The government shutdown has hurt the country for a budgetary change that won’t be accepted by the Democratic party.
As of this writing, the shutdown of the American government has reached its 29th day. 800,000 federal workers have not received a paycheck and will not receive back pay until Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump come to an agreement on the budget.
The source of the shutdown stems from Trump’s demand to include $5 billion to a wall on the Mexican border. Although Republicans and Democrats agreed to a budget proposal before the shutdown, Trump vetoed the bipartisan resolution, arguing that building his wall will alleviate the threat Latino migration poses to national security. Democrats refuse to indulge the president’s demands, citing the wall’s ineffectiveness and contending that adding more immigration judges and hiring more agents would prove far more effective in handling the humanitarian crisis.
On Saturday, Trump, in a televised address, offered to extend DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a key component to the Democratic platform, in exchange for the $5 billion for “steel slats” in “vulnerable positions” along the border. Pelosi, before Trump even made the announcement, outright rejected the deal, instead unveiling a new proposal that will be introduced to the House floor next week with the intention of adding $500 million for border security (although no funding for a wall).
The harm to the United States that the shutdown could produce will prove astronomical. The nation has been left without workers in positions that protect national parks, airports and other federal jurisdictions. The CEO of JP Morgan Chase has warned that the United States may have already lost an entire financial quarter of GDP growth.
Shutdowns as a political tool have emerged as a recent phenomenon, finding its roots in Speaker Newt Gingrich’s desire to stifle President Bill Clinton’s agenda during the 1990s. The tactic served to establish a firm ideological divide between the two parties and cement his political power. Since then, the tactic of shutting down the government has loomed over the American legislative process.
A discussion on the merits of whether the shutdown should be a political tool is subservient to a greater idea that Gingrich sought to expunge from the American political tradition: the idea of government as a force for good. A student of Reaganomics and neoliberal governance, Gingrich fundamentally opposed a large federal government, believing it to be the source of pesky little things like civil rights protections, work programs and regulations on unchecked corporate greed. The idea of a shutdown fit neatly into his ideology: shutting down the government proved that the beloved America of his imagination did not require an overreaching national apparatus.
But 20 years later, this strategy is crumbling around the Republican Party. Over 50 percent of Americans blame Trump and the Republicans for the shutdown in polls from CNN, Quinnipiac, 538 and NBC. While calculating initially that public opinion would eventually turn against the left, Republicans are confronting the fact that it simply has not. Instead, Trump’s numbers are cracking among even his fanatical base, and his rhetoric that the “crisis at the border” has turned into a national emergency has convinced no one. Simply put, the Democrats, in control of the House and now armed with a Republican Senate that is willing to reopen the government without wall funding, wield all the leverage.
Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to let the legislation reach the floor, Democrats still recognize that, as this battle slogs onward, the Republicans lose more and more ground. In addition, Republicans have failed to realize that congressional Democrats will never concede on the wall. Democrats, if they want to take back the White House in 2020, can never allow Trump’s most notorious campaign promise to come to fruition. The implication of the wall infringes on a new Democratic Party that values race and inclusivity as a vital part of its platform.
However, what we must understand about this shutdown is the desperation stemming from the Trump White House. Being pressed in by the Mueller investigation, alarmingly fast staff turnover and a new Democratic House, Trump is attempting to draw his last card.
Pelosi recognizes this situation, because she played out a similar scenario in 2006 with President Bush. Refusing to admit that Social Security was in crisis during Bush’s attempts to reform the national program, then-Minority Leader Pelosi denied Bush’s claims and watched as the Republicans crumbled. The Democrats swung back the House, and she became the first female Speaker in history.
In the 2019 rendition, Pelosi has again not allowed the discussion to shift to an emergency. Instead, she has appeared calculating, calm and the sole voice of reason in the chaos that has engulfed Washington. By delaying the State of the Union on security reasons, Speaker Pelosi publicly humiliated Trump. Attempting to win any sense of machismo back, Trump revealed her Middle East trip’s itinerary (a visit to troops still stationed in Afghanistan) and, instead of returning the favor, the move has been taken as both petty and even a potential threat on her life. Trump is left to crawl off the hill he thought he could die on, but Pelosi is proving that she will and can leave Trump’s credibility in rubble when he is forced to surrender.
But this signals a greater shift in politics. The Democratic Party appears to have adopted a progressive position on immigration and a powerful Speaker has returned to the helm. As an opposition party, the Democrats are succeeding in forcing the Republicans to bend on the most contentious issue in 21st century politics. It’s left now to see how long Trump’s tantrum will last.