Democrats are facing political consequences over shutdown

The longest government shutdown in United States history is now taking a toll on the president and his party. According to a national poll, Americans blame Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSix big off-year elections you might be missing Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Banks for misgendering trans health official Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' MORE and the Republicans for the shutdown by a clear margin of five to three. Moreover, another poll found that 56 percent of Americans put the onus of the shutdown on Trump and the Republicans, with the disapproval rating of the president climbing to 57 percent. Still, the Democrats would do well to refrain from smirking. Let me explain.

The first poll shows that support for the border wall is growing among Republicans, conservatives, and hardcore Trump supporters. In other words, the border wall has become another flash point in our ongoing political civil war. Although the Democrats are out of power, at some point they will need to demonstrate a capacity to get things done, especially with the 2020 election fast approaching and the era of big government returning to Washington. As the Republicans explode the deficit, and the Democrats promise Medicare for All, small government is looking passé.


Sure, Trump said that he would bear the “mantle” of the shutdown, but it is clear that he does not stick to his word for very long, and that his base is forgiving of his flip flops and his tenuous relationship with truth and reality. Mexico was going to pay for the wall, but now it will not. Trump was fine with making Dreamers part of a compromise, then he was not, and now he may be. On a certain level, who cares? All the narratives win applause from his supporters because it is Trump doing the talking.

Although Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE may be stewing over the White House hanging the Senate Republicans out to dry, he is not walking away from the president. Indeed, McConnell cannot afford to. His own numbers are even worse that those of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDems look to keep tax on billionaires in spending bill Sunday shows - Democrats' spending plan in the spotlight Pelosi won't say if she'll run for reelection in 2022 MORE and Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerManchin meeting with Biden, Schumer in Delaware Progressives' optimism for large reforms dwindles Democratic frustration with Sinema rises MORE, and he is up for reelection next year. Rather, his fate is bound to that of Trump, who is loved by his voters, not just by his donors.

To her credit, Pelosi has masterfully held the diverse House Democrats together. On the votes to reopen the government, it is the folks on the other side of aisle who are doing the defecting, not the Democrats. Over in the Senate, Republicans like Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden makes his pitch as tax questions mount Emanuel defends handling of Chicago police shooting amid opposition to nomination Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing MORE and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHouse passes bill to expand workplace protections for nursing mothers Democrats look for plan B on filibuster Senate will vote on John Lewis voting bill as soon as next week MORE are complaining about the shutdown. Meanwhile, Trump relentlessly tweets about the news. Yet, even as the House Democrats vote in lockstep for now, traces of dissonance are creeping in. Not all House Democrats agree with Pelosi that the wall is “immoral” and unnecessary for border security.

Anthony Brindisi, a freshman representative from upstate New York, said that “compromise is the best way forward” and “lives are at stake” as the shutdown drags on. Max RoseMax RoseMax Rose preparing for rematch with Nicole Malliotakis: report 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Overnight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage MORE, a freshman representative from Staten Island, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and one of the Democrats to vote against Speaker Pelosi, said that “shutting down the government is a national disgrace” that “should never be used as a negotiating tactic.”

More broadly, the Democrats will need to articulate a coherent vision on border security that does not sound like a call to open borders or the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This is a task already more difficult than it should be. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDems look to keep tax on billionaires in spending bill Six big off-year elections you might be missing Republican spin on Biden is off the mark MORE and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandWhich proposals will survive in the Democrats' spending plan? Proposals to reform supports for parents face chopping block Under pressure, Democrats cut back spending MORE have called for gutting the agency, while Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezRepublican spin on Biden is off the mark House progressives call on Biden to end all new fossil fuel permitting Schumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race MORE has added her voice to that progressive chorus. Eventually, the Democrats will be expected to explain to voters where the shutdown ends and where border security begins. The question that remains is whether they can.

Lloyd Green worked as the opposition research counsel to the George H.W. Bush presidential campaign and later served in the Justice Department. He is now the managing member of research and analytics firm Ospreylytics.