The Shutdown: Recrimination, Cynicism, Incompetence

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At 29 days and 18 hours at the time of this writing, the current government shutdown has far surpassed the previous record to become the longest such spending lapse in U.S. history–and its initial drama has been replaced with the sobering realization that Donald Trump and his co-partisans are completely and utterly unworthy of the continued administration of the United States government. In the current Republican party we have a body that has time and time again made untenable promises to its adherents, misled the public, and abandoned its basic principles for ultimately underwhelming electoral victories. The issue at stake here is not merely a failure of responsible governance–it is a fundamental failure of political will. The wall (and the complex legal and moral issues that surround the wider immigration debate) is not in itself the fundamental question, although the majority of Americans agree that it would do nothing to solve whatever problems the GOP claims are intertwined with illegal immigration. The larger problem is the fast-attenuating ability of one of America’s two major parties to justify its actions to its core supporters as well as the larger voting public.

If President Trump and his party truly wanted a wall they had two full years to deliver the funding with unified control of the Congress and the White House. Instead, the President and Congressional Republicans completely abdicated their governing responsibilities in a brutal cycle of recrimination, cynicism, and incompetence. Can anyone seriously blame the Democrats for failing to engage with a President who uses Fox News as a policy shop, rejects out of hand any deal that it appears Congress will actually accept, shuts down the government out of pique at the incitement of far-right immigration hawks, and routinely consumes obscene quantities of political capital just by the fact of his overweening narcissism? Having made its mephistophelian bed by nominating a man devoid entirely of intellectual curiosity and human decency, the Republican party must now lie in it while watching as its good-government agenda descends into absurd self-parody. They have to choose between two clear paths: sacrificing credibility, federal workers’ wages, and even economic growth, or reopening the government as ought to have happened 29 days and 17 hours ago.

Thanks to unyielding (and justified) Democratic opposition, there is no “big, beautiful” wall in sight anywhere on the horizon–and the same party that for two years asserted that elections have consequences has shown itself to be completely uncomprehending of that fundamental political fact after an election in which forty of their number were booted from the House in the GOP’s biggest defeat since Watergate. Whichever way this shutdown turns out (and the odds aren’t necessarily nil that it could go on for another month), its sheer existence lays bare the immensity of Republican dysfunction in Washington–from the years of empty promises about border security and racially-tinged warnings about immigrants, to the party’s inability to get on with the business that it was sent to do. It is this columnist’s hope that both current and future voters will bear these facts in remembrance when it comes time to go to the ballot box in 2020.