How do you define WALL?


Jacquelyn Martin/AP

“The wall” has become a powerful symbol for both sides of the political aisle. And a symbol, rather than an actual wall, is harder to negotiate.

– Eva

Will the government shut down again in three weeks? That might depend on what the meaning of the word “wall” is. Democrats are firmly opposed to a physical wall. But they are open to spending for replacement fencing, levees, bollards, and electronic barriers. President Trump has insisted on an imposing Great Wall-type structure, but at various times he’s said that would be concrete or could be steel slats or maybe even based on drones, sensors, and other “smart wall” technology. Upcoming talks thus may be as much about semantics as about stuff. In this they could be a symbol for American politics in a polarized age, in which the fight is about messaging as much as policy and winning means the team on the other side should lose. The upshot: The “wall” has become what political scientists call a condensation symbol, something that stands for schism, frustration, fear of immigrants, and a lengthening list of other positions and feelings. “All of these things are embodied by the wall itself … all of this cultural symbolizing is packed into the wall,” says Dr. Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of American political discourse at Texas A&M University.