Trump took a symbol of racism and made it the center of his presidency — because he liked the attention it got him at rallies.
Trump's obsession with the border wall has now caused a government shutdown, but it was originally introduced to him by aides as a way to keep his campaign speeches under control.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump's advisors struggled to figure out how to get Trump, who hates to prepare for things, to focus on the issue of immigration during campaign speeches.
"How do we get him to continue to talk about immigration?" Sam Nunberg, one of Mr. Trump's early political advisers, recalled asking Roger J. Stone Jr., another adviser, according to the New York Times. "We're going to get him to talk about how he's going to build a wall."
According to Nunberg, the entire idea of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border was never was only meant as a way to remind Trump, "who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder," to "remember to talk about getting tough on immigration," reports the Times.
But the more Trump's crowds lapped up the idea of an actual wall along the border, the more Trump became fixated on actually building it. Now his obsession is causing massive problems for the country, worrying even his anti-immigrant allies.
The most obvious problem of Trump's unhealthy focus on a border wall is the Trump shutdown. More than 800,000 federal workers are not being paid, the safety of airline travelers is at risk, and national parks are becoming health hazards filled with human waste.
Trump has the ability to end the shutdown, but he's thus far refusing to do so unless Democrats in Congress pay a $5 billion ransom for his border wall. But what Trump may give up to build the wall has some of his allies concerned.
"I've always thought it created a danger that he would trade almost anything in order to get the wall — I think that's still a potential danger," Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), told the Times. (CIS is an anti-immigrant hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.) CIS and other anti-immigrant hate groups are afraid Trump will work with Democratic lawmakers on other immigration issues, such as Dreamers and DACA, in return for funding for a wall.
In 2015, then-Rep. Mick Mulvaney — who now serves as Trump's chief of staff — ridiculed the idea of a wall as the be-all-end-all solution to any immigration decision. "Just to say 'build the darn fence' and have that be the end of an immigration discussion is absurd and almost childish," Mulvaney said at the time.
Mulvaney was right back in 2015 — an obsession with a wall is childish. Yet here we are, in the midst of a shutdown because an obsessed Trump childishly clings to a metaphor.
Unfortunately, until someone talks Trump down from his childish tantrum, what was once nothing more than a racist mnemonic device will continue to wreak havoc upon this country with a years-long government shutdown.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.