BOSTON (CBS) – When President Trump used his inaugural address to fulminate about our “American carnage,” who thought we’d still be hearing about it now?
Two years ago, Mr. Trump was referring to empty factories, failed public schools and widespread street crime. But clearly, the tax cuts, the trade wars, the endorsement of rough rides for suspects and the administration’s make-America-great-again education policies (whatever those are) have fixed those problems.
So now it’s a stripped-down focus on the king of all carnage-causing issues, illegal immigration and mass migration in search of legal asylum, which he described Tuesday night with a string of hair-curling adjectives: “vicious…ruthless…brutal…. A crisis of the soul,” he called it, asking: “How much more American blood must be shed before Congress does its job?”
In poll after poll, most Americans don’t believe his description of the border situation, aren’t worried about their blood being shed, and are skeptical of his preferred solutions, namely the multi-billion-dollar wall, which even staunch limited-immigration advocates say is a waste. And don’t forget the biggest poll of all, the midterm elections, where the president’s effort to make the vote a referendum on the border backfired big-time.
Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi hit the jackpot when the president blundered into the shutdown, handing them an issue and set of threats that seem much more immediate to most Americans with each passing day. Families limping along without paychecks or just trudging along in endless TSA lines will have something in common – contempt for the political posturing that caused their plight. Democrats have to be mindful of the numbers who blame them, but Congress will always be less popular than the president; the opportunity to help Mr. Trump bury himself is too golden to pass up.
Perhaps, at around 9:08 p.m. Tuesday, the phone lines in Democrats’ offices lit up with angry pro-wall citizens inspired by the president’s call to action. If this were summertime, we’d have opened the windows to hear if people were shouting they’re “mad as hell,” like in the movie Network.
Look instead for the pressure on Republicans to grow. Last November wasn’t the first time in recent years they’ve suffered politically from being seen as crass panderers to xenophobia in a country where everyone has their own family immigration story.
The president’s contention Tuesday night that folks “don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside” was intended, we think, to soften that image. But it could cut both ways, if voters decide to wall off the White House carnage narrative because they mistrust its narrator.