Earlier this week, President Donald Trump formally addressed the nation on prime-time national television. He described a situation that requires immediate action — a time of unparalleled drug smuggling and illegal border-crossing, a time of violence and, moreover, a state of danger that challenges the American way of life.
Trump narrated a crisis, yet the tale provided lacked truth. It withheld fact and painted a false portrait of our country.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, apprehensions by the U.S. Border Patrol of people illegally crossing the southwest border are at historic lows. The thousands of people Trump described as spilling into the country each day do not exist.
In past presidential addresses, a crisis has referred to declarations of war and international destruction, to airstrikes and conflict. Despite Trump’s strong rhetoric, our southern border is not in a state of peril. This is not a “crisis of heart and soul” — it is not even a crisis to begin with.
Although he repeats it constantly, Trump does not care about border security. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered over a billion dollars for border security measures in their recent budget proposals. Trump refused.
In fact, Trump does not intrinsically care about the wall. He had the opportunity to fund it earlier in spring of 2018 by working with Democrats in exchange for protections for DACA and Dreamers. Instead, he left the negotiation table.
The president’s sole goal is his re-election, and the wall is the weapon he chose to wield. It was a promise he made to his base and in order for him to remain president past 2020, his base needs to be appeased.
Consequently, as this government shutdown grows closer to being the longest in U.S. history, we and and our Congressional leaders need to hold our ground. Everyone should remain mindful that this is not an immigration debate, and this is not political discourse — this is Trump firing up his base and dragging the country along for the ride. Again.
In 2014, television networks refused to air former President Barack Obama’s speech on executive orders he signed after a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill collapsed. Broadcast networks stated that the issue was too political and partisan. It would be logical to assume that the same standard would apply to Trump.
On Tuesday, networks again committed the same mistake they did during the 2016 election: giving Trump more coverage than he actually merits and airing a partisan speech that included no new information and spoke of a non-existent crisis. The only thing this speech accomplished was feeding more into Trump’s base instead of compromising with Democrats or expressing compassion for those affected by the government shutdown.
The only problem with our borders is one of Trump’s own creation. During his speech, he said he swore an oath to protect our country, but by championing for a border wall, he is doing anything but.
He is permitting airplanes to fly without proper safety checks, allowing national parks to deteriorate and, most importantly, putting thousands of federal workers and their families in financial distress.
Recent polls show that a majority of Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the shutdown, according to CNN. Nonetheless, Trump ignores the public’s opinion in the favor of his base and in favor of re-election. He holds the nation hostage and ignores his primary responsibility: to support and protect all citizens, not just the ones who voted for him or will vote for him in 2020.
Earlier this week, Trump stated that he has considered declaring a state of emergency in the United States in order to secure the southern border with Mexico. Although it is a president’s prerogative to utilize emergency powers, it should be noted that the name itself implies that an emergency should actually exist. Since the reform of emergency-powers laws in 1976, never has a president declared a state of emergency in order to fulfill a policy goal.
We have no such emergency. We have no such crisis.
If the president invokes emergency powers to build a border wall, he is bypassing Congress and ignoring the vision of our founding fathers. Checks and balances were a key component in the Federalist Papers and are an instrumental part of our democracy — they are not optional.
Throughout his time as president, Trump has praised strongmen like Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un; however, the type of tyranny and iron fist those leaders use directly conflict with our values as a nation. We did not elect an authoritarian. We should not permit a totalitarian regime.
The majority of the country does not stand with the president’s actions, for the wall or for the closing of a significant portion of our government. It is time for our chief official to govern the democracy he was elected to lead, not manage his campaign.
Catherine Buchaniec is a Medill freshman. She can be contacted at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.