Trump’s Great Wall of Failure
Donald Trump’s entire presidency has been a series of broken promises, missteps, and intentional undercutting of our national interests to benefit a single ego. And there’s no greater testament to the staggering incompetence and utter failure of this president than the ridiculously expensive, yet somehow still dilapidated, three miles of border wall that (barely) stand along our southern border at Trump’s behest. Conceived in political opportunism and sustained by racism and desperation, this billion-dollar vanity project was poorly envisioned from the start—and its execution proved to be even worse. With just a few months left in his first (and hopefully only) term, Trump is nowhere on his promised wall, yet he continues to tout it to his supporters. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Trump recently said, “We’re going to finish, we’re going to have that – it’s going to be almost complete by the end of this year, shortly thereafter it’s finished.”1 If you believe that, we’ve got a bridge to nowhere to sell you.
The wall was the most tangible promise of Trump’s campaign. Now it’s a perfect metaphor for this historically failed presidency.
1. Nearly four years later, Trump has built just three miles of new wall.
Just shy of four years in office, Donald Trump has completely failed to deliver on his signature campaign promise—building a wall on the country’s southern border with Mexico. For starters, our southern border is nearly 2,000 miles long. After completing just about 60 miles of replacement barrier during the first 2 ½ years of his presidency, Trump really raised the bar and guaranteed 500 miles of new construction by year’s end.2 As usual, Trump over promised and under delivered. To date, he’s gotten a measly 235 miles of replacement wall built where previous barriers already existed.3 And in terms of new wall where no barriers previously existed, as of late June, Trump has built just three miles of wall.4 Three.
2. Despite having control of both chambers of Congress for two years, Trump couldn’t deliver.
To make matters worse for Trump, he doesn’t even have Democrats to blame for his epic fail. Trump had unified Republican control of the House, Senate, and White House for the first two years of his presidency, and he couldn’t even get his own party on board to support his wall. The wall has never been popular (polling at best around 40 percent support), so even Congressional Republicans have been wise enough to realize that Trump’s wall is bad politics and bad policy.5 Texas Congressman Will Hurd, whose district runs eight hundred miles along the Rio Grande, described building a wall in his district as “impossible,” and called Trump’s border wall “a 3rd century solution to a 21st century problem.”6 Even reliable Trump loyalists like John Cornyn and Thom Tillis have criticized the feasibility and efficacy of the wall. In February 2017 Cornyn admitted that, “There’s parts of our border which [building a wall] makes absolutely no sense,” and correctly predicted that people would be able to “climb over the wall or go under the wall or through the wall.”7 In a post on his website, Tillis also once readily admitted “that a continuous wall from one end of our Southern border to the other is neither feasible nor effective. It’s basic geology.”8
3. Trump raided $10 billion from DHS and Defense spending for the wall, and couldn’t deliver.
With even his own party in Congress unwilling to handover a blank check to cover ballooning costs for the wall—which DHS has estimated will cost at least $21 billion—and with payments from Mexico nowhere in sight, Trump has spent the last year raiding Homeland and Defense budgets in an attempt to unilaterally start construction.9 In 2020 alone, Trump siphoned roughly $10 billion of DHS and Defense funding that was intended to subsidize the construction of military aircrafts and fund various military bases across the country.10 As a frame of reference, the CDC’s entire budget for FY 2020 is $6.5 billion and its budget to combat infectious diseases is $2.5 billion.11 Even Congressional Republicans spoke out against Trump’s brazen and unconstitutional blitzkrieg of the military budget. Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, called Trump’s raiding of the military budget “contrary to Congress’ constitutional authority,” and criticized the order as being “in violation of the separation of powers within the Constitution.”12 With only three miles of new wall and 200 miles of largely cosmetic and wholly ineffective upgrades to show for it, Trump has basically done to the border what he’s done in the past with steaks and apartment buildings: slap his name on the front, call it new, and try to profit off of it—only this time on the back of taxpayers and military families.
4. Trump is still trying to confiscate privately-owned land for his vanity project.
If siphoning billions from the military wasn’t enough, Trump is still actively engaging in seizing the private property of American citizens for his failed wall. Nearly two-thirds of the border’s 2,000 miles is privately owned, and Trump will be damned before he lets a measly thing like property rights get in the way of his wall crusade.13 And as the clock ticks on his presidency, Trump has only gotten more aggressive in his willingness to trample over everyday Americans. The administration filed 29 separate eminent domain suits to purloin land from farmers and ranchers last year alone, up from 11 in both 2018 and 2017.14
5. And Trump can’t keep up the few miles he’s actually built.
Despite raiding billions of dollars from the defense budget—violating Congress’s constitutional authority—and only completing construction on about 10 percent of the border, Trump has still managed to make what’s actually been built on the border an unmitigated disaster. Over the course of its short existence, the few completed portions of Trump’s wall have routinely been breached overhead, underground, and right through.15 It’s gotten so bad for Trump’s titanic wall that some portions have even been blown down by “gusty” winds.16
In a presidency defined by its unprecedented floundering and failures, the border wall (or lack thereof) is readily apparent and visually stark. It encapsulates all of Trump’s worst qualities. He didn’t “build that wall.” Mexico isn’t paying for it. The fraction he’s actually gotten built isn’t an “impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall.” It’s a barely standing house of cards.
