Talk about miscalculations. Democrats went into the shutdown on Friday confident that the major media outlets would dutifully blame it on Republicans. When that didn’t work out, Chuck Schumer & Co must have figured that they would spin the retreat as a tactical advantage for Democrats. As Allahpundit pointed out this morning, that … didn’t work out so well.
But what about the progressive partisan media outlets that are ever-ready to backstop Democratic hardball? The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers puts his tongue firmly in cheek as he reviews all the helpful spin coming Schumer’s way on Chuck’s Buckle:
Democrats failed to secure long-term protection for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients in a bill that reopened the federal government Monday. Good thing Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and company have the liberal media to spin the deal as a win, with helpful headlines like these:
- Did Schumer cave on the shutdown? (New Yorker)
- Senate Democrats cave, provide votes based on McConnell’s empty promise (ThinkProgress)
- Liberal activists are furious that Democrats “caved” on the shutdown (Mother Jones)
- Schumer sells out the Resistance (New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg)
- What was the point of the government shutdown? (New Republic)
It’s getting ugly out there for a Democrat looking for political cover. Of these examples, the New Yorker offered perhaps the least judgmental view of the fallout, but still concludes that Schumer caved without getting anything in return:
Almost immediately, the Republicans (with glee) and the progressive left (with outrage) insisted that Schumer had “blinked” or “caved.” “That’s what they do,” the progressive Democratic congressman Luis Gutiérrez said, of the Senate Democrats. The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said, “We are pleased to see Senator Schumer accept the deal that President Trump put on the table at the beginning.” That overstated the White House’s role, but got the state of play right. Schumer had discovered the limits of his party’s influence and power.
This afternoon, the prospects for the Dreamers look worse: the immediate crisis of the shutdown has passed, the President no longer seems a plausible ally, and their status has not been secured. Republicans privately griped for the past week about the inconstancy of the White House, but this morning it was Schumer who was left complaining about the Presidential chaos. The Dreamers’ hopes, and his, had rested on a version of the President that did not materialize.
The Mother Jones analysis hints at a bigger problem for Democrats:
“Democrats caved on September 5th, they caved again on December 8th, they caved on December 22nd, and now they just caved again,” he said, pointing out that Democrats have now repeatedly agreed to short-term funding measures that don’t protect Dreamers. “Their promise is they’re really going to fight hard next time. It’s totally unbelievable. The idea that they are gonna take a pinky-swear promise from Sen. McConnell after he’s broken so many promises before is political malpractice—it’s absurd to believe that. The only answer is that [they] aren’t actually interested in fighting for the Dreamers.”
The end of the shutdown, weeks away from the beginning of primary season and a special congressional election in Pennsylvania, could have ripple effects at the grassroots level. Levin relayed a conversation he’d had over the weekend with the leader of an Indivisible chapter in a hotly contested House district. “I was wondering, ‘What am I actually knocking on doors for if they just kept on caving?’” she told him. “‘But then when they actually stood and fought on the [funding bill], it made me want to fight a lot harder.’”
“What they’ve done is taken away some of that energy,” Levin said.
Having discovered the limit of their power, Democrats will be loath to pull another shutdown stunt. And having discovered the power of demoralization on this issue, Republicans might be loath to pass a legislative version of DACA — at least not without a ton of concessions on border-wall funding and ending chain migration. The shutdown has left Democrats not just in a status quo ante position, but in a much worse bargaining position than before.
That was the predictable outcome of a shutdown strategy, especially over a non-budgetary issue. In my column for The Week, I remind readers that Republicans learned this lesson relatively cost-free in 2013, but that both parties should know now to pull that page out of their playbooks for good:
For the second time in a little over four years, the minority party in the Senate managed to grind the federal government to a halt. And for the second time in a little over four years, the minority party in the Senate has conceded an embarrassing defeat, having won nothing for its trouble.
When Republicans shuttered the government over Ted Cruz’s quixotic ObamaCare defunding effort in 2013, the party got nothing but egg on its face. The same is true today with regard to Democrats’ puzzling shutdown standoff over immigration. …
The lesson here is that voters don’t like having their government held hostage, especially for non-budgetary reasons. Most voters don’t immerse themselves in politics and its tribalist tendencies. They expect government to function properly where it’s necessary, to stay out of their lives where it’s not, and for elected officials to do their jobs. Government shutdowns over issues unrelated to the budget violate all of those expectations.
Now that both parties have humiliated themselves over this tactic, perhaps leaders in both parties will rip that page out of their playbooks.
If they do, at least something positive will have emerged from Chuck’s Buckle.