"We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with the winning," then-candidate Donald Trump declared at a campaign event in September 2015.
It was a line that Trump would repeat many times in one form or another, and since the election it has encapsulated the uniquely binary approach he's taken to the presidency. He appears to view much of governing as a contest in which one side, and only one side, emerges victorious.
Which is odd, given that someone who claims to be a master deal maker would understand how important it is to avoid zero-sum situations. That's where we appear to be today, with no end in sight to a partial government shutdown that's in its third unhappy week.
Trump boxed himself in by insisting that Democrats agree not to improving border security, but to taking a specific approach to border security — a wall. Democrats didn't help things by turning a border wall into something that's not just ineffective but "an immorality," in the words of new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The result is that there is no possible middle ground.
But Trump chose that path deliberately. Remember, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said a week before Christmas that Trump did not want a shutdown and would find another way to fund the wall. The backlash from xenophobic elements in Trump's base was so fierce, he withdrew that offer as quickly as he'd extended it. The wall became the defining symbol of the shutdown and, possibly, Trump's presidency.
So here we are, with both sides dug in like the Battle of Verdun circa 1916. That one didn't end quickly or well.
In a capital filled with reasonable people, Democrats would be happy to fund a wall where it makes sense from a border security standpoint, and the president would recognize that there are plenty of places where a wall makes no sense whatsoever. Both sides would also agree that you can't solve border problems just by tackling the security aspect. That's why many keep arguing for a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration law, a process that is likely to take months.
Sadly, Washington is not filled with reasonable people. Instead, it is filled with would-be winners and losers, and at the moment, they're all in the latter category.