The federal shutdown over funding for President Donald Trump's border wall entered its 31st day Monday, with 800,000 workers going without pay.
The Guardian's Washington DC bureau chief David Smith wondered Monday why Trump appears to be committing political suicide. After all, the border wall is not a popular idea: 69 percent of respondents polled by NPR in December said that the wall was not a priority for them. Unsurprisingly, a large number of federal workers oppose the shutdown, despite President Trump's frequent claims that federal workers want a wall so badly they're willing to forego pay.
Smith concludes that Trump continues to pursue the unpopular policy because many of the president's more moderate advisors have vacated the administration, leaving extremists like Stephen Miller and Mick Mulvaney as the president's chief counselors.
Miller helped craft the zero tolerance policy that led to kids getting separated from their parents at the border. He's an ardent supporter of the wall. Meanwhile, Mulvaney's brand of conservatism favors limiting the power of the federal government.
“Stephen Miller has become the singular voice on immigration in the White House. It does appear he has achieved the role he was blocked from by Steve Bannon, John Kelly and to an extent Jim Mattis. Now there is no one to block him,” Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University, explained.
“The anti-globalists are in the ascendant because there is no one else there,” Dan Cassino, an associate professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University, told The Guardian.
Then, there's perhaps one of Trump's most trusted advisors: Fox News, which the president reportedly watches throughout the day.
Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, observed that it's a mix of toxic elements that's making it difficult to resolve the stand-off.
“He likes the drama of it: a president taking a heroic stand on television. It influences him and might even make him dig in more. He does not want to turn on TV and read a chyron saying he’s conceded. Then there are crowds he spoke to in the campaign," Zelizer told Smith. "He’s talked about this wall and boxed himself in. He hears those voices in his head and doesn’t want to give in.”