NDN Blog

Congress Should Warn The President Against Levying Tariffs On Europe

We are at the point now where Congress should send a clear message to President Trump that if he chooses to put tariffs on European automobiles and other goods in the coming weeks there will be consequences for his Presidency and his agenda in Congress.   Given the struggles Europe is having with Brexit, its upcoming May elections, and a slowing economy, launching tariffs at this particular moment would be rightly interpreted in Europe as an unnecessary and reckless hostile act and do grave and lasting damage to America’s relations with our closest historic allies.  Additionally, as we’ve written elsewhere, the President’s repeated evocation of emergency powers to levy tariffs without the approval of Congress is a dangerous abuse of Presidential power and should no longer be tolerated by leaders in either party. 

Events of the last few days have made this kind of aggressive action by Congress far more urgent.  First, the President’s son, Don Jr, penned an op-ed in a UK newspaper attacking Prime Minister Theresa May for her ineffective management of Brexit during perhaps the most consequential week of this sorry saga.  An extraordinary step, the op-ed demonstrated a willingness by the President’s family, and perhaps his government, to take dramatic action outside of all traditional diplomatic protocol to hasten the breakup of the European Union.  Second, the President has used remarkably hostile language about Europe in recent days, most notably in this exchange with the Irish Prime Minister at the White House last week.   With the Irish Prime Minister sitting next to him, the President said about Europe: “We are going to do something that’s pretty severe economically.  We are going to tariff a lot of their products coming in.” 

The formation of the European Union was one of America’s most successful and important post war projects.  In April, Europe and the United States will be marking NATO’s 70th Anniversary, and in May, Europe will be holding elections for representation in the European Parliament.  This should be a time to be celebrating our historic alliances and partnerships, not attacking them.  And at a broader level, Congress must now, as best it can, not just work to counter or mitigate the damage the President is doing to our nation and its interests, but to prevent it. 

While we believe anything the House and Senate do should be very aggressive, at the very least they should give serious consideration to two bills currently in Congress: the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, sponsored by Senators Toomey (R-PA) and Warner (D-VA) in the Senate, and Reps. Kind (D-WI), Panetta (D-CA), Gallagher (R-WI), and LaHood (R-IL) in the House, and the Automotive Jobs Act, sponsored by Reps. Sewell (D-AL) and Upton (R-MI). The Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act provides critical Congressional and Department of Defense oversight on the President's Section 232 ability to use national security as a justification to unilaterally impose tariffs, while the Automotive Jobs Act requires the federal government’s International Trade Commission to study the economic impact of auto tariffs before they can be implemented by the President.

With all of the warning bells ringing for the American and global economies, and our alliances with key trading partners, it is time now for Congress to engage and directly challenge the President on his irresponsible tariff policy.

Time For Congress To Directly Challenge Trump's Tariffs, Pass Bicameral Bill Reining In His Tariff Authority

Today's extremely poor job growth data reinforces the trend also echoed this week in Europe that we are heading for a sharp deceleration in economic activity and a potential recession.  The Atlanta Fed now sees only 0.5% growth in Q1, while Goldman Sachs projects a growth rate of just 0.9%. On top of that, manufacturing output, a key leading indicator of growth and a major priority for the President, has fallen sharply in recent months and is now at its lowest level since November 2016. 

Much of the blame for this significant deceleration lies at the feet of Trump's reckless trade policy, which has seen new tariffs imposed on over 20% of all US imports. This policy has led to a significant deceleration of global growth, including a near recession in the euro area, as well as a loss of key demand markets for US manufacturers and farmers. All told, the tariffs have led to thousands of US jobs being lost and have contributed to the recent declines in the stock market. 

