In his Daily Sentinel column of January 10, Marc Theissen suggests that president Trump "won the night" Jan. 8 with his Oval Office address. I'd argue that everybody lost.
At issue, theoretically, is the president's $5.7 billion demand for a wall on the Mexican border. Deep into a government shutdown, we're enduring widespread dysfunction over a wall that is nothing more than a concept.
There is for example, no map showing where this wall would actually be built. Our border with Mexico runs for 2,000 miles, with the Rio Grande occupying approximately half that distance. Since the wall won't be built in the river, or on the Mexican side, the project essentially cedes the river to Mexico along with the core of Big Bend National Park and up to 5,000 private land parcels. Much of the border in Arizona is already a natural wall of waterless, rugged terrain.
Then in an angry address, two weeks into his line-in-the-sand shutdown, the president never uses the word "wall," but redefines its purpose. Instead of keeping the criminals out, the new objective is to resolve a humanitarian crisis.
Therefore, the government is shut down over the funding of a wall predicated on evolving objectives, the physical location is largely unknown, complexity associated with terrain is unaddressed, the design features of the wall are undetermined, and large-scale private property condemnations are still pending. The effectiveness of the wall relative to alternatives is vigorously disputed, as is the magnitude of the problem the wall is supposed to address. Long-term maintenance costs are unconsidered along with environmental issues and laws. We don't know how the president's $5.7 billion demand was derived, what the eventual cost will be, what will actually be built, or on what timeline.
Make no mistake, there are serious security issues on our southern border, and we need a physical barrier in some locations. But instead of discussing priorities, tactics, and options, the House majority leader says the wall is immoral, a position just as wacky as the president's hyperbole. Our border security efforts should carefully consider the effect on Mexico since, with or without a wall, a failed Mexican state would be a national security threat of unimaginable magnitude. But before we ponder Mexico's difficulties, we best consider our own.
This column is not about the wall. It's about our political parties normalizing brinkmanship instead of cooperation and respect. Our individual legislators are now only Rs or Ds beholden to party leadership who are, in turn, accountable only to their radical base. Party bosses brow beat legislators who don't tow the party line by threatening well-funded opponents in primary elections. There are a lot of districts in the United States where the primary election is now the main event in comparison with the general election. Throw in some gerrymandering, the method politicians use to choose their electorates instead of the opposite, and the progression is complete. General elections are a formality and the radical base is fully empowered. Moderates can't play. That's how we ended up with the government shutdown over a wall concept wherein there aren't enough facts on the table for anyone to be legitimately for or against.
If you don't fear for our republic, you should. Our decision-making process is broken. We can't allow legislators to simply take orders from party bosses and coast along under their party affiliation. Vote them out. Let's revise our primary process to escape the political party stranglehold. Our new normal of continuous political brinkmanship is a bigger threat to the United States than the southern border issues.
Currently retired, Jim Cagney served as the Bureau of Land Management's district manager for northwest Colorado. He lives in Grand Junction.