The US government is being held to ransom by its racist president. Donald Trump has threatened to declare a state of emergency in order to force through £5 billion in funding for his infamous border wall.
“I may do it,” Trump boasted on Friday. “We could call a national emergency and build it very quickly. That’s another way to do it. But if we can do it through a negotiated process, we’re giving that a shot.”
Some 800,000 government workers will miss their first paycheck of 2019 on 11 January if the shutdown continues. There are signs of a fightback starting.
Hundreds of Transport Security Administration workers at four airports called in sick in response to the shutdown.
Yet Trump has the temerity to claim that workers support his attacks. He’s rolled out the racist argument that he is protecting federal workers’ wages from being undercut by so-called cheap migrant labour. Migrants do not bring down wages.
The response from the Democratic Party leadership has been abysmal. The party recently won control of the lower house of Congress, the House of Representatives.
The newly elected leader of the house Nancy Pelosi has grandstanded, saying, “We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt that we are not doing a wall?”
But the Democrats have no problem with the current rules that govern the US border with Mexico, or immigration more generally.
Last month two small children—Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Gomez Alonzo—died in Border Patrol custody. They both came from Guatemala, a country ripped apart by a civil war stoked up by the US.
Some on the right have attempted to dismiss the workers affected as peripheral to the functioning to the state—museum workers, national park workers, and so on.
These workers are not peripheral to the functioning of the state, and neither are they the only layer of government employees affected by the shutdown.
Perhaps the most shocking result of the shutdown has been the impact on Native Americans.
Essential services such as road maintenance and disaster relief for some 1.9 million people have been cut off.
Hospitals, schools and nurseries are also threatened by the shutdown.
But these services have already been paid for through previous treaty agreements, which saw territory handed over to the state in return for funding.
Trump tweeted, “If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall.”
A Pentagon spokesperson announced that it is “reviewing available authorities and funding mechanisms to identify options to enable border barrier construction.”
Trump is testing the limits of the office of president in order to satisfy the rabid racism of his political base.
Senate majority leader, the Republican Mitch McConnell, stayed away from negotiations between Trump, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi so as to avoid being too directly associated with Trump’s shutdown.
Trump is increasingly isolating himself from the majority of the US ruling class. They fear the consequences for US capitalism, not the consequences for people trapped at the border, for those federal workers who are struggling without pay.
An increase in struggle and a return of mobilisations on the scale of the Women’s March would be a critical blow against Trump’s racism and the hypocrisy of the Democrats