As a result, removing Trump's tariffs is a key growth imperative for the US economy. This reinforces the need for Congress to more forcefully challenge Trump's trade policy, particularly the illegal national security authority Trump has used to unilaterally impose tariffs. One important way we recommend doing this is the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, sponsored by Senators Toomey (R-PA) and Warner (D-VA) in the Senate, and Reps. Kind (D-WI), Panetta (D-CA), Gallagher (R-WI), and LaHood (R-IL) in the House. The legislation provides critical Congressional and Department of Defense oversight on the President's Section 232 ability to use national security as a justification to unilaterally impose tariffs on our close trading partners.

Challenging the President on his trade policy is especially important in light of his new rent-seeking "plan" to charge our NATO and East Asian allies the full cost of US troops deployed in their countries plus an extra 50% premium. This idea is nothing short of extortion of our close allies, and if enacted would shake the transatlantic alliance to its core. If the President also unilaterally imposes auto tariffs on the European Union, a move likely to push the euro area into recession, the transatlantic alliance could witness a very rapid, and potentially fatal, unraveling. These moves can only be seen as intentionally trying to destroy the alliances that have created decades of peace and prosperity around the world. It is our belief, therefore, that directly challenging Trump's ability to impose these tariffs is a critical part of the fight against illiberal authoritarianism both at home and abroad.

With all of the warning bells ringing for the American and global economies, it is time now for Congress to engage and directly challenge the President on his reckless tariff policy.

Related Writings:

Trump's Trade Deal W/China Looks Toothless, 2019 Growth Stagnates - 3/6/19 - The potential trade deal with China looks likely to only increase some purchases of US goods, while doing little to reduce Chinese structural trade abuses. Meanwhile, the trade war has led to a large deceleration in US growth, while stimulus from the tax cut has weakened significantly.

Trump's European Tariffs Would Weaken The US Economy And The Transatlantic Alliance - 2/14/19 - Auto tariffs on the EU would destroy thousands of US manufacturing jobs, raise car prices across the country, and weaken our alliance with our European partners. Congress must act to challenge this looming trade war.

NDN Supports Bicameral Tariff Bill - 2/8/19 - NDN is pleased to endorse and support the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, legislation which provides critical Congressional oversight on the President’s ability to use national security as a justification to impose tariffs on our close trading partners.

Trump's Tariffs Are A Growing Threat To The American, And Global, Economies - 11/28/18 - US growth expectations have fallen, manufacturing and agricultural firms now face higher costs and weaker demand, and the trade deficit has surged. With a President unwilling or unable to grasp the risks of a broader trade conflict, it is up to Congress to challenge Trump far more directly on his reckless trade policies.

Iowa, Trump, and the Politics of Globalization/Tariffs - 10/12/18 - Trump’s trade policies are hurting the Iowa economy. His tariffs are unpopular there, and his party is performing badly in the fall elections. Some thoughts on what this means for the Democratic presidential race starting soon. 

Trump's Hold on DC, US Politics and the GOP Is Weakening

The central dynamic in US politics today, and perhaps even the politics of the world, is the growing awareness of how weakened a figure Donald Trump has become.  He was beaten badly in the 2018 elections, and saw both parties come together in Congress to reject his strident demands on his central domestic issue, the border.  In essence no one is scared of him anymore.  

The opposition to him is becoming more pronounced in official circles here and abroad.  On Venezuela, China and Russia came together to support a pro-Maduro coalition, directly challenging the President’s very aggressive policy there.  The open hostility towards him was on full display in both Warsaw and Munich last week.  And here at home, prominent Republicans have not only challenged him on the border, but also on NATO, tariffs, Russia, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. 

The President’s unfortunate decision to declare a national emergency on the border when none exists may weaken him further.  As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reports this morning, early polling on the emergency declaration is very bad for the President, even among his supporters.  After weeks of improvement on 538’s polling aggregate, the President’s approval rating has turned sharply more negative in recent days.  The sense that our President is failing, adrift, a bit crazy and potentially in imminent, grave legal jeopardy is taking hold here and across the world.  Domestically it means more direct challenges to his power, and more anger, lashing out; globally however it may mean even more aggressive actions against US interests, as this New York Times article about escalating Chinese and Iranian cyberattacks against American businesses details.  As I wrote this weekend, the President has left America dangerously isolated and not focused on the most serious threats facing us today – Russia, cyber exploitation of our open society, climate change and the corrosive geopolitics of oil wealth – but his profound new weakness is an additional threat to our security now too. 

