Weird Shutdown Politics
As a local barber cut my hair, this afternoon, one of the customers awaiting his turn mentioned that he is in the Coast Guard and hasn’t been receiving his pay. They’ll typically get their back pay, but anybody living paycheck to paycheck is going to have a challenging time. With 12 years of experience, he’s gone through this before, but he said this time is different and might last longer.
He sure is right that this time is different. The typical analysis of shutdown politics has been that the side that looks like it is the one holding up agreement is the loser. Of course, that common wisdom is tainted by the fact that the news media always presents the Republicans as the holder-uppers, whether the GOP is trying to get something new or to maintain the status quo on the controversial policy question at the heart of the dispute.
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That makes this bit of news, pointed out by Alexandra DeSanctis, a little bit of a head scratcher:
Despite the fact that the funding process has already been held up over political disagreements, in part having to do with contention over building and reinforcing a wall at the southern border, the Democratic representatives now controlling the House added further controversy to the process by slipping a pro-abortion provision into their draft spending bill.
This might make sense as a negotiation tactic (“You remove your controversial proposal, and I’ll review mine.”), but it gives both sides blame as things drag on. It could be that the farther-left Congressional Democrats are more convinced than even conservative commentators have thought that there is secret national popularity for radical progressive policies. It could also be that they know their media allies, amped up on Trump hatred, will apply their good-guy/bad-guy brush even more liberally.
In crass political terms, they may be assessing that President Trump isn’t going to back down on the wall and the Democrats aren’t going to back down on not funding it, so they might as well gain some points with their abortion-supporting core. But again, conceding that they’re not going to back down, to the extent that they’re moving in the opposite direction of compromise, makes it difficult to maintain the narrative that they’re the ones truly concerned with keeping the government operating at full expense.
Featured image: Barriers put up around Roger Williams National Memorial in Providence during the 2013 shutdown.