Reality Check: National Emergency Fallout (Or, The Political Price For Betting On Fantasies)

NATIONAL EMERGENCY FALLOUT (Or, The Political Price For Betting On Fantasies)

Let me reiterate what I wrote here nearly one month ago to the day: President Trump has every legal right to declare a national emergency to procure funds to build a border wall for any reason he deems necessary (essentially usurping the responsibilities of Congress).

There is no constitutional dispute that can oppose this, and any such attempt to stop it should not stand up in court. Unfortunately, presidents have the power to do some crazy shit. The issue is with the system, not Trump. However, supporters of the president who think this sets a bad precedent might be correct, since a future Democratic president can, and now most likely will, call for a national emergency on guns or climate change in 2021, should they defeat Trump in his re-election bid, assuming he makes it that far. But the question still remains: What of the political fallout?

Republicans who have stood strong for the president may see this battle at the border— wholly made up by Trump—as an imperative that supersedes political consideration. In other words, if this costs him a second term, so be it. It’s that important. Even if there is no crisis or emergency at the border, nor any validity to the sketchy arguments for this wall—which won’t even work for what these people want, anyway—Trump ran on this nonsense. The nation (or at least a minority of the nation, bailed out by the Electoral College) voted for him, and this is what we get.

Still, the idea of building a wall along the southern border of the United States is unpopular. According to, roughly 70 percent of Americans oppose using their tax dollars to pay for this boondoggle. Remember, Trump boasted that Mexico was going to pay for this. When you’re done laughing at that, move along to the paltry polling average of Americans who support this national emergency maneuver—a mere 31 percent. That is abysmal, even considering Trump’s sad polling standards.

This move—while wholly constitutional if not wacky—will bring consequences. And, assuming Trump wants to run again, his campaign team should be worrisome of these statistics. Of course, since we all thought him doomed in 2016, his side will argue that we don’t know what we’re talking about. But consider this: at the current rate of Trump’s popularity, no president has ever seen a second term, and some were bloodied in a primary challenge or—put simply—quit.

I brought up the concept of a presidential emergency when citing the Vietnam War last month. It was lunacy and a made-up crisis that was by far the worst event that was cast upon this nation since I began breathing. How did that work out for Lyndon Johnson? He quit. And well he should have. The fallout from that horrible mess was severe and rapid, and it destroyed his presidency.

Right now, Trump—whose national approval rating is averaged out at around 40 percent—is hanging by a thread among independents, the voting block that he carried by four percent in the autumn of 2016, but which by now he has not only lost, but flat-out hemorrhaged. This was brought to bear last autumn when Republicans lost 40 seats in the House of Representatives with a whopping 12 percent of independent voters abandoning the president. No matter how you slice this, if these numbers hold, or—as many Republicans have predicted—go further south, there is virtually no way Trump can be re-elected. Thus, this is a bold political move for a president that has not displayed a scintilla of evidence he has a fucking clue what he is doing.

To wit: If this really was a national emergency, which Trump all but announced when he threw his hat in the ring in the summer of 2015, then once he was sworn in with an overwhelming Republican majority in both houses of Congress, he would have pursued the money more vigorously. He did not. Next, he could have just studied the election results from November 2018 and surmised that his enemy had just stormed the gates and been given a mandate from the American voting public to curtail him. This was duly verified by the abject failure of the Trump strategy to paint the border as a sieve for a siege of evil caravans, instead of trying to taut a solid economy and stem the tide of the Blue Wave.

Now, here he is months later, stumbling into another political landmine for something even he, until last fall, didn’t consider that dire. Trump can call for all the national emergencies he wants. He’s president. But, assuming he’s not impeached, does this finally and completely doom him for 2020?

The numbers tell you, yes.

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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk, and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus, Midnight For CinderellaY, Shout It Out Loud—The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon, and Accidentally Like a Martyr—The Tortured Art of Warren Zevon.