Finally, with this wierd period from early October to last week when the political focus was on the elections and then the shutdown coming to an end, the focus now will be now on more conventional governing challenges - the economy, foreign policy, health care, the deficit, etc.  Given that virtually every metric about the health of the nation has worsened under Trump, and our standing abroad has taken a huge hit, the return to reality we may be about to experience is going to be unpleasant for Trump.  I don't know how he is going to handle it all - his decline, the willingness to challenge, the growing gravity of the legal cases, the reality that he's been a crappy President - but one should expect more distractions from it all, and more dark and challenging days ahead. 

NDN Hails Progress Towards 2020 Pact on Disinfo, Hacking

Feb 12th - In anticipation of the DNC meeting here in Washington later this week, NDN is calling on the DNC, the State Parties and the 2020 Presidential campaigns to forge a pact agreeing to forgo the use of illicit campaign tactics in the upcoming Democratic Presidential primary. 

In this new pact, it is our hope that all the Democratic campaigns will pledge to forgo the use of bots, trolls, troll farms, fake accounts, fake sites, deepfakes and faked images, hacking and use of hacked materials; for the campaigns to pledge to be vigilant about reporting illicit activity to the proper authorities, the social media platforms and the DNC; and to discourage the use of these tactics by their supporters and allied institutions. 

The use of these tactics has no place in modern democracies, and the Democratic Party should take a very clear stand against their use in the 2020 election.  Negotiating and adopting a pledge like this will send a very strong signal that Democrats want the American people to conduct a debate and choose their leaders without interference from foreign or inauthentic actors.

You can learn more about our idea for a party-wide pact here

Feb 22nd - Great to see chorus growing louder, much louder for new norms and committments for how we will manage our politics in the social media age.  A broad consortium of European parties signed on to a pledge; Joe Biden endorsed the pledge concept; and all the early Dem 2020s agreed to never use hacked materials this cycle. 

This story from Natasha Korecki of Politico dives into a new report showing early and aggressive disinformation tactics being used already against 2020 Democratic candidates.  It is a reminder that the 2020 election is not happening next year - it is happening now.  It has already begun.  And the big question still remains - are we ready? What are we doing to prevent 2016 from happening again? This is not a question for next year - it is a question for right now, today. 

Feb 26th - Politico is reporting that the 4 early state Democratic Party Chairs - IA, NH, SC and NV - have sent a letter asking other party leaders to work together with the 2020 candidates towards a party-wide pledge to combat disinfo and hacking.  Very promising development.

The Washington Post's Greg Sargent offers a very smart take on the importance of the four early state Dem chairs pushing the party into a debate about these issues.  

April 23rd - Three exciting developments today.  Sen. Gillibrand pledged to forgo use of stolen or hacked materials in her campaign and challenged other 2020s to do the same.  According to the CNN story "the campaign hopes this pledge will launch a conversation that will allow all the presidential candidates, the Democratic National Committee and state parties to come up with a common strategy, ideally before the debates begin this summer."

Additionally, in a letter to her House colleagues today about the Mueller Report, Speaker Pelosi wrote "The For The People Act addresses the sweeping election protection, ethics reforms, and voting rights protections that the public has demanded to ensure that each voter has an equal voice and that their votes are counted as cast. We continue to urge our Senate colleagues to take up these reforms. And in light of the President’s defenders arguing in defense of receiving and weaponizing stolen emails, we continue to press our Republican House counterparts to take up our pledge to refuse to use stolen, hacked, or falsified information in campaigns because the American people deserve honest debate." Great to see the idea of a "pledge" - the establishment of new norms in this age of disinformation - so prominently referenced in this historic letter. 

