In their eyes, a prolonged stalemate will likely fracture voters along traditional partisan lines, and the ultimate outcome will be a debate waged largely on the president’s terms. Increasingly, they see an upside in forcing likely incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi to have to spend the first days, if not weeks, of the next Congress engaged in an argument over border wall funding rather than her preferred agenda: a mix of sweeping ethics and election reforms and congressional oversight. And they continue to believe that a conversation around immigration and border security is in the president’s best political interests.
Meanwhile, trump is using the excuse of the shutdown to cut federal workers off from their scheduled pay raises due in February 2019. It's a direct act of cruelty for people already facing troubles without their paychecks.
trump is also threatening to physically close the Mexican border - well, closing the roadways and cutting off all trade - if he doesn't get *his* border funding AKA that goddamn trump Wall. Never mind the fact that our trade with Mexico generates about $600 billion a year and that we're already suffering from the tariff war over soybeans with China.
It's less a Game of Chicken than it is a Round of Schoolyard Bullying.
But it's all trump knows. This is his art of the deal.
- He wants something.
- Someone else has it or has means to make it for him.
- He bullies and intimidates that person, balancing between legal threats and false promises.
- He gets what he wants (or he gets humiliated enough to go skulking away whining he never wanted it anyway).
- He immediately reneges on his end of the deal, forcing his victim to fight a legal battle that ends up resolved in a plea deal because trump pushes them to the point of personal bankruptcy and they can't fight any further.
- He mismanages whatever he gets into bankruptcy anyway, and goes off desiring the next thing.
Here, trump wants a goddamn border Wall, not because it will be effective - it won't even stop the major part of illegal immigration (visa overstays) in the first place - but because it will be a physical monument to his very existence. he may even try to get his name plastered all over it.
In the meantime, he doesn't care about who gets hurt in his "deal-making" because he calculates the other side WILL care. He's trying to inflict enough harm - fiscal, emotional, even actual death - to try and drive Democrats to the bargaining table and succumb to his whims.
If he thinks this is how the great deal-makers in politics played the game... he's wrong.
Look to LBJ. Arguably one of the best deal-makers in American political history. He wooed, he manipulated, he bartered behind the scenes to get small deals done that paid off with big laws. And where he couldn't buy off - legally and illegally - or block off from interfering, LBJ used his Treatment method - very much akin to bullying but not as blunt or ill-informed as how trump does it - to gain enough of a concession to pull off the big win.
Can you picture trump playing the game like Johnson?
Watch how trump tried to bluff and bully his way against incoming Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer in a meeting earlier this month. He never stayed on point, never argued on any merit, and walked himself into making gaffes and indefensible statements. There is no way LBJ would have gotten played like that in his own White House. Even Jimmy Carter wouldn't have been that easily provoked or duped.
trump is trying to play Chicken - "Give me what I want or I drive this bus over the cliff!" - with the government budget and with the nation's economy and with people's lives, and driving that bus up and over the edge with gleeful abandon.
A REAL President would have been playing poker, bargaining and bartering and yes bluffing into getting his opponents to fold. Except it's a poker game where the players know not to push all their chips in to win big once, but upping the ante and scoring good-sized pots to keep the game going.
As far as Shutdown experience matters, the Republicans really don't win much except generating more frustration and despair out of voters about how broken government is. That actually helped them win midterm elections by driving voter interest to horrifying minuscule numbers.
They have to be careful this time, however. The guy they've got playing the game is a rank amateur at political game theory, and he's making bets he can't back.
We are talking about a guy in donald trump who bankrupted his own casinos. This is no poker player at all.