Playing blame game over shutdown springs both parties in the hot seat

Greg Nash

One year into Donald Trump’s presidency, a Republican-controlled Congress failed to block a government shutdown. Meanwhile, by a 20 point margin, Americans say it’s the fault of the president and his party for this latest national standoff, and #TrumpShutdown dominates Twitter’s reaction to the government’s funding fiasco. As for Trump’s popularity, 57 percent disapprove of him, with 51 percent strongly so, according to the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Winning? Not exactly.

Against the backdrop of Trump’s perorations on DACA, his reported outburst toward Haitians and Africans, and the immutable fact that Republicans run the White House, the House and Senate, public perception cannot be wished away by Trump and his backers. As Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) put it Saturday, negotiating with Trump is like negotiating with jello. But that is not the end of the story. The direction in which fingers are first pointed, and the shutdown’s ultimate result are two separate things. Where things will end up in the 2018 midterms remains an open question.

{mosads}So let’s return to 2013, when Republicans shut the government down in a hopeless pique over the Affordable Care Act, and Trump was telling anyone willing to listen that the shutdown was symptomatic of President Obama’s ineptitude. As citizen Trump framed things back then, “Well, very simply, you have to get everybody in a room. You have to be a leader…Unfortunately, [the president] has never been a dealmaker. That wasn’t his expertise before he went into politics. And it’s obviously not his expertise now.” This again proves that there’s a Trump tweet or quote for every occasion.

Still, some things are more memorable than others, and the shutdown was eventually dwarfed by the changes crammed down America’s collective throat by ObamaCare. Came the 2014 midterms, the Democrats lost the Senate, just as they had lost the House in 2010. In the end, America punished Obama and the Democrats for breaking their promise about people keeping their insurance and doctors, all to subsidize the Democratic voting base.

This does not, however, mean that 2018’s shutdown will be forgotten. At worst for the GOP, the shutdown may further crystalize the meme that other than cutting taxes, the Republican Party is incapable of actually governing, and lead to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Schumer running the Hill starting in January 2019.

Looking ahead, the calendar will likely shape how politically and economically significant the shutdown becomes. The president is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union address on Jan. 30, just over a week from now. If the shutdown is still ongoing as Trump talks on national television, it won’t help him or his party. Trump’s one hour of free primetime television, could well turn into a one-hour infomercial on Trumpian ineptitude.

Beyond that, if the shutdown drags on long enough so that it muddies the debate over lifting the debt ceiling, then we will likely be looking at a superstorm of pain and discord. While government shutdowns are treated more like economic hiccups, a U.S. sovereign debt default would have Alexander Hamilton spinning in his grave, lead world markets to crash, and American senior being deprived of their social security checks.

Does this mean that Democrats face no downside? No, as congressional Democrats have their own political risks. While polls report sympathy for Dreamers, polls also reflect that voters expect Democrats to be cut a deal on the budget. On that note, a pre-shutdown CNN poll showed that only Democrats favored a shutdown over Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, another symptom of the Democrats becoming more a movement — and less a political party — just like the Republicans. And that’s not a good thing for America.

To be sure, red state Democrats up for reelection this year are highly aware of the risks attendant with the shutdown. Democrats from Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and West Virginia backed the Republicans on Friday night’s cloture vote. Indeed, Schumer was not about make them walk the plank, not even for the Democratic base. Hopefully, a grudging compromise can be reached here sooner than later, but don’t hold your breath. Bile is the operative coin of the realm.

Lloyd Green was the opposition research counsel to the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1988 and later served in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Tags Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Nancy Pelosi

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