Trump has recently been outspoken in his support for monuments—including those of Confederate generals. With that in mind, Trump’s three miles of wall stands as a monument to his failure. And that’s a message that will ring loudly in November.
Palmer, Anna and Jake Serman. "Politico Playbook: White House Weighing Another Swing at DACA." Politico, 10 July 2020, https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2020/07/10/new-white-house-weighing-another-swing-at-daca-489761. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Kight, Stef. “Trump Administration Can’t Say When First Section of New Wall Will Be Built.” Axios, 25 Aug. 2019, https://www.axios.com/trump-border-wall-new-construction-3b7ad3a4-e50c-4330-86bc-193df9e27405.html. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Galvan, Astrid. "450 Miles of Border Wall by Next Year? In Arizona, It Starts." USA Today, 15 Sept. 2019, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/09/15/president-trump-border-wall-construction-450-miles-2020/2334106001/. Accessed 30 July 2020.
"Border Wall System." U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 27 July 2020, https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/along-us-borders/border-wall-system. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Alvarez, Priscilla. "Trump Takes His First 2020 Trip to the US-Mexico Border." CNN, 23 June 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/23/politics/trump-us-mexico-border-wall/index.html. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Langer, Gary. "64% Oppose Trump's Move to Build a Wall; On asylum, Just 30% Support Stricter Rules." ABC News, 30 Apr. 2020, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/64-oppose-trumps-move-build-wall-asylum-30/story?id=62702683. Accessed 30 July 2020.
"U.S. Voters Say No Wall and Don't Shut Down Government.” Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Focus on Issues, Not Impeachment, Voters Tell Dems 7-1." Quinnipiac University, 18 Dec. 2018, https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2590. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Stewart, Kyle. “Hurd and Border State Members to Introduce 'Smart' Wall Bill.” Roll Call, 27 July 2017, www.rollcall.com/news/politics/hurd-border-state-members-introduce-smart-wall-bill. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Carney, Jordain. “Cornyn: Border Wall 'Makes Absolutely No Sense' in Some Areas.” The Hill, 23 Feb. 2017, https://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/320820-cornyn-border-wall-makes-absolutely-no-sense-in-some-areas. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Werner, Erica, et al. “Trump Demands a Border Wall but Many Republican Lawmakers Aren't Convinced.” The Washington Post, 20 Sept. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/trump-demands-a-border-wall-but-many-congressional-republicans-just-not-into-it/2018/09/20/8513b368-b826-11e8-94eb-3bd52dfe917b_story.html?utm_term=.d3f5340bee36. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Tillis, Thom. “Securing Our Border Must Be First Step in Immigration Reform.” Thom Tillis United States Senator, 18 Apr. 2017, www.tillis.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2017/4/senator-thom-tillis-securing-our-border-must-be-first-step-in-immigration-reform. Accessed 28 Nov. 2018. See also: “Thom Tillis Supports Trump's Border Wall - except When He Doesn't.” Charlotte Observer, 8 Jan. 2018, www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article193537614.html. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Sonne, Paul. "Trump Looks to Raid Pentagon Budget for Wall Money Using Emergency Powers." The Washington Post, 15 Feb. 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-looks-to-raid-pentagon-budget-for-wall-money-using-emergency-powers/2019/02/15/cd0fcdb8-3149-11e9-ac6c-14eea99d5e24_story.html. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Waldman, Paul. "Trump's Border Wall is Now a Monument to His Failure." The Washington Post, 5 Sept. 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/09/05/trumps-border-wall-is-now-monument-his-failure/. Accessed 30 July 2020.
"CDC--Budget Request Overview." The Center for Disease Control, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/budget/documents/fy2020/cdc-overview-factsheet.pdf. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Thornberry on DOD Reprogramming: Congress Must Act." House Armed Services Committee, 13 Feb. 2020, https://republicans-armedservices.house.gov/news/press-releases/thornberry-dod-reprogramming-congress-must-act. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Miroff, Nick and Arelis R. Hernandez. "Trump Administration Has Acquired Little of the Private Land in Texas It Needs for Border Barrier." The Washington Post, 26 Sept. 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/trump-administration-has-acquired-little-of-the-private-land-in-texas-it-needs-for-border-barrier/2019/10/26/d43c617e-f4f2-11e9-8cf0-4cc99f74d127_story.html. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Ortega, Bob. "The Trump Administration is Dialing Up Efforts to 'Build That Wall,' Records Show." CNN, 22 Nov 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/22/us/trump-administration-seizing-border-wall-land/index.html. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Miroff, Nick. "People Are Sawing Through and Climbing Over Trump's Border Wall. Now Contractors are Being Asked for Ideas to Make it Less Vulnerable." The Washington Post, 4 June 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/trump-border-wall-vulnerable/2020/06/04/ccd40e5e-a66e-11ea-8681-7d471bf20207_story.html. Accessed 30 July 2020.
Rodriguez, Adrianna. "Gusty Winds Blew Over A Portion of President Trump's Border Wall with Mexico in California." USA Today, 30 Jan. 2020, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/01/30/trumps-border-wall-falls-over-high-winds-california-mexico/4618372002/. Accessed 30 July 2020.