Finally, DNC Chair Tom Perez in an open letter to the RNC called for both parties to establish new norms in the current elections.  Was an important early step in this process by Perez. 

Related Writings/Media from NDN

Protecting The 2020 Dem Primary From Disinformation, Bots and Hacking - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 1/29/19 - Democrats must come together now to prevent what happened in 2016 from happening again this time. NDN is calling for all 2020s to sign a pledge forgoing the use of illicit campaign tactics in the Democratic Presidential primary. 

Simon Discusses Protecting The Democratic Primary From Disinfo And Hacking On MSNBC's Joy Reid - Simon Rosenberg, MSNBC, 2/2/19 - Simon appeared on Joy Reid’s MSNBC show last Saturday to discuss his ideas for how Democrats should be working to protect the 2020 Presidential primary from bots, disinformation and hacking.

Trump Doesn't Take Russian Electoral Interference Seriously. This Is What Democrats Did To Oppose It In 2018 - Simon Rosenberg and Aaron Trujillo, NBC News, 12/18/18 - The U.S. and its politics are not powerless to stop the kind of foreign hacking and disinformation tactics we saw in 2016. In the 2018 midterms, the DCCC developed a series of tools and strategies for reducing the influence and impact of malicious actors. Far more can now be done to protect our democracy and our discourse — and doing so should be a very high priority for the new Congress in 2019.

A Primer on Social Media Bots and Their Malicious Use in US Politics - Tim Chambers, NDN, 9/13/17.  This new and compelling paper by long time NDN collaborator Tim Chambers explains what bots are, looks at their malicious use in US politics and offers some ideas on what to do about it in the days ahead.  

The RNC's Russia Problem - Simon Rosenberg, US News, 5/14/17.  The RNC was instrumental to the success of Russia's interference campaign in 2016.  It should take the lead to make sure nothing like this every happens again. 

Calling All Patriots - Simon Rosenberg, US News, 10/13/16.  In a new essay Simon calls on the RNC and other GOP leaders to stop aiding the ongoing Russian effort to disrupt and influence our election. 

Other Related Writings/Media

Every 2020 Candidate But Trump Promises: No Stolen Data - Sam Stein/others, Daily Beast, 2/21/19.  Every 2020 Presidential candidate agreed to not use hacked material in the 2020 elections except one - Donald Trump. 

Biden Calls on Candidates Not To 'Aid and Abet' Foreign Election Interference - Josh Rogin, Washington Post, 2/21/19.  Joe Biden joins the call for US Presidential candidates to forgo use of illicit campaign tactics in the 2020 election. 

2/16/19 Update - A new European initiative has adopted this "pledge" construct for the upcoming European wide elections.  Is an exciting development. 

Can American Political Candidates Help Stop the Flood of Disinformation with a Pledge? - Justin Hendrix, Just Security, 1/31/19.  A smart new piece which dives deeper into the idea of a pledge, or pact, among politicians and political parties as a way of countering hacking and disinfo.

Notes On The GOP's Erosion In The Southwest

This analysis was originally published on election night in 2018 and has been updated for release today.

As President Trump and Beto O'Rourke hold dueling political events in El Paso today, it is worth noting just how much the Southwest - an area which for the purposes of this analysis includes AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV and TX - has eroded for the GOP since Trump was nominated in 2016.  This erosion remains one of the most significant recent developments in American politics, as it involves a large region of the country which includes our two largest states. 

