Sputnik: Let's look at President Trump, he's been criticised and blamed for the government shutdown; in your view, how justified is all this blame?
Rogers Smith: There's no doubt that President Trump said he would own the shutdown; that was videotaped and widely distributed. He is now trying to blame the Democrats for the shutdown and it's true that they won't give him the $5 billion for the wall that he wants. So, the blame game is going both ways; most of the public blame the president and the Republicans for the shutdown, but about a third of the country blames the Democrats and those numbers may shift over next days and weeks.
Rogers Smith: Right now there is no resolution in sight. The president has painted himself into a corner by making it clear that anything less than $5 billion for a wall will look like a major concession on his part. The Democrats aren't willing to do that and they will soon be in control of the House of Representatives where funding bills originate. No compromise is clear.
The only possible at this point seems to be that if the public is overwhelmingly blaming the Republicans and the Democrats offer a compromise that is acceptable to the Republicans in Congress then President Trump might have to give in realizing that he wouldn't be able to veto an agreement shared by leaders in both parties. But we're a long way from such an agreement.
Sputnik: Right now we're only witnessing Donald Trump making even more unexpected and belligerent statements with a decision to actually shut down the border in that particular area. Do you think this is going to happen?
Rogers Smith: The president is, of course, very unpredictable. It is true that he has decided that under the pressure conserved at commentators that he has to satisfy his base on this issue and so strong actions to control the border are very much part of his calculation now. We don't know what those actions will be.
Sputnik: According to some reports, the Democrats were considering various options to get funding flowing and to reopen the government, but none of them include Trump's $5 billion demand. Currently this looks like an impasse but it has to end somehow and something's got to give; which side will more likely have to budge?
Rogers Smith: It's just not obvious now partly because the country is divided with slightly over half blaming Trump and the Republicans but a third or more blaming the Democrats. If that swings strongly one way or another, then one side will have to give in. And again I think that the Democrats do have several options that they're presenting as better ways to achieve national security at the borders. If they can come up with a package that congressional Republicans find appealing, they may be able to get around the president. But the options they presented so far have not only not persuaded the president, but have not appealed to a lot of congressional Republicans either.
Rogers Smith: I don't think that's correct. I think that it's true that the Democrats are opposing strong anti-immigrant measures but the populist surge that we saw in 2016 included a lot of economic issues as well on which the Democrats are trying to appeal to the populist concerns of much of the country. And even on immigration, I think they are going to say that we actually have more effective policies to secure the border and the wall, which they are presenting as largely symbolic impact, of course, the president disagrees.
Sputnik: In your opinion, how soon in January will we see some sort of result? Something's got to happen because it's just technically impossible to continue with this impasse that long. How soon can we expect something to happen?
Rogers Smith: It's not clear when this will end. It is only a partial shutdown; it's serious but it is not crippling the government or the country and it could well proceed for weeks and past January unless the political response creates pressures to bring it to an end. Right now it looks to be a longer shutdown than I think any of us expected just a couple of weeks ago.
The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.