Last week, Democratic Congressional Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi met with President Trump to come to an agreement over the government shutdown. The meeting did not prove productive.
Here is Chuck Schumer’s explanation of the meeting —
“[Trump] asked Speaker Pelosi, ‘Will you agree to my wall?’ She said no. And he just got up and said, ‘Then we have nothing to discuss.’ And he just walked out. Again, we saw a temper tantrum. Because he couldn’t get his way, and he just walked out of the meeting. I asked him to open up the government — that tomorrow, so many people will have trouble paying their mortgages, paying their bills, dealing with situations when they don’t get paid. And I said ‘Just why won’t you do that?’ …And he said ‘If I open up the government, you won’t do what I want.’ And then a few minutes later he sort of slammed the table. And when Leader Pelosi said she didn’t agree with the wall, he just walked away and said, ‘we have nothing to discuss.’”
The hardball this president is playing is immoral considering just how many people’s lives it is hurting for no good reason.
And this is also a predictable extension of where the Republican Party has been moving over the past few decades.
This shutdown reminds me of the kind of combative absolutism that lead Republican state legislators in North Carolina to pass a series of laws to weaken the incoming Democratic government in 2016. These public servants, in a vindictive rage over losing the governorship that November election, cut the number of appointed positions the new governor would be allowed to fill from 1500 spots to 400. They also changed how the new governor would be able to appoint cabinet members, now having to go through the Republican-led state Senate, and they also made it so that the state election boards moving forward were to be Republican-led on election years. (Michigan & Wisconsin have been trying similar antics after facing defeat this past November).
This partisanship is also similar to the plan Mitch McConnell laid out in 2010 when he declared “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
And while these contexts are slightly different between Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the North Carolina GOP, the sentiment is the same. We the Republicans will get what we want. And if we don’t, we will break everything in sight.
While it’s hard to say what the best course of action is for handling people who simply don’t care about who gets hurt or what institutions crumble as long as they win, there is one lesson we can take out of all of this.
People usually consider political division to be something that’s based on each sides’ policy preferences: Democrats want super liberal laws and Republicans want super conservative laws, and it’s the ever increasing gap between these two wants that’s the cause of our gridlock. But in reality, this is not the core divide between the parties.
In American politics today, the real division lies not in what policies you want to see enacted, but in how you’re willing to get there.
This can be a little fuzzy to wrap your head around at first since almost no one speaks in these terms.
Politics isn’t about what specific provisions your favorite healthcare bill covers, it’s about how okay you are with a one-sided debate.
It’s not about whether you prefer Merrick Garland’s judicial rulings or Brett Kavanaugh’s rulings, it’s about who you’re willing to shut up to get what you want.
It’s not about whether you want a wall or no wall, it’s about where you’re willing to shutdown the government for “months or years” like the president has threatened to — as you play a game of political chicken.
Do you see the difference? If your next door neighbor has a different view on immigration than you, that can be completely okay, seriously.
But if your local congressman would rather set the world on fire than take a political loss in stride, that is something truly corrupt, and you should oppose them regardless of what you or they believe to be what’s best for this country.