Tuesday nightâ€™s presidential address and the response from the Democratic Partyâ€™s leaders in Congress offered little prospect that the stand-off over President Donald Trumpâ€™s wall will be quickly resolved. As yet, neither side looks ready to back down or seek compromise. For this to change, public opinion may need to shift.
Encouragingly, Tuesday nightâ€™s exchange suggests it soon might - against Trump.
As the shutdown drags on, its damaging effects on the economy and on vital government functions (including border security, by the way) will become more apparent. And as the costs rise, attention will shift to whoâ€™s to blame. On this the president has more to worry about than his opponents.
It was telling that Trumpâ€™s address made no real effort to justify the shutdown as a legitimate or effective tactic. The president refused to accept even partial responsibility for this state of affairs.
Also worth noting was that the president didnâ€™t, after all, threaten to declare a state of emergency and move ahead on the wall without congressional authorization - something heâ€™s apparently been considering. Itâ€™s to be hoped he drops this idea altogether. Such a step would be of dubious legality, since thereâ€™s no real emergency and the action he proposes is explicitly opposed by the House of Representatives. If Trump has decided against adding constitutional crisis to government shutdown, it might be because he senses heâ€™s losing the argument.
In contrast, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., concentrated on the most pressing issue - the pointlessness of the shutdown. They emphasized their proposal to keep the government running while the debate over the border continues - an approach that some Republicans also seem to favor. Wisely, Pelosi and Schumer didnâ€™t diminish the importance of adequate border security, but argued, correctly, that Trumpâ€™s wall wouldnâ€™t help. In short, they made a much better case.
The longer the shutdown drags on, the more impressed voters will be with politicians who seem most interested in ending it. Tuesday night, that was the Democrats.