Ever since I first heard the idea of building a wall on the US-Mexico border, I've been disgusted. I know lots of other people are, too. I also know people who think a big wall is absolutely essential, and long overdue.
It's just another one of the many issues where people find themselves resolutely on one side or the other.
Neither side wants to give an inch. There's no middle ground … and there's nothing but stalemate.
Until you figure out a way to get past the stalemate. Let me suggest an unusual way to do it. The main idea behind the "The Unexpected Perspective" blog is to start with the following question: could there be a reason to embrace some or many of the ideas of my opponent? These days, that sounds very unusual because it is very unusual. So let's try the idea out on the topic of Donald Trump's border wall.
Could there be a reason why liberals and progressives would love to build Donald Trump's border wall? Sounds like a ridiculous question, but the surprising answer is … absolutely, positively, yes! Now let me explain to you how I've arrived at this highly unusual conclusion.
Donald Trump prides himself on being a master negotiator. In real estate, at least, looks as though he is really, really good. So if the Democrats want to succeed, they probably should spend some time thinking about their negotiating strategy. Trump is a bit unusual, so maybe it's time for some unusual negotiations.
Anyone who has ever taken a negotiating course knows the difference between a "zero sum" negotiation and a "win/win" one. "Zero sum" means that "I win/you lose". In the latter form, both parties can win. I've taken a number of such courses and have never seen anyone advocate for "zero sum", they've all advocated some form of "win/win".
"Zero sum" usually doesn't work. Either there is no agreement reached, or the agreement tends to get sabotaged.
"Win/win" usually wins. So how could that idea be applied to Donald Trump's border wall? Let's go back to my earlier question, why would liberals and progressives ever want to have a border wall? The answer: if in return they got something they really want.
Liberals have said they want the Dreamers – children brought illegally to the USA by their parents - to be able to stay in the USA. There may be some signs that Trump will give them that in exchange for his wall. Frankly, if that's the case, they're not bargaining hard enough with him.
As I'll show you below, ironically, the Democrats would actually be better off not only with a wall, but with a bigger wall! They can go to the President and offer the following: the more you're willing to work with us, the more we'll support your wall.
I've heard that the President really enjoys fast food, so let me describe some possible "deals" they might offer the President. I'll describe them in terms of the Burger King menu. After all, the President seems to know something or other about whoppers, so let's talk about the Whopper®. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer can offer the President the following three Burger King choices:
Choice #1: Hamburger, fries and a Coke
The President can build sections of the wall. In return, the Dreamers will be allowed to stay in the USA and given a pathway to citizenship. It's the "small meal" solution.
Choice #2: Bacon & Cheese Whopper, fries and a Coke
The President can build a bigger wall than he can in choice #1. In return, not only can the Dreamers stay, but so can their families, as well as Haitians, Salvadorans, and certain other illegals. It's a bigger meal at Burger King, and it's a bigger solution for both the President and the Democrats.
Choice #3: Double Whopper, fries and a Coke
The President can build as big a wall as he wants. In return, with the exception of those convicted of felonies, every illegal immigrant in the USA will be offered not only an opportunity to stay in the USA, but also a clearly defined pathway to citizenship. This is "the whopper solution."
You can see the idea. The more the President wants his wall, the more he needs to concede on the other end. The funny thing is, both parties would probably gain by heading as close as possible to choice #3: they'd both win more by giving the other side what it wants.
Choice #3 sounds crazy, but that's not the right question to ask. Instead, the right question to ask is, is it crazy enough? Let's consider how both sides could win under choice #3.
The President wins because he gets his wall. He can fulfill a giant campaign promise to his base. In theory, the wall will stop, or greatly reduce, illegal immigration and drug smuggling. Not only that, he'll be in a position to claim that Mexico paid for the wall. Now the government of Mexico won't be paying a nickel towards the wall. Instead, by legalizing the illegals, the USA stands to gain a giant tax windfall. Millions of workers who have been paid under the table will now be paid properly, and taxes will be withheld in a proper manner. The President can surely claim the new taxes, collected from Mexican nationals in the process of becoming US citizens, will pay for his wall.
Democrats win because they can get something they've been wanting for years – comprehensive immigration reform. Businesses will also benefit hugely by that. Cities and states can also benefit because people who were previously illegal will now be paying taxes.
Illegal aliens will win, for the obvious reasons. As part of a choice #3 deal, it would be important to charge those becoming legalized. One side can describe that as a fine for illegal entry. The other can characterize it as the cost of becoming legal – the cost of applying to become a US citizen.
Mexico wins because it will put to an end an issue that has created friction between both countries.
As they already do, each side can go on TV and tell its own version. The President can trumpet his wall on Fox. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer can hail a comprehensive solution to immigration on MSNBC and CNN. Everybody can win!
But the win is only possible by re-framing the problem from a "zero sum" to "win/win". And as I've pointed out, if properly structured, the ironic outcome is that the more the Democrats concede to the President on his wall, the more they can win, too. Burger King choice #1 is a lousy deal. Not such a great meal. Choice #2 is definitely a better deal. But choice #3 is definitely the best deal!
In terms of choice #3, each side can say: hey, 1400 calories plus tons of saturated fat, but look what we got?
Is building a wall still a stupid idea? It all comes down to what you get in exchange for the wall. Conversely, is legalizing a whole bunch of illegals a bad idea? It all comes down to what you get in exchange.
In this context, not only is a wall a good idea, a big wall is a better idea, and the biggest wall is the best idea. And the unexpected outcome is that the best way to accomplish what you want is by helping your opponent accomplish what he wants. It's an old lesson in politics, and negotiation. Hopefully, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi will each rediscover what they already knew. And maybe they, along with the man who currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, will all get more of what they want.