The President and the two houses of Congress faced a deadline of 12:01 AM Saturday, January 20, which as it happens was the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration.
Late last year, facing the same ticking clock, the two major parties had agreed only to delay the showdown.
It is politically easier to close down the government after the holiday season than during it.
Although there were already a number of contentious points in December, it is in the New Year that the question of budgeting has become irremediably intertwined with the question of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), otherwise known as the status of the “Dreamers.”
As a general proposition in political science, any large political party has to do two things: it has to keep its core supporters (its “base”) both contented and enthusiastic on the one hand, and it must reach out to the uncommitted, and the “median voter,” on the other. These two necessary functions of party politics necessarily come into tension, even outright conflict. For example, during the 2016 primary season the argument between supports of Senator Sanders on the one hand and Secretary Clinton on the other was over whether the better strategy for the fall was going to be motivating the base or playing to the median.
The shut-down of the U.S. government Saturday came about (to state the point concisely as possible) because both parties decided that it was necessary for them to play to their adverse bases. Compromise would require important players to be trying to appeal to the median, and those players seem to be absent.
Left Wing View
On Friday night, during frenzied negotiations stoked by the ticking clock, there was apparently a tentative deal to fund the government through February 8 (another shorty term fix) and to move a bipartisan immigration bill through the House and Senate during the same period. Some say that the deal included $16 million dollar for enhanced border security (a/k/a/ “The Wall,”) others that it included $20 million for that purpose. Surely it is difficult to believe that the government shut-down came about because of a difference of $4 million on such a point.
But flexibility on that point makes it even more important that Schumer and the Democratic leadership in general insist on a resolution of the matter most dear to their base, a regularization of the status of the DACA applicants.
Schumer is saying that he was offered Presidential support for the DACA applicants in return for the wall money, that he agreed to that, but that the POTUS and Republican leadership can’t take “yes” for an answer.
Twitter denizen Mikal Jollett invokes this claim when he expresses a common view that the Democrats have been “negotiating in good faith” whereas the Republicans have decided to “hold out for gestapo immigration policy.”
Right Wing View
President Trump’s reaction to the shutdown has been to tweet that Republicans are “fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border,” as distinct from the Democrats who “just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked.”
His self-image as a great deal maker seems to have fallen aside, replaced by the self-image of an ideological warrior. In the latter capacity, he has a lot of support, as from Steph, a woman who calls herself “Marine Mom” who votes “wRight.” Steph charges that the Democrats won’t fund the government unless the rest of the country agrees “to give away our national sovereignty.”
But there are other points of view, even on the right. Peggy Noonan, who was a Special Assistant to Ronald Reagan, says that the shutdown shows the poor fit between “New York real estate” negotiating on the one hand and the negotiation needed to bring about legislative results on the other.
The Tables Have Turned
Meanwhile, many on Instagram are passing along a quote from the Donald Trump of 2013, when the government shut down briefly under the Obama administration. THAT Trump reportedly said, “A shutdown falls on the President’s lack of leadership. He can’t even control his party and get people together in a room. A shutdown means the President is weak.”