Sen. Chuck Schumer did not waste our country’s time.
Last week our government was shut down. Other than the media build up and nonstop reporting about that calamitous event, not too many Americans noticed. That’s because it happened late on a Friday night and was over by dinnertime Monday. To loosely quote our president, it was a nothing burger.
But, that doesn’t mean the shutdown was meaningless. I believe just the opposite. Even though I generally oppose shutting down our government for almost any reason, now that it is over with relatively little damage, we need to be honest with ourselves as we assess what really happened.
I know, there is not much room in the same sentence for words like politics and government and honesty, but let’s just try. Because to ignore what just happened will doom us to keep repeating the reasons for the shutdown, not to mention the act itself.
Whether we like it or not, we are in another election year. The 2018 midterm elections are just months ahead, so whatever happens in Washington is filtered through the lens of political advantage regardless of what is good for our country. Ask me how we got to this point in our 241-year-old democracy and I will tell you that I will need more than one column to explain.
But here we are and within a few short weeks or even days, we could be back to the same place that took us to a shutdown last week. Everyone says they hope that doesn’t happen. And I believe that most lawmakers not only hope that doesn’t happen but believe that they can find some solutions to avoid it.
So, if we could be right back to a government showdown and shutdown next month, why didn’t Schumer waste our time? Why, as some Democrats are claiming, did Schumer call the GOP-controlled Senate’s bluff by not giving them enough votes to fund the government until there was an answer to the DACA problem, and then cave in at the first sign of political trouble?
That answer is starting to unfold even as I write this.
What the Democrats did was to focus the country’s attention on the plight of some 800,000 young people who have been forced into limbo by President Donald Trump’s adverse action toward them and Congress’ inaction on their behalf. These young people are called the “Dreamers.” They were brought into this country illegally by their parents at young ages and know no other country. In March, if nothing else happens, they will be torn from their families in the United States and deported to places they don’t know.
The shutdown was the Democrats’ attempt to force Congress to protect these young people. The Republicans fought the shutdown while mouthing sympathy for the plight of the “Dreamers.”
Since the fix did not happen last week , there are many Democrats who are blaming Schumer for not being strong enough, not holding President Trump and the Republicans’ feet to the fire and not keeping the government closed until, well, hell froze over.
And I say those folks are wrong, or misguided, or just plain lack the understanding of how this real and sometimes cruel world actually works.
Elections really do have consequences. When not enough people of the Democratic, or progressive or moderate persuasion fail to show up for an election, the other side wins. And when the other side wins the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, then any thought about holding anyone’s “ feet to the fire” are pure fancy and wishful thinking.
So what can be done?
Well, if you are an American who believes the country is on the wrong set of tracks on any number of subjects, there is an election coming up. Last week, the country saw, perhaps for the first time, women marching and working together across all kinds of socio-economic and political lines toward one common goal. Change. Assuming the Democrats can avoid eating their young as they are wont to do, next year’s Congress could look and act very differently from what we have now.
But that is too many months away.
What can happen now is exactly what Sen. Chuck Schumer’s actions last week have enabled. Now that the entire country has been focused on the plight of the 800,000, the people will demand some action. Already, the White House has advanced a plan it would have never felt the need to advance before the shutdown. Whether you like the terms of President Trump’s “immigration” plan or not, it is a plan. It is a start.
We would have never had even this much had the shutdown not occurred.
So, no, Schumer did not waste our time and those pushing immigration reform need to understand that. We are a government of, by and for the people.
Unfortunately, in Trump’s American democracy that means only of, by and for the people who show up to vote.
Those are the rules until sanity prevails.
Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.