Democrats Aren’t Genies

Earlier this week, the government shutdown was short-lived. Naturally, the base called out Democrats for “caving” because the base has been conditioned to believe that Democrats will bail at the first sign of trouble. I’ve been going back and forth on this all week, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Democrats didn’t play their hand as well as they could, but at the same time, they’re in an impossible position.

Yes, being the minority party, they can use the shutdown to try and extract certain concessions, and a bipartisan agreement for DREAMers isn’t the biggest ask in the world. It’s not like in 2013 when Republicans shut down the government in order to defund the Affordable Care Act as if Obama was going to ruin his signature achievement. That had, as you can imagine, zero bipartisan support. So the terms were different, but at the end of the day there are some hard truths at the center of this shutdown.

1) Even if Democrats were better at messaging (and for a party that has the support of Hollywood, no one ever seems to be able to give Aaron Sorkin a call), this is still a fight about immigrants, and a large portion of Americans may claim to be sympathetic to immigrants, but they don’t want to sacrifice anything for them. Americans don’t look to their government for empathy; they look to their government as “What have you done for me lately?” If Democrats had been smarter, they could have framed the problem as, “It’s not good when 800,000 jobs disappear,” or “These people contribute $3.4 billion to our economy, so maybe we should find a way to keep them here.” Instead, they framed it as a moral issue, and while they’re on the right side of the issue, the politics don’t support the action because too many Americans are selfish.

2) Democrats don’t control anything. Let’s assume that Mitch McConnell had caved and agreed that Graham-Durbin agreement had to be tied to spending. Then it moves to the House, and they’re a bunch of yahoos who definitely don’t care about shutting down the government. They would rant and rave about the DACA bill being a poison pill and that spending agreements should be separate from immigration and meanwhile Americans would just be getting angrier and angrier. Some liberals may argue that the anger would be directed at the Republicans, but I think that’s too rosy of an estimation. I think it would be directed at congress in general. Democrats don’t have to worry about liberals turning out in November. Weakening Trump will accomplish that; Democrats are worried about those people in 2016 who think the whole government is broken and that no one should be elected. Those people don’t show up, the status quo remains the same, and Republicans keep the House because of gerrymandering and incumbency rates.

3) If you’re really upset with how Democrats behaved, then the long game is on you. You have to get out there and start backing candidates who can win. I think far too many liberals threw up their hands in November 2016, assumed Clinton would win, and that life would continue on as normal. Welcome to 2018 where you actually have to work to accomplish what you want.  That means knocking on doors, volunteering, and actually getting in the fight. Sorry, civil engagement is tough. Welcome to a democracy.

One final note: I believe that when it comes to politicans, they basically all (or mostly all) operate from a standpoint of self-preservation. It’s while they’ll take donations from anyone and avoid blame at all costs. You don’t get to keep your job for being noble. And if avoiding blame is half your job, then that means you have to pass the buck.

I think Schumer’s strategy here is to shift the blame to the House and Paul Ryan. Here’s how it works:

1) Immigration reform passes in the Senate.

2) It dies in the House because A) Paul Ryan wants to remain Speaker, so he won’t piss off the hardliners; B) White supremacist Steve King has a veto vote, so he can prevent the legislation from even coming to the floor.

3) Schumer is able to say, “See? If you care about these poor kids* then we can’t let the GOP maintain control of the House. The only way to help DREAMers is to elect Democrats.

In this way, Schumer had maximized his issue. First, he can’t be blamed if the bill gets out of the Senate and dies in the House (and it’s not like Mitch McConnell cares about the fortunes of Paul Ryan, especially since McConnell can read a poll and knows that the GOP will probably lose the House anyway), and if it dies in the House, then he has another way to campaign against the GOP.

The downside in all of this is that DREAMers get caught in the crossfire. It’s a position they never should have been in in the first place, but here we are. In an ideal world, we never would have had this problem to begin with because people would have voted for Clinton over a game show host, but so it goes. These are the cards we’ve been dealt, and while I would obviously love it if the Durbin-Graham bill, which isn’t ideal, but an acceptable compromise, passed, what we’re looking at here is a way for Democrats to reach the best outcome possible for the party because (and I hate to say this) with Trump in the White House, fascist Stephen Miller as a chief advisor, and a GOP majority in the House and Senate, saving DREAMers was a bit of a pipe dream. To act like a longer shutdown would have saved them is a nice thought, but I think it would be been more about posturing for the base than actually extracting concessions.

*They’re not kids; they’re in their mid-20s, but I’ll allow the rhetoric because it’s effective

Saturday, January 27th, 2018 politics

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