President Donald Trump threatened Tuesday night in Arizona to shut down the government if Congress fails to fund his border wall.
Republican leaders in Congress, fearful of taking their customary beatings over a shutdown, are already trying to walk back his threat.
They do not realize that he has just taught them how to face down the media and the Democrats, and to fight for their core policy priorities and the wishes of their own voters — and win.
Trump’s threat is credible for several reasons. First, he has already threatened a shutdown, tweeting in May (after the GOP capitulated to the opposition yet again) that “our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”.
either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good "shutdown" in September to fix mess!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2017
In addition, the entire country knows that the border wall was one of Trump’s most important campaign promises. His base is willing to forgive many compromises, but they will not forgive him if he betrays that pledge.
Third, and ironically, Trump’s unpopularity means that he has nothing to lose by causing a shutdown. The media and the Democrats — and no small number of establishment Republicans — have done so much to damage him over the last few weeks that he has little to fear from the marginal damage a shutdown might cause. Congressional Republicans might suffer — but they will suffer just as much, if not more, by opposing Trump on a border wall.
Finally, Trump has already taken the case for a shutdown to his own supporters, and they have cheered it, because they feel that he is fighting for them against a bipartisan Beltway establishment that is not just opposing him, but opposing the voters.
That is the most important lesson for Republicans in future budget fights: you can easily lose a shutdown if you are fighting for an abstract political principle, but you can win if you are fighting for the people.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.