The shutdown drags on, the border debate continues, and the 2020 election is getting closer every day. This is the last week in review.
The federal government is still partially shut down, and on Friday, it officially hit federal employees. They missed the first paycheck of the year, under furlough due to a funding gap. While the House passed a spending bill last week, it still has not been voted on in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is blocking the bill, likely because he knows that even if his chamber passed it (which it likely would not), the President would not sign it without funding for his border wall project. Trump has held additional leaders with Congressional leaders, including Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer, but compromise still seems far away. The President even went as far as to walk out of a meeting with the Democrat leaders on the ninth, as they refused to consider wall funding. The shutdown is now the longest in the nation’s history, with Sunday being the 23rd day. Expect it to continue.
Attempting to whip support for wall funding, Trump went to Texas to make public appearances with Senator Ted Cruz and local border authorities. CNN’s Jim Acosta rivaled his appearance there, but accidentally argued in favor of a wall, remarking that the town on our side of the steel slats was “tranquil.” The president retweeted Acosta’s video, adding “Dear Diary….” Trump also spent a good amount of time on Twitter broadcasting old clips of Democrats including Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer arguing for a wall, or at the least, more border security. While it may rally his base, I find it unlikely the president advances his agenda via Twitter.
2020 Ramps Up
Many libertarians’ favorite Democrat, Tulsi Gabbard, announced that she will run for the Democratic nomination for President. Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran and the Representative of Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district, is known for her consistently anti-war stance in the midst of a party that grows more comfortable with perpetual war by the day. She was a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee until she resigned in protest and endorsed Bernie Sanders for President in 2016. While her anti-war stance makes her more compatible with libertarianism than much of her party, that is undercut by her far-left economic stances on trade, taxation, welfare spending, and the environment. More about Gabbard is sure to come from our platform in the coming months.
Julian Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Barack Obama, joined Gabbard in announcing his 2020 aspirations this week. Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, had previously launched an exploratory committee and has been a name floated in Democratic circles for a while. He was a rumored candidate for Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, as he was an early endorsee of her campaign. He could be progressive enough to win grassroots supporters, while connected enough to earn establishment supporters, or he could split the difference and miss both. On a poll of Iowa Democrats from December 2018, Castro was viewed 27% favorably, 10% unfavorably, and 63% unsure or unheard of. While the net favorability rating is good, Castro has a lot of work to do on name ID, which could really hurt him in a crowded field. There were 21 candidates in the poll, including declared candidates Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, and John Delaney, but not including Tulsi Gabbard.
Congressman Steve King got himself in hot water again this week. If you’re unfamiliar with the Republican from Iowa’s Fourth District, this is not an uncommon thing for him. King has previously claimed, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” He has associated himself with the Netherland’s Geert Wilders, endorsed a far-right protest candidate in Toronto’s mayoral race, and once even met with a far-right group in Austria during a trip funded by a Holocaust memorial group. This week, in an interview with the New York Times, King remarked “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization – how did that language become offensive?” While he often plays dumb in his defenses, blaming clumsy wording, these instances have happened too often for many Republicans. He earned the condemnation of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, and now he has a primary challenger for 2020, 17 months out from that election. State Senator Randy Feenstra, the chair of the state senate’s ways and means committee, will challenge the 8-term incumbent. Is this a reflection of a larger division within the Republican Party, or just an effort to expel one of its most controversial Congressmen? Only time could tell, but this may be a story to watch.