President Donald Trump has brilliantly maneuvered the Democrats so a government shutdown on his terms would hurt his opponents and vastly help him.
First, he has seen to it that Congress funds two-thirds of the government, including all the important services. Even in the event of a shutdown, 400,000 essential employees will have to report to work, on the promise of getting paid when funding resumes. Only 350,000 less-important workers will have to be furloughed without pay — a very partial shutdown.
The Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education will be fully funded as, of course, will debt service, Social Security, Medicare and the other entitlements.
Ironically, it is the Department of Homeland Security that will immediately feel the cuts along with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, with 87 percent of its workers being furloughed.
But with the vital services funded, the shutdown will be no big deal outside of the D.C. area. The Washington-based media covers the furloughs that eventuate during a shutdown about as intensively as the media in Hershey, Pennsylvania, would cover a shutdown of the chocolate industry.
But out here in the rest of the country, such a limited shutdown would not cause much of a ripple.
Second, Trump's focus on border security as the cause of a potential shutdown resonates with voters. And the recent threat of the migrant caravan storming the border served to dramatize the need for more border security.
According to a Rasmussen report in June, 48 percent of voters feel the government is not doing enough to secure the borders; only 36 percent think current measures are adequate.
And support for the border wall has grown as the reality of the migrant caravans from Central America has made its impact felt. In July of 2018, voters rejected building the wall 37-56. The split was more even — 43-51 — at the end of September.
So, if a shutdown takes place, Trump will have a bully pulpit from which to preach the need to protect the border, and the public will feel minimal harm from the furloughs.
So what if HUD, a Democratic agency, has to shut down? And essential border patrols by DHS will continue, even if funding is cut off.
Trump can afford to stand strong and use his daily opportunities to make his case from the White House podium until the Democrats give in.
He should not cave an inch on the wall. This is a winning gambit for him.