A Tweet by conservative commentator David Limbaugh caught my attention today. I was a little surprised that Limbaugh, one of the most astute and underrated voices in the conservative movement, was wondering why the GOP has been dragging their feet on both the border wall and making tax cuts permanent. Then it occurred to me that if Limbaugh didn’t see it, maybe others weren’t seeing it either.
Here’s the Tweet:
One thing I’ll never understand is why the GOP didn’t at least try to make the tax cuts permanent and pass border wall legislation here while they still have their majority. Maybe too many squishes, I don’t know, but why no real effort?
— David Limbaugh (@DavidLimbaugh) December 5, 2018
The tax cuts can’t be made permanent through reconciliation. Otherwise, I believe they would have at least tried. The border wall, on the other hand, could be funded quite easily during the lame duck session on Capitol Hill. We know it will be nearly impossible to get the wall funded once Democrats take over the House of Representatives next session, so why isn’t the GOP pushing for it now while they have the chance?
Answer: The wall is part of their 2020 election strategy.
The GOP succeeded in 2010, 2014, and 2016 because of fear of Obamacare. It was a bluff, of course. All of it was. They never intended to repeal it as they promised for six years. They wanted to change it, perhaps make it more palatable, but it’s hard to change the status quo when so much money is wrapped up in it. That’s why they put a clean repeal bill on President Obama’s desk in 2015 for him to veto but couldn’t put anything on President Trump’s desk while they had the power to do so. Most will blame Senator John McCain, but he was just part of the reason they couldn’t do it. In the end, they read the tea leaves and figured they couldn’t afford to rock the boat ahead of the 2018 midterms. It was a terrible miscalculation, but it’s done.
Either way, Obamacare repeal is essentially off the table.
Now, they need other items to run on in 2020. The border wall is one of them. They want to drive voters in 2020 by telling them Democrats are blocking their efforts to build the border wall. They’ll bet on the news-cycle-centered mentality of modern American society that makes people forget the GOP is squandering the opportunity they have right now to fund the border wall. It’ll work, too. By the time 2020 rolls around, everyone who wants a border wall will blame Democrats for blocking it.
The wall is unlikely to be their premier plank. Candidate Trump hammered it hard in 2016. He’ll need to run on the premise that he fulfilled his promises and has new ones to get done in order to make America great again. But he’ll mention the wall. Republicans on (or hoping to be on) Capitol Hill will point fingers at Democrats for preventing the wall from being built. They’ll tread lightly but nonetheless they’ll push the idea forward.
“If you want the wall, we need your help,” their messaging will say.
2020 GOP candidates will push the notion that to build the wall, they’ll need to regain control of the House while maintaining control of the Senate. What Republican voters should be asking is why they didn’t fund the wall when they had the chance in 2018.