As background the three states which saw the biggest movement towards the Democrats in 2016 were, in order, CA (7pts), TX (6.8pts) and AZ (5.5pts). Polling throughout the 2018 cycle showed significant weakness for Trump in the region, and the bottom fell out here on election night 2018.  In Texas, Beto O'Rourke got within 2 1/2 points of Ted Cruz, helped Dems win 2 Congressional seats and many down ballot races, and held 6 GOP reps to 51% or less (TX-10, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 31).  Kyrsten Sinema became the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Arizona since 1988, and Dems now hold a 5-4 advantage in the AZ Congressional delegation. Democrats had very good/blowout nights in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, so much so that there are questions about whether these states will remain in the Presidential battleground in 2020.  Democrats picked up 12 House seats previously held by Republicans in the Southwest, including 7 in California alone, a state where the GOP didn’t even have a Senate candidate on the ballot and where voters with no party preference now outnumber Republicans in registration (and the home of the two most significant GOP Presidents in the past 50 years).  We saw intensity too.  AZ, NV and TX saw more people vote early this year than voted in all of 2014, the only 3 states to see that level of increase.  All in all it was just a huge and game changing wipeout in this region for Trump.

Trump has remained extremely unpopular in the region since November 6th. According to Morning Consult's state polling project, Trump's approval was -18, -18, and -13 in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada in January 2019. Perhaps ever more worrisome for Rs, he was -7 in purple Arizona, and -1 in red Texas. These current ratings represent significant falls in Trump's approval even since his loss in the midterms. Compared to November 2018, his net approval today has fallen by 8 points in each of Colorado, Nevada, and Texas, and by 3 and 5 points in New Mexico and Arizona.

Over the last two years there was always this sense that while the President’s thunderous championing of white nationalist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies was hurting him in the heavily Mexican-American parts of the US, it was the key to unlock the Rustbelt and Midwest.  Given the really bad election the GOP had in the northern part of the US in 2018 that no longer appears to be true. Trump may have used the caravan to win in very red and rural places like Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee, but Democrats made significant gains in critical 2020 battlegrounds IA, MI, PA and WI. 

Trump's big play on the border appears to be a very costly failure for him and the GOP - it hasn't locked up the industrial north as they hoped, it has caused what I believe to be a structural shift against Republicans in a big region of the country and his overall poll numbers are far below where he was on his dismal election night in 2018.  Recall that as recently as 2004 Bush won AZ, CO, NM and NV and Senator Kerry didn't even contest CO that year.  Trump has accelerated the movement of the heavily Mexican-American part of the US from lean R to deep blue and purple now.  If CO, NM and NV are now gone for Republicans, and Arizona and Texas have become true 2020 battlegrounds, the political costs to the GOP of Trump's Presidency will have been significant. 

Related Writings:

Backlash To Trumpism Brewing In The Border Region - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 5/7/18 - There is a growing body of evidence Trumpism is hurting the GOP brand in the border region. Big implications for 2018, 2020 too. 

Trump Is Right To Be Worried About Arizona (And Texas Too) - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 8/21/17 - It is instructive that some of the most powerful opposition to Trump's agenda is coming from Arizona. He is right to be worried about it.

The GOP Should Be Worried About Texas - Simon Rosenberg, U.S. News & World Report, 10/27/16 - Texas has a higher percentage of both millennials and Hispanics today than California, suggesting that with a significant investment in the coming years Texas could indeed follow California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and now Arizona from red to blue.

NDN Supports Bicameral Tariff Bill

“NDN is pleased to endorse and support the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, introduced on January 31st, 2019 in the House and Senate. The legislation provides critical Congressional and Department of Defense oversight on the President’s Section 232 ability to use national security as a justification to unilaterally impose tariffs on our close trading partners. The bill will require that such a justification emerge from our defense community at the Department of Defense (rather than the Department of Commerce) and that any use of national security-based tariffs is approved by Congress before implementation.

The legislation was introduced by Senators Toomey (R-PA) and Warner (D-VA) in the Senate, and Reps. Kind (D-WI), Panetta (D-CA) and Gallagher (R-WI) and LaHood (R-IL) in the House. 

This legislation is consistent with NDN’s calls for Congress to challenge what we believe to have been the President’s repeated, illegitimate use of Section 232 authority to impose tariffs on our close allies. You can find NDN’s entire series challenging Trump’s tariffs as illegal, recklessly ignorant, and economically destructive here.”

