Resolving the shutdown gives Democrats great opportunity

By the end of last week, it was apparent no progress had been made on reopening the government. President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE and top lawmakers were not even talking. Republicans leaders also reportedly are admitting in private what already appears to be quite clear, which is that they will not get a new deal before the new Congress begins its session this coming week.

Indeed, I have argued that the decision President Trump made to enter this shutdown was foolish and only set our country back, especially as trade tensions with China have increased, administration overturn worsened with the departures of Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisAllies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump Congress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Trump nominates ambassador to Turkey MORE and White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell in the hot seat over simply following the clear course of action to raise interest rates the central bank had signaled for months.

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Adding to this, the recent deaths of two children who were coming with their families to immigrate to the United States while in custody of Customs and Border Patrol has continued to shine a negative light on the administration. Despite these complicated factors, which only harm our position economically and globally, I would instead like to shift focus to the tremendous position the new House majority Democrats find themselves in and how to take full advantage of this great opportunity.

While most Democrats who won election to the House focused primarily on protecting and assisting undocumented immigrants, and not the essential border security component of immigration reform, I would like to again emphasize the importance of border security to these Democrats as a bargaining chip that can allow them to accomplish two critical tasks.

The first and obvious task is reforming our broken immigration system. President Trump has made his position clear that the government will remain in a shutdown until our border is secured. Rather than cause more gridlock over this facet of the issue, the Democrats would be wise to forge a compromise with him on protecting law abiding undocumented immigrants who are here in our country proudly seeking the American dream in exchange for more physical and technological border security.

Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDonald Trump proved himself by winning fight for border security Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress The national emergency will haunt Republicans come election season MORE, the presumptive Speaker of the House, called out President Trump for fear mongering with immigration. She said he “talked about terrorists coming in over that particular border, which was not so. He talked about people bringing in diseases and all the rest of that, which was not so.” While she is correct in her assertions of people trying to enter the country, she fails to recognize the importance of border security.

A report published earlier this year by the Bipartisan Policy Center stated that most Americans “do not feel that anyone is controlling the process or supervising who enters the country legally, and they think that insecure borders make it easier for people to come to the United States illegally.” This alone will be an important task for the Democrats to overcome.

While it is true that this deal will involve building fences and walls, it will also allow our border security agents, as well as our Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, to have better access to technologies and tools that will make their jobs, as well as the experiences of migrants, significantly safer and allow the system to run much more effectively.

The second task, which is arguably of greatest importance to the new House majority Democrats to achieve, is to prove to Americans that they can in fact get things done in Washington and deliver the reforms they promised on the campaign trail. The Democrats have a great opportunity to take charge on a terribly wrong sighted shutdown that President Trump repeatedly called for and reinforce the fact to the public that they can effectively enact reforms, even after the Republicans repeatedly failed to do so while controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress.

I fully understand the barriers to such a compromise. I am concerned that the drastic ideological shift the Democrats have taken over the past two years will prevent them from coming together on this key issue to deliver critical reforms. The stakes, however, could not be higher for the future of the party. Resistance toward President Trump and the Republicans across the aisle is simply not what voters want or need from the new Congress.

This approach will prevent progress on getting anything done and will hinder the ability of the Democrats to show they are the party with a proactive governing agenda that offers an effective set of alternative policies, rather than the party that simply boasts the loudest voices.

In no uncertain terms, the next two years in Congress will be essential for framing the 2020 election. The Democrats, particularly those in the House majority, must focus on strong governance focused on solutions. The excitement from the 2018 election has already worn thin. Starting this week, the Democrats must demonstrate how to lead, employ checks and balances with great prudence, and should not merely resist and obstruct.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is also a Fox News contributor and the author of 11 books, including “Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.”