Shameful conservatives take joy in the pain of federal workers

Shameful conservatives take joy in the pain of federal workers
© Stefani Reynolds

There is a pernicious narrative swirling around in conservative media outlets that seems to rear its ugly head when there is talk of a government shutdown. Except this time around, the argument seems to be in support of a long-lasting shutdown that will root out the “resistance.”

Let’s be clear: Anyone who is cheering for a long, drawn out shutdown has no clue as to the essential functions of government, what federal workers do every day to keep the country safe and does not believe in the benefits of government. 

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These folks have drank the Trump Kool-Aid that there is an embedded Democrat cohort of government workers whose sole aim is to sabotage President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE’s agenda at every turn. 

I was a government worker in 1996 during the shutdown. I was deemed “essential,” so I had to work without pay. But no one else on my staff was deemed “essential,” so I did not have anyone to help me continue the work of my agency. I did what was most important to ensure the secretary at my department was supported in his essential duties. 

But make no mistake, we were not able to carry out all of the mandates that we had sworn an oath to execute. Many important tasks fell through the cracks. If the government had not opened up 21 days after it was shuttered, Americans’ safety would have been in jeopardy. 

That is what is happening now. We are currently experiencing the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Roughly 800,000 federal workers did not receive a paycheck last Friday, and many contractors who work with the federal government are not being paid either. Banks are reportedly trying to work with those who cannot pay mortgages, but that is no guarantee. 

If this continues, soon we will see workers losing their homes, not being able to pay bills and livelihoods being destroyed. What kind of person applauds this?

Some of these conservatives are cheering on the shutdown because they believe most federal workers are useless. That is far from the truth.

When I worked in government, I was in a supervisory position in an office that had a mandate to communicate to the public the good work the department was doing on behalf of the American people and American businesses.

When I was first appointed to the position, I interviewed every single person in my department and got to know them. I then treated them as valuable members of the team, whose knowledge and experience I would rely on to ensure we were doing things as best we could. Did I take every single piece of advice or choose their way of doing things? No. 

In fact, I completely changed the way the agency did its work but ensured the staff knew and felt that their input was valuable and was able to build a strong team of civil servants who believed in the agency’s, the secretary’s, and the then-president’s goals and objectives. 

Were there some workers who were not interested in working very hard and just did the minimal to get by? Of course. I moved them or got rid of them. 

Are there government programs that need a redesign or that are not needed anymore? Definitely. Let’s find those and deal with them appropriately.

It is not as difficult as some make it seem. It is simply intellectually lazy to tarnish the reputation of all government workers. It is a way to justify an age-old conservative value run amok, most ably described by Grover Norquist, who famously wanted to “reduce government to the point where he could drown it in a bathtub.”

In this case, it is a way to justify wanting to get rid of most federal workers because they are possibly just patriotic Americans who see this president for who he is — the most inept, unqualified and corrupt commander-in-chief in the history of the United States, and they do not want to be a party to his destructive agenda for the country. 

But here’s the thing. Even if many workers believed this, they would still show up and do their jobs. The majority of government workers are good people who will soldier on and do their jobs, even in the chaos of the Trump administration. 

The argument that the shutdown should continue indefinitely is not only ignorant and unjust to the federal workers not being paid, it will also bring danger to many Americans. 

Soon, funds will run out for the Department of Agriculture to perform all of the essential tests to ensure our food supply is safe. The availability of food stamps is threatened. Grant programs that mostly help our nation’s most vulnerable will be unavailable. 

Tax refunds, Treasury investigations, housing discrimination cases and security at our nation’s airports and ports of entry will all be threatened. 

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But of course, Trump supporters who want a permanent shutdown do not care about any of the above. They only care that Trump is able to carry out his misguided agenda unfettered and without any interference, even if it is based on outright lies and misperceptions, the way the justification for his border wall is. 

As I have written before, there is no national security crisis on the border, and the need for a wall is not an emergency. Those who believe it is have fallen for the myth. 

But now, those who are arguing for a drawn out shutdown because of their hatred of government and the people who keep it running are showing their true colors, and it's not a pretty sight. 

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.