Protecting the 2020 Dem Primary from Disinformation, Bots and Hacking

In a long thread this past weekend, I called on the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates, the DNC and the State Parties to band together to fight disinformation and illicit campaign tactics in the Democratic Presidential primary.  Among the things I called for is for the Presidentials to sign a pledge committing to forgo use of bots, trolls, troll farms, fake accounts, fake sites, deepfakes and faked images, hacking and use of hacked materials; and for the campaigns to be vigilant about reporting illicit activity to the proper authorities, the platforms and the Party, and to discourage the use of these tactics by their supporters. My hope is that either the DNC or the State Parties will demand they sign such a pledge, or for the campaigns to make their own pledges now, without delay, and not wait for the Party to get involved. 

I know the DNC is in the process of standing up a disinformation unit - it should be given ample funding and broad support to become a leader in this space and not a laggard.  This unit can help all the campaigns stand up their own disinformation teams, something which is now, unfortunately, a requirement in today's politics - a must to have, not a nice to have. 

Simply, we cannot let what happened in 2016 happen again.  As we learned at the DCCC in 2018, we are not powerless.  We got the social media platforms to do takedowns, refered illegal activity to the FBI and helped train our campaigns how to protect themselves and win in a fast changing information landscape.  Healthy democracies cannot accept the poisoning of their discourse, and must do everything they can to let the residents of their nation drive the daily debate not inauthentic voices from inside or outside the country.  

For more on the work we did at the DCCC this past cycle battling disinformation, see this NBC News op-ed I wrote with DCCC Chief of Staff Aaron Trujillo; this Washington Post article about our strategy to first "flood the zone" to make it harder for disinfo to work; a Reuters story which looks into one of our major take downs; and a great NBC News piece recounting right wing trolls complaining about the more aggressive countermeasures coming from the platforms - in this case the take down they were complaining about was a multi-platform campaign the DCCC found and worked with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to mitigate.  Here is a link to the DCCC's pledge" from the fall of 2018, and a smart deep dive from the Atlantic's Natasha Bertrand on the pledge and the GOP's refusal to sign on even after months of negotiation. 

NDN originally dove into this world through a paper we published back in the fall of 2017 on bots and disinformation, and I worked on a project in the fall of 2017 which deployed bot detection technology for the Democratic candidates in both the Virginia Governor's race and the Alabama Senate race.  Articles about that work in Virginia can be found in the Washington Post and Politico.  And this Alabama work should not be confused with the illicit campaign waged as a test by some Democrats - we were working for Doug Jones not the other guys. 

Finally, my vision for how we counter disinformation and illicit tactics goes far beyond a pledge.  What we learned in 2018 is that we are not powerless; using modern tools and being smart about hunting disinfo organizations and campaigns can provide an effective counter.  It is my belief that what must happen in the next two years is that parties, campaigns, governments, NGOs, and even the media must go on offense here, be louder and smarter on the Internet and social media, and learn how to better manage the discourse in their own particular areas of debate and discussion.  If all of us do our part we can together eliminate a lot of the low hanging fruit, the easy stuff.  The platforms while they have much more to do have made things harder.  But we can't wait for them, or for governments, to act.  We all need to do our part to clean up our areas of the Internet and social media, and ensure that authentic and well intentioned voices prevail.  The tools to counter disinformation are cheap and readily available - it is more about learning how this all works and making a true commitment to win debates in a very new and changing information landscape. 

Fri, 2/1 Update - Justin Hendrix has taken this pledge concept and turned into a thought piece on the Internet.  Go check it out and offer feedback.  He also discusses this idea in this new piece on Just Security.

Mon, 2/4 Update - Got to talk about all this stuff on Joy Reid's MSNBC program on Saturday.  Check it out - was a very good segment. 

