To say that Donald Trump has been bombastic about his plans to complete the erection of a wall along the Mexican border would be an understatement. Whether or not he will actually get the support and the funding needed to achieve it is yet to be determined. But does he even care?
We all know politicians make campaign promises. Those of us who learn from history know enough not to expect most of those promises to be kept. The litany of excuses usually begins to make the rounds in the Oval Office not long after a new candidate has been sworn into office. In this case, though, there seems to be something more.
Material Actions Taken
Certainly Trump is not as vociferous or specific about the wall as he was in the early days, but as an article in Vox says, ‘the officials he appointed and the civil servants under them are still chugging along to fulfill what they imagine as his mandate. And part of that mandate is that new physical barriers will be built at the border, and they will be called a wall.’
There is tangible evidence that the wall-building effort is moving forward:
-In August 2017, the DHS announced that six contractors had been elected to build eight prototype segments
-In October 2017, the prototypes were built in Otay Mesa, California
-In December 2017, the government started tests to see if the prototypes held up to the government’s demands for impenetrability
-In January, the government announced that the prototypes had all passed testing
Trump’s inspection of the prototypes during his first visit to California is widely seen as a mere photo-op. But is it possible that simply equating himself in people’s minds with an impenetrable barrier designed to protect a nation is his end game?
Dealing With Mexico
Another strand to consider: if we look at how much derision Trump has gotten from the media for his contention that he is going to make Mexico pay for the wall, one might conclude that these are the ramblings of an unstately buffoon. But here, again, there seems to be signs that this is an attempt to elevate his persona—to his base if nothing else.
In The Art of the Deal he says, “My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after.” Aside from the feasibility of such a request, people might appreciate that he actually has the chutzpa to ask our sovereign leader south of the border to foot the bill. And with this proposal having been flatly rejected by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Trump might eventually retort, ‘I asked him. He said no. We move on. Isn’t it better that I asked?’
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Building On Strengths
Trump is simply building on his strengths. He made his mark as the consummate deal-maker, so why not reinforce into the minds of people that he will never allow the United States to get taken when dealing with other nations?
His criticism of all existing trade deals and other agreements executed by past presidents plays right into this narrative. It is doubtful if he really believes all of these deals are as bad as he says they are. No matter—as long as people are convinced that when he is at the negotiating table, the United States of America will get the most favourable terms possible.
Back To The Wall
The consensus at this point is that the best overall design for the border barrier is a see-through wall—in the form of steel poles (also called bollards) topped by concrete. The Vox article notes that the ‘DHS had been using bollards to build border barriers for years, and calling a row of steel poles a “wall” rather than a “fence” might be a matter of nomenclature.’
A matter of nomenclature perhaps, but of high significance to Donald Trump. He does not want to be known as a fence-builder; the metaphor of the ‘wall’ carries significantly more weight, more gravitas. He wants to be held in the same reverence as the gate-keeper of a medieval fort.
Lack of support from Congress may ultimately quash his grandiose plans to completely seal off the southern border from potential incursion. But even if he does end up building a wall, in whole or in part, Donald Trump’s interest in the enterprise seems to revolve around the image it paints of him on the canvas of people’s minds.
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