Shutdown Showdown Not Making Heroes of the Dems


With the government having finally passed a long-term budget to avoid shutting down again (for longer than the brief period after the lapse of the temporary budget), I’m sure that I am not the only one asking themselves what the point of this year’s shutdown was in the first place. Why would the Democrats shut down the government only to cave in days later? Before the year can go on, I feel the need to look back on the shutdown and see how it bodes for the future.

Firstly, I’ve noticed that some commentators have been puzzled by the fact that this shutdown has happened under a period of one-party rule by the elected branches of government. Despite this seeming abnormality, it really is nothing new. If you take a look at the five partial shutdowns that occurred during the Carter Administration in the late 70’s, you will see that all of them occurred while the Democratic Party had full control. Having a majority in Congress isn’t always enough to pass a budget when you control the Senate by only a paper-thin margin.

What is truly fascinating about this partial shutdown, just like the 2013 one before it, is how it displays the incredible power of the Senate filibuster, which takes 60 votes to defeat. Twice in the past five years, we have witnessed the Senate minority party express their overwhelming discontent with the President. And while they may not have been successful in achieving their goals-the Republicans to change the Affordable Care Act and the Democrats to continue the protected status of Dreamers-the lawmakers responsible seemed to come out of it believing that they were the good guys, certainly not the ones responsible for suspending public workers’ pay and the ability for citizens to visit national monuments.

Despite the failure of Congressional Republicans to implement their ideas into the rollout of the ACA, their constituents in the following two elections rewarded them handsomely. Democrats seem to be hoping that similar “obstructionist” tactics will pay off for them as well, although the only concessions they got for DACA was Mitch McConnell’s promise that he would take protecting Dreamers seriously. This makes the Democrats look rather spineless; when they can actually exercise some leverage, they don’t even use their power to get what they say they want. They did, however, manage to get the essential Children’s Health Insurance Program funded, which is certainly admirable.

But, the Republicans will absolutely capitalize on the Democrats’ quick surrender. The President put out some statements about the shutdown on Twitter, saying in one of them how “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer fully understands, especially after his humiliating defeat, that if there is no Wall, there is no DACA.” The President has made clear he will not budge on this issue-the Democrats need to accept this. They also need to accept the reality that their constituent’s immediate needs come before principles. I know that Democrats don’t want a border wall, but they need to do everything in their power to fulfill their promises to the Dreamers to make sure they can stay with their families and their country. The details of the wall can be ironed out later after the Dreamers know for sure that they will not be deported.

I have expressed doubts about the Democrats’ election chances before, but I just don’t see many of their incumbents appealing to voters right now, even after making the budget bill happen. I can’t be certain that the President’s immigration plan or his brand-new infrastructure plan will pass before the end of the year, as I suspect that the Democrats will try to hold out any compromise until the election happens. That would be a very reckless strategy to play when lives are at stake, so I hope that they are able to work with the Republicans on these critical issues for the time being.

When Republicans shut down the government, they look brave and persistent, even when they lose the battle. The Democrats really could learn a thing or two from Dr. Seuss-or rather, the way that Senator Ted Cruz used an excerpt from one of the author’s books as filibuster fuel in 2013.

[Featured image via James Palinsad on Flickr].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.