The Democrats Own the Shutdown

Chuck Schumer may well have been pleased when President Trump signified his willingness to shut down the government to advance border security to fulfill his most politically charged campaign promise.  Even some conservative pundits were aghast at Trump’s audacity in making such a proclamation, because, as everyone knows, Americans hate government shutdowns.

But Schumer and company don’t really hate government shutdowns.  In fact, back in November, Schumer threatened to shut down the federal government over his demand that the Mueller investigation be protected by Congress after the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“If [Trump’s interim Attorney General] Whitaker does not recuse himself,” wrote Michele Blood at LifeZette on November 11, “Schumer said he would attach a demand for Whitaker’s non-interference to “must pass” legislation such as the spending bill -- then risking another shutdown.”

Where were all the headlines about Schumer’s desire to shut down the government to protect Mueller’s investigation?  To say that they were few and far between would be unjustifiably generous to the media.

There are two things that are absolutely certain.  First, “must-spend” legislation is far more common than it used to be, given that we now have a make-believe debt limit which is ignored (“suspension” is the verbiage used more often, in an effort to feign fiscal responsibility) and exceeded.  In other words, most new spending legislation requires congressional agreement on how much will be spent, and on what, or the government will shut down.  Second, Democrats believe that a government shutdown, for any reason, can be blamed on Republicans, and that the media will help advance that narrative.

Schumer believed that the government shutdown has become a powerful weapon in the Democratic Party’s political arsenal, and that a shutdown, if it can convincingly be blamed upon Republicans, helps Democrats to turn public opinion against his opponents.  Again, many conservative pundits agreed with that.

But Trump willfully owning the shutdown turned the tables, because he recognizes that the shutdown is not the issue.  What Americans care about is the issue that triggers the shutdown.

Trump was elected on the promise to build better border security infrastructure, and a barrier has long been, for both parties, a logical means of achieving that outcome.  Even Schumer and then-senator Hillary Clinton voted to construct a border fence back in 2006.

And history doesn’t exactly confirm that government shutdowns are always bad for the party whose adherence to principles leads to the political stalemates which cause them.  It was in late 2013 that Ted Cruz threatened a shutdown over ObamaCare funding.  The ensuing shutdown lasted for 16 days, or just over an average American’s pay period.

Americans discovered it wasn’t the big deal it was made out to be.  In fact, few outside the mainstream media, who were busy blaming Republicans for the shutdown, even noticed.  All essential federal spending continued.  Nonessential spending did not (which should raise the perpetual question as to why we have any “nonessential” federal expenditures while being many trillions of dollars in debt), but in the day-to-day life of the vast majority of Americans, the government shutdown was such an inconsequential event that Barack Obama had to close open-air federal war memorials, prompting older veterans to push past his barricades and grab headlines for having done so -- just so that Democrats could remind the public that the government had been shut down.

But Republicans would certainly be the ones to pay for it, we were told, because the American people hate government shutdowns more than they disliked ObamaCare.

Then, in November of 2014, Republicans gained a majority in the Senate and expanded their control of the House.  The result of the 2014 midterm election was a collective shoulder shrug by the American people as it relates to government shutdowns. 

But there’s something that does makes this one different.  Democrats are now clinging to the shutdown because they believe that continuing the shutdown allows them to better highlight the pain being inflicted. 

I personally know people who are going without pay right now, and it is causing them financial pain.  It is Trump who is seeking to negotiate a compromise which would fund a border barrier to secure our porous Southern border, and he is offering to fulfill the long-held Democratic desire to provide protection from deportation for beneficiaries of the Obama’s DACA executive order to do so.  This would allow Congress time to negotiate a deal on what to do about Dreamers, in accordance to constitutional protocol rather than via unilateral executive orders.  In the meantime, Dreamers would have protection from deportation, border security would obtain funding, and furloughed government employees could go back to work. 

But Democrats are refusing to provide protection for Dreamers, not because they are against a wall, but because they are against giving an inch to President Trump.  Even if it means continued pain for federal workers going without pay.

It is clear that the Democrats are not acting as a reasonable party to negotiation.  And, in spite of the shutdown, polls suggest that support for a border wall is actually increasing

So congratulations, Democrats.  This continuing shutdown is all yours now.  And Republicans, led by President Trump, have made that fact so obvious that no amount of media spin can keep any but the most ardent left-wing zealots from seeing it plainly.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.