When Republicans were responsible for shutting down the government over budget disputes in the past, they could blame, or try to blame, the problem on Democrats and Democratic presidents. But now, with a shutdown looming over a confrontation over the DACA program for immigrants granted some leeway to work in the country because they were brought here as kids, Republicans won’t be able to pass the blame.
And the thing about this latest confrontation that must be maddening for mainstream Republicans is that with control of Congress and the White House, they’ll have nowhere to go when the blame game begins. Compromises have been forwarded to President Trump – who hammers immigrants because he believes his “base” loves it for sport – but he’s roundly rejecting them. This, even though in a televised meeting with bipartisan congressional leaders, Trump appeared reasonable and inclined toward a solution that would give a little on DACA.
He even talked about a “bill of love,” implying that compassion should be a part of any settlement to continue to fund the government.
Republicans know the consequences of a shutdown. The world won’t come to an end, but as they were in the past, Republicans will look like inept, petty, angry children actually willing to take their ball – in this case, the government – and go home. They’ve paid the political price in the past, with a weakening of their power and a severe amount of damage to their image with the public.
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This time, however, the political fallout from a shutdown might be catastrophic – for them.
Trump’s playing to his base, which is roughly at about 30 percent, but the 2018 elections are looming and the GOP is in serious danger. Even without a shutdown, losing control of Congress, whether he realizes it or not – and he probably doesn’t – would freeze Trump in place and might well prompt impeachment resolutions.
Blaming the Democrats isn’t going to work this time, and mainstream GOP leaders know it. Unfortunately for them, the “tea party” element that is a nightmare for those traditional Republican leaders continues to be a dominating force in Congress, based on volume alone.
It is confrontations such as this that give rise to public sentiments that the government seems to be more of a playground for politicians than a servant of the people. And a government without credibility among those it serves is ineffective.
Republican leaders have to get serious, and quickly, and they need to take their president to school, and quickly, to avoid the chaos and unnecessary fear that come with even a short government shutdown. President Trump may believe himself a master showman and salesman who can manipulate the American people, but a shutdown could turn those people against him in a short period of time. In fact, it’s almost certain that’s exactly what would happen.
Those Democrats who are still working for a compromise are the ones deserving of the public’s support here, for they could sit back, let the GOP allow the government to shut down, and then reap the political windfall that would come to Democrats as a result. But they’re doing the responsible thing in trying to help Republicans stay out of trouble.