1.375 billion for construction of approximately 55 miles of border wall. That could be something the president accepts since he is already preparing to take advantage of laws that will allow him to direct additional funding to border construction.
The main sticking point in this latest proposal may not be funding for the wall, however. Democrats included in the deal a reduction in the number of beds that will be available for detained illegal aliens. In simple terms, this means that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be able to detain fewer illegals; once it has reached detention capacity. The agency will have no choice but to release illegals into the population and will be unable to detain any additional persons until some of those already held are processed and deported.
In effect, Democrats have relented over their previous refusal to approve any money for border barriers but are, instead, trying to grind ICE operations to a halt. That is something the president is unlikely to accept and, with time running out to complete the process of guiding a bill through Congress and onto the president’s desk, another partial government shutdown seems very possible. That is something politicians on both sides of the aisle were determined to avoid.
The detention bed issue could sabotage the deal and, perhaps, that is what Democrats are hoping for and gambling on their ability to successfully blame the president for a second shutdown. On the other hand, there is room for flexibility – quite literally – when it comes to providing greater detention capacity. The cap on beds available to ICE is not a straightforward or easily understood matter, and some contend that this proposed new lower limit has little real effect on how many illegals can be detained.
In the end, it may come down to how Trump himself chooses to interpret the relative upsides to this proposal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not waste time bringing a bill up for a vote unless he knows the president will sign it.
Socialism Now a Central Theme for 2020
Although the immigration fight will continue to dominate the headlines, Trump’s El Paso rally will not be reported on in the way most had likely anticipated. Rather than being all about the ideological divide between the two views of how to deal with migrants, the tone of the rally was far more colored by the ideological divide between the rising radical socialist left and the rest of the nation.
Trump has thrown down the gauntlet and challenged all of his potential 2020 opponents. They must either bow to their more extreme supporters and openly embrace socialism or move back towards more rational policy stances and risk losing the support of the growing radical faction. Democrats, of course, are desperately hoping they can break Trump with investigations so that they do not have to enter the trap he has set for them. It is going to be a fascinating two years.