I’ve mentioned that the odds favor Trump eventually prevailing in this thing. But in doing that, I also mentioned that those odds are far less than the odds of the Democrats normally caving are. Say, about 55% instead of a more normal 90% chance of success in a staring match with Democrats.
A 45% risk of failure is a pretty big risk, and it didn’t have to be this way for Trump. He has a base of loyal followers whose beliefs ride on his every word. If Trump announced shit was tasty, turds would become a common meal amongst his base.
As such, there was no need to engage in this big gamble. There’s already hundreds of miles of barrier, much of it high and formidable enough to easily qualify as a “wall” under any common meaning of the term, which were erected mostly during the administrations of his predecessors.
Trump could have staged a photo-op or three along a new or recently-refurbished stretch of the existing wall, then strut around and boast he was “building the wall” as promised. Proclaim a big win.
The pesky non-Trumpist media would call him on that, of course, but it wouldn’t matter. Trump being called on his lies hasn’t mattered much to his base before, so why would being called on one more lie matter so much? He’d get away with it… in spades. Problem solved.
Worse yet for Trump, a prolonged shutdown in which the Democrats stand firm has the highest chance yet of being the sort of tipping point I wrote of last summer. The longer it lasts, the greater the chance of some Senate Republicans staging a revolt. If Trump has to back down, it will be a very humiliating defeat that will be very difficult to gloss over for his base. He could try a state of emergency, but that’s an even riskier option.
Remember, all of the above was optional, even from the standpoint of Trump wanting to continue to pander to his base. There was simply no need to engage in this high-stakes gambit. That Trump did anyhow puts the lie to any claim of him being a master strategist.