At the heart of the resistance to President Donald Trump’s border wall is the idea that the votes of millions of Americans in 2016 who chose Trump over Hillary Clinton and his Republican rivals simply should not count.
It is usually difficult to argue that an election result is a mandate for one policy or another. Elections are single data points with infinite explanations. But almost everyone who voted for Trump knew he had promised a border wall.
For more than two years, Democrats — and a handful of Republicans — have been saying that those votes should not matter. Worse, some have suggested that those voters should not matter. They are “morons,” and probably racists.
True, not everything that voters approve should automatically become law. Our Founders warned against temporary passions of the majority — though it seems the only majorities that have been blocked lately are conservative ones.
But in this case, voters backed something that both parties had, in principle, supported for a long period of time — namely, a physical barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border that would deter illegal crossings and boost national security.
Democrats won the House in 2018, but did not overturn the verdict of 2016. Republicans, after all, increased their majority in the Senate. Arguably, President Trump and Congress were elected with a mandate to secure the border.
Rather than face that fact, Democrats have attacked the voters who put Trump into office.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said of the border wall shortly after her inauguration: “This is not a wall between Mexico and the United States … it’s a wall between reality and [Trump’s] constituents, his supporters.” (This, mere moments after pledging her commitment to “respecting the constituents who sent each of us here” in her inaugural address.)
Trump has responded by warning that he will declare a national emergency and order the wall to be built by the Department of Defense — though he also said that he would prefer Congress reach a deal, and vote for the barrier.
The president would be well within his constitutional authority if he chose the emergency option. And unlike President Barack Obama, who avoided negotiating with the opposition and used his “pen and phone” to attempt by executive decree what he could not do through legislation, Trump has at least made a good faith effort.
Democrats have struggled to offer any kind of rebuttal to Trump’s argument that he has the legal authority to build the wall. In fact, some love the idea: “What stops a Democratic President from declaring a climate change emergency and using military dollars to build solar farms and wind turbines? Answer: nothing,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) tweeted.
The precedent is dangerous — not only because Democrats have shown an eagerness in the past to abuse executive powers, but also because every subsequent presidential election would become an all-or-nothing contest, a race to appoint a dictator.
The political stakes would be even higher than they are now, and the divisions in our country would become even worse. Representative democracy, as expressed through the legislature, would be meaningless.
The right thing for Democrats to do would be to name a price: we will give you a border wall — or even a fence — in return for X. That is the ordinary and appropriate, if slimy, course of political compromise.
Instead, Democratic Party leaders have said they will not accept a wall at any price.
That kind of talk undermines public faith in democracy. And if Democrats persist in their obstinacy, they will do permanent damage to our constitutional republic.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.