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What the Devil won't tell you

McSally caught between Trump's wall and our purple state

Support the president's shutdown and lose Arizona. Bolt and the base grows angry. Which way should a new senator turn?

Let’s just get some figures straight right away concerning how little or how much has been done to beef up the U.S.-Mexico border prior to Donald Trump took to the airwaves to tell us all to be very, very afraid of them there illegals.

Trump would have us believe nada has been done to protect us. Praise Jesus, if it requires shutting the government down for a year, then grant the president the will to stem this invasion.

Except ... 

Congress – under control from both parties – has increased border security budgets from $9.2 million in 2003 to $19.3 million in 2017.

The number of Border Patrol and ICE agents has increased from 31,000 to 50,000 during that time.

More than 350 miles of pedestrian fences, some 21 feet high, have been built along the border and vehicle barriers are in place over another 300 miles.

Apprehensions along the southern border have fallen from 1.6 million in 2000 to 303,000 in 2017. Agents in the Tucson Sector caught 616,000 undocumented migrants in 2000 and 38,000 in 2017.

So maybe that’s how I made it to the store – on foot and less than 100 miles from the border – twice today un-murdered by savage illegal immigrants invading American soil.

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The truth is that U.S. Sen. Martha McSally remains the Arizonan most endangered by Trump’s xenophobic obsession with illegal immigration and his wall that won’t fix a problem that's already largely solved.

Bolt from Trump and lose the base. Stick with Trump and lose the state. Which way should a new senator turn?

Here we go again

McSally — who chose to stand as close as she possibly could to the president and his policies to get through the GOP primary — spent the rest of the year tiptoeing around Trump’s dead weight as she traveled Arizona campaigning in vain for a U.S. Senate seat. After she lost, Gov. Doug Ducey picked McSally to serve the next two years of the late Sen. John McCain’s term and sentenced her to another two years of Trump jail.

Four Republican senators have stepped away from Trump over the government shutdown and each shares one thing in common with McSally.

Maine’s Susan Collins, Colorado’s Cory Gardner, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski are up for reelection in 2020. All but Murkowski is under threat of being fired for too close of ties to the president. Murkowski won a write-in campaign as an independent, which is the political equivalent of beating a Kodiak grizzly in single combat with a ball of a yarn and half-empty can of Pabst. McSally has no such political kill under her belt. She’s yet to prove she can win statewide.

Trump, more than Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, beat her in November.

McSally’s own 2018 campaign team lamented Trump’s drag on her candidacy as Democrats won everywhere but the reddest of states and whatever the hell Florida is.

Voters rebuffed Trump but Trump will not de-Trumpify. Instead, he has found his maximum Trumpiness, Trumpifying all he touches. If you like it, you love it. If you don’t, you are among the 54 percent.

You gotta hand it to him. He wins, he claims a mandate. He loses, he claims a clear mandate. Just watch him threaten to keep the government closed for months, if need be — years, if he must — to get his wall.

A karmic number

Arizona has 56,000 federal workers who aren’t going to be paid this Friday. That will have the real-world impact of a 2-percentage-point increase in unemployment for as long as the government remains shuttered. Grocery stores won’t have shoppers. Restaurants won’t have customers. Two percent more gadgets and gizmos will remain on the shelves and that may not seem like much but the market freaks out over much, much less.

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But it’s more than that. FHA mortgages won’t get processed, right along with college grants. These federal workers do things like process food stamp claims — so there’s more money that won’t be spent at the Walmart. Environmental Protection Agency stormwater permits for new construction projects that will be delayed and that costs in terms of financing. They process Social Security claims and provide replacement cards for workers starting new jobs.

That’s either time or money or money in the form of time not going into the economy.

The number 56,000 should be easy for McSally to remember because that was her losing margin against Sinema. Politically determinative? No. Karmically alarming? You betcha.

McSally tied herself so tightly to Trump she couldn’t even say good things about McCain. Or even mention his name. Trump demanded loyalty and McSally saluted. The wheels appear to be coming off the president’s calliope. She best look for a spot to dive out, tuck and roll.

Now is as good a time as any break free.

Declare defeat and go home

Voters don’t like shutdowns when they agree with the ends sought. Somehow, the president’s team seems to think that shutting it down over something unpopular will give them a boost in public opinion. Is this like multiplying a negative by a negative yields a positive answer? The only way to win is to tag the other side as responsible. Trump got outfoxed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (and that's not easy to do) and slapped the tag on his shirt reading, "My name is Donald. I do shutdowns."

I’ve given you my prescription. Rename the 350 miles of pedestrian fencing already in place “The Donald J. Trump Wall of Beauty and Love.” The wall he has in mind is just a monument to him, anyway.

It’s not lost on me that it’s a bit late for Democrats to start going all Pelosi about how border walls “are not who we are,” when Democrats voted to build 300 miles of it, afraid of seeming soft on the border.

It should be lost on no one that emigration from Mexico has slowed commensurate with the country’s average wage tripling since 2000 as inflation has remained well under control.

Clockwork Orange, ticking down

Yeah, yeah, yeah ... Mexico will pay for it. Yada, yada, yada, shutdown politics don't work. That's all over cable news.

What no one wants to tell you is that Trump is increasingly resembling Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush as presidents but in no way does he rate with them as a human being. Carter was going to do it his way, no one could tell him different and he never really understood the office of the president. Bush had a small recession at the end of his first term and didn't get a second. Trump is all that and ... so much more.

Building a brand-new wall is a stupid waste of money and it’s time will almost certainly never come. It has yet to be sited, scoped, engineered and eminent domain has not even begun. A good and proper wall is many more years away than the likely end of Trump’s presidency.

It’s just math right now, barring a personality transplant. The man does not believe in expanding his base, which failed to outnumber Hillary Clinton’s in 2016. His popularity has never broken 50 percent and his base prefers the exclusivity. If the R's are banking on facing an unelectable Democrat, I would list Trump, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, as examples of presidents who seemed unelectable until voters elected them.

Trump has remade the GOP, blindfolded it and lined it up against a wall.

The only question is how many McSallys he takes down with him and just how red Arizona will remain once he’s gone.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is a former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things the Devil won’t.


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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

McSally stood on an equipment case to speak with reporters after announcing her Senate run in January 2018.

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