It’s already tiring to watch the jockeying among the partisans over who is to be blamed for the government shutdown and who will likely face political consequences because of it.
There is absolutely no reason that a deal couldn’t have been reached on the Dreamers, something that the vast majority of Americans want. But Republicans used the threat of withholding the fix as a bargaining chip, and Democrats held to the fix as imperative.
Donald Trump proved himself both woefully inept at making tough deals and also demonstrated that his yearlong strategy of trying to govern to the exclusion of Democrats and playing to a narrow base is fatally flawed.
Trump is an unrepentant, unremitting liar. That makes deal-making impossible. His word is meaningless and his policy principles are murky. He is mercurial and inconsistent. This may well have worked in business, to keep people off kilter, but it won’t work in politics.
Voters often say that they want a business leader as a political leader, but the skills and interests aren’t always transferable. Operating with a profit interest is often at odds with operating in the public interest.
Trump’s major successes — or, as I would call them, areas of injury — during his first year in office have largely been beneficial to big business, moving us ever closer to true plutocracy.
He signed the plundering tax bill that disproportionately favored businesses and the wealthy, and he and his administration continue to chip away at regulations.
The strange thing about regulations is that most people don’t track them. They quietly restrain the rapaciousness of corporate greed, keeping people and planet safe from profit-at-any-cost recklessness. We don’t truly appreciate regulations until we need them and they aren’t there.
The argument over regulation has always been one of safety versus profit. Trump has chosen to support profit over safety. He tweeted Saturday: “The Trump Administration has terminated more UNNECESSARY Regulation, in just twelve months, than any other Administration has terminated during their full term in office, no matter what the length. The good news is, THERE IS MUCH MORE TO COME!”
As with everything that comes from this White House, that is not entirely true.
As Bloomberg Businessweek wrote in December, “only a handful of regulations have actually been taken off the books.”
“Rather, the claim of victory in the war on regulation is instead based almost entirely on stopping proposed rules that haven’t yet made their way through the machinery of government. The White House says it has killed or stalled 860 pending regulations. It’s done this by withdrawing 469, listing another 109 as inactive and relegating 282 to ‘long term.’”
But Trump doesn’t care for the details or the truth. He only wants to be able to claim everything as the biggest, best, greatest … ever.
This showman’s sensibility, with a disdain for detail, is precisely the sort of thing that makes having him as a “deal maker” in government problematic.
He just doesn’t care much about the public good. He cares about maintaining a core of support, inflaming racist and nativist passions and about the appearance of winning. In short, it’s all about him.
So, on this government shutdown, morally, Democrats hold the higher ground. But politics is seen through different lenses depending on where you sit.
Trump’s team is now casting the shutdown as Democratic obstruction, which for some will resonate. It will be harder for Democrats to make their moral case the longer the shutdown stays in effect.
A CNN/SSRS poll released Friday on the verge of the shutdown found that: “Overall, about half of Americans say they would blame either Trump (21 percent) or his Republican counterparts in Congress (26 percent) should Congress fail to fund the government by the midnight Friday deadline. About a third, 31 percent, say they would hold the Democrats in Congress responsible, and another 10 percent say they’d blame all three groups.”
But the poll also found: “Still, 56 percent overall say approving a budget agreement to avoid a shutdown is more important than continuing the DACA program, while just 34 percent choose DACA over a shutdown. Democrats break narrowly in favor of DACA — 49 percent say it’s more important vs. 42 percent who say avoiding a shutdown is the priority — while majorities of both Republicans (75 percent) and independents (57 percent) say avoiding a shutdown is more important.”
Put another way, Americans wants to support the Dreamers, but only up to a point, that point being disruption. Republicans know this. They can feel the softness of many Americans’ moral convictions on the subject of Dreamers, and with this shutdown, they are going to poke that sore spot.
Trump and his anti-immigrant, cultural-anxiety agitators are already pitching the shutdown as a choice Democrats made to put the brown children of illegal immigrants over the interests of beleaguered soldiers.
Trump isn’t a great deal maker, but he is an extraordinary norms-breaker. When this is all settled, however that is done, Trump will find a way to make himself look like a winner, even if he has to lie.
<CHARLES M. BLOW