Mr. Trump, Tear Down This Wall

Notes from the latest government shutdown, now at Day 100.

Photo: Courtesy of

Well, well, well. Something feels eerily familiar. The US government has now been shut down for over a month again. More than three months, as a matter of fact. Some 800,000 federal workers are again missing paychecks and there’s no end in sight. FBI operations are impeded — confidential sources can’t be paid, counterterrorism investigations are hamstrung, copy paper is running low — and active duty Coast Guard men and women are turning to food banks to feed themselves. Transportation Security Administration officers (among the lowest-paid federal workers) are unable to make it to work due to severe financial strain. Many planes are grounded since there aren’t enough air traffic controllers to prevent the planes from literally colliding in midair.

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Something feels eerily familiar — because we’ve been here before! We call the good old days of the last 35-day government shutdown “Shutdown Lite” because things are so much worse this time around:

  • Benefit from SNAP — the Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are on hold again, affecting the ability of tens of thousands of low-income households to eat.
  • American banks are now “self-monitoring,” since the Securities and Exchange Commission isn’t keeping an eye on them.
  • Jared Kushner is single-handedly handling all US foreign policy due to US embassies being closed worldwide. Domestically, we’re starting to think this whole Russia thing is not so bad after all.
  • Our national parks are now Fyre Festival-esque, with no rangers in sight to prevent people from setting up permanent camp. Instead of models, social media influencers and Ja Rule looking for an exclusive island getaway for their Insta stories, Yellowstone and other national parks are full of MAGA-hat-wearing Trump supporters who, even after realizing that maybe government isn’t so bad after all and does a good thing or two for their livelihood, quickly push that thought aside and say they were actually looking for a break from the humdrum of normal life in an actual house with food and a job. When asked by the media if they’re maybe just a bit cold sleeping outside in a national park in -20 degree weather, they chant “Build a wall and crime will fall!”

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How did we get here? As a reminder, Trump’s 2016 campaign staff needed to find an elementary means for the simple-minded then-candidate to remember to talk about border security at rallies. Fast-forward to his campaign promise (“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall“), and, in late 2018, to 17 gripping minutes of agonizing video footage of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and an awkwardly silent Vice President Mike Pence as President Trump proclaimed that he’d be proud to “shut down the government” to get his wall, which has now happened again.

During Shutdown Lite, the Trump administration thought they pulled out all the stops: a visit to the border; a speech from the Oval Office; constant threats to declare a state of emergency for a non-emergency crisis at the border. His supporters (including Ann Coulter, who just last week tweeted “Wimp no more!”) showered him with praise for opening the government for three weeks so that a bipartisan group of legislators could negotiate a homeland security spending deal. Well, they did, but they didn’t appropriate $5 billion for concrete-wall-barrier-steel-slat construction-upon-a-beautiful-mountaintop, so Trump promptly vetoed the bill when it reached his desk, sending the US into a more dangerous government shutdown that has now lasted exactly 100 days.

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Mr. President, open the government. Let’s have an honest conversation about immigration reform, border security and a way forward. And know that this is only the beginning of a Democratic-controlled House wielding its Constitutionally-mandated powers to check you, your administration and your devastating policies.

Also, I’m currently holding my IRS tax refund — you did, after all, force IRS employees to return to work without pay. Trouble is, since the run on the banks, I don’t know what to do with it. The other day, I asked this MAGA-hat-wearing gentleman if he knew any open check-cashing establishments nearby. He screamed “Build a wall and crime will fall!” I suppose when he needs some food he’ll just eat his hat.

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Stacie Williams
Stacie L. Williams is a dancer, producer and foreign policy practitioner. She enjoyed a 13-year professional dance career, dancing with The Dance Theatre of Harlem, Donald Byrd’s Spectrum Dance Theater, and Ballet Memphis. In 2013, Stacie was selected by the US Department of State to join the DanceMotion USA Program, where she utilized dance to engage over 2,000 students in South Asia. After hanging up her pointe shoes in 2014, Stacie completed a Master’s degree in Global Politics and Security from Georgetown University. She served as an Obama Administration appointee at the US Department of Commerce before joining The Rothkopf Group as Vice President, where she recently produced an international arts and policy conference. Stacie continues to teach ballet in the Washington, DC area and takes class whenever humanly possible.