The President Can't Speak To 2019 Priorities Until He Finishes The 2018 Budget

The President of the United States shouldn’t be giving a speech which historically lays out the agenda for the coming year until he finishes his budget from last year and the last Congress. We know the President is new to politics and doesn’t play by its rules but on this one he must – he simply must complete the budget process which was required by law to be finished on October 1st of last year.  Not finishing his 2018 budget, first proposed in early 2018, is at this point reckless and irresponsible.   His inability to do the very basics of governing, in this case completing budgets on time and keeping the government open, is doing extraordinary harm to the nation. 

He sold himself to us in 2016 as a can do guy – well he needs to get his 2018 budget done and the government up, operating and funded before it is appropriate for him to begin talking about 2019.  This isn’t Foxlandia, this is Washington, the real world, the American government, and he needs to roll up his sleeves, put down the golf clubs and his TV remote, and lead our nation as every President before him has.

Backgrounder: Trump, Immigration, And The Border

Research and policy recommendations about our border and immigration system have been one of NDN’s most influential areas of work over the past 13 years.  We send along some of our most recent releases below, hoping they will inform your own work and thinking in the days ahead.  What is happening on the border today is not an emergency; and the crisis, if there is one, comes from the failure of Trump’s extreme immigration approach which has created an extraordinary mess on both sides of the US border with Mexico.   Responsible policy makers from both parties should use this moment to advance smart solutions to the real challenges our immigration system faces, many of them made far worse by Trump’s misguided policies.  In that vein we offer a three part plan for what the nation can be doing now to improve our border and immigration enforcement system, shore up our neighbors to the South, improve our economy, and remove this toxic debate from our politics so we the nation can move on to other more important matters. 

Finally, it is our belief that the shutdown is not about the wall, but about our democracy.  It is whether our nation has a President, or a Mad King.  The stakes here are far higher than they may appear, which is why the Democrats and an increasing number of Republicans are right to stand and fight the worrisome and increasingly authoritarian behavior of Mr. Trump. 

You can find extended takes from Simon on the immigration and border debate in this new FiveThirtyEight piece by Geoffrey Skelley, this recent New York Times analysis from Tom Edsall, this Slate podcast and article with Univision's Leon Krauze, and a new Washington Post piece from Michael Scherer. 

Notes On The GOP's Erosion In The Southwest - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 2/11/19 - The dramatic erosion of the GOP brand in the heavily Mexican-American parts of the country over the past two elections is one of the biggest stories in American politics.  Trump's border extremism has cost the GOP dearly. 

The Ridiculous Shutdown, A President In Decline - Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 1/7/19 - The shutdown isn't about a wall.  It is about our democracy and whether Trump is a President, or a dangerous mad king. 

Some Thoughts About The Caravan - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 10/24/18 - The Caravan, composed of 3,000 poor, unarmed, mostly Honduran migrants, poses no threat to the US, and illegal border crossings continue to be way down. Some thoughts on what Democrats should do to respond to Trump's farcical attacks and inane policies.

Trump's Brand Is His Xenophobic Immigration Policy. That's Why He'll Go To Any Lengths To Enact It - Simon Rosenberg, NBC News, 8/6/18 - Trump's separation of kids at the border is the result of a political crisis for his administration, rather than any real immigration crisis on the ground. As Trump's immigration policies continue to fail in the face of legal roadblocks and public outrage, expect even more outrageous policies from the administration.

Rebutting Trump’s Ridiculous Attack On “Chuck and Nancy” And All Democrats - Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 11/28/17 - The Democratic Party that Trump describes - on immigration, taxes, and more - is one that exists only in his mind. The Party that he is facing everyday is one that has governed responsibly when in power, and left the country far better than they found it.

The Case For Optimism: Rejecting Trump's Poisonous Pessimism - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 11/19/18 - Simon argues that the great rationale of Trump's Presidency  –  that America is in decline – simply isn't true, and must be challenged more forcefully. This is the piece that spurred the creation of NDN’s “Patriotism and Optimism” deck.

The Ridiculous Shutdown, A President In Decline

This essay originially appeared on Medium.

The United States government and legislature have become paralyzed because the President is demanding Congress fund something he explicitly promised the American people we would never have to pay for.  The President’s immigration ideas were rejected repeatedly by a GOP Congress these past two years.  Not content with that, seeking in essence a legislative do-over, the President shuts the government down right before Christmas after agreeing not to.  Both the Senate and House have passed bills which would re-open the government but fund DHS only through February so cooler heads could prevail and a deal on border policy could get worked out.  Even this reasonable path, supported by both parties and both chambers, has been rejected by the President.  Instead, he keeps the government shut down, causing real harm to the country

And now the President’s ransom note is becoming clearer.  $5.7b for more wall, $800m for detention facilities, controversial and potentially illegal changes in immigration law.  He is asking for all this to be passed by Congress before reopening the government without going through regular order – no hearings, no studies, no debates, no votes.  The letter and presentation the President sent to Congress justifying his demands was sophomoric, unpersuasive and reinforced how crazy his demands are.  He has still NEVER EXPLAINED why more wall is needed – where would it go? Has flow increased in those areas? Has the border been penetrated in ways it wasn’t before? We don’t have answers to these simple questions.  The legislative changes he is asking for are complicated, may violate both domestic and international law, and may be, in his hands, dangerous. Mad King George has returned to America after an absence of hundreds of years.

And please, the argument he is standing on principle and fighting to fill a campaign promise is absurd.  His promise to all of us was clear - we would get a wall without paying for it, not by spending billions and billions of dollars.  He is betraying his core promise, not keeping faith with it.  And what makes his petulant demands even more galling is that he has used a worsening deficit as a reason to freeze the pay for federal workers next year.  No modest increase in wages for workers, but billions for an unjustified wall. 

What the President is asking for was rejected by a GOP Senate and was something he explicitly promised would never happen; his demands are controversial and unpopular, and has no back up explaining why what he is proposing will address what has become a crisis on the border through his current, deeply misguided immigration policies; he wants Congress to appropriate huge sums of money and make major legislative changes without going through the process we’ve used for hundreds of years to make decisions like this.  What the President is asking for and doing is unreasonable and potentially precedent setting.  If he succeeds at using these un-democratic/authoritarian methods to get his way what will stop him from doing it again and again? Democrats are right to play the issue the way they have – it would be reckless for them to give into the President at this point given how crazy he is acting. 

The President is not winning the argument with the public.  He made these issues central to his election argument and suffered one of the worst defeats of the modern era of American politics.  He has dropped 3 points in the polls since early December, from -9 to -12.   The economy is worsening, the market is way off and volatile, his tariffs are doing real material harm to the global and US economies, the President’s legal challenges are mounting and getting far more serious, and his foreign policy performance of late has been, frankly, scary.   At this point, given all the real challenges in front of the President, the shutdown has become a reckless indulgence by a very vain and self-centered man, a diva sitting in their dressing room angry over not getting their way.  His party needs to urge him to re-open the government and then bring his ideas about the border and immigration to Congress for a debate – like every other President has done throughout our history.  His repeated insistence on creating mechanisms to go around Congress is undemocratic and must be opposed; this wild man must play by the rules and work within the system which has created the most powerful nation in the history of the world.  This is not too much to ask and is, literally, what the Democrats are asking him to do right now.  

Now that we have begun this debate about immigration, no matter how the standoff plays out, Democrats should be aggressively putting forth their vision for how they want to improve our border and immigration system.  In a recent op-ed I offered a 3 part plan: 1) Convene a regional process to address the worsening conditions in Central America, 2) put comprehensive immigration reform back on the table, 3) offer ideas on how to best improve an immigration enforcement system weakened by the President’s failed policies.  We cannot defend the immigration status quo – the President took a creaky immigration system and has broken it.  We should step up and offer plans on how to best fix it now. 

How this ends isn’t clear but what is clear is that this standoff is not about a wall.  It is about ensuring we have a functioning democracy, and a President who plays by the rules established by our Founding Fathers a long time ago, rules which have indeed made this country great long before the Trumptrain arrived in Washington. 

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