President Donald Trump meets with, from left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The current government shutdown has become the longest in American history.
The now-famous exchange, where Donald Trump said we have nothing to discuss after Nancy Pelosi said she would never support the wall, has set the tone for the rest of the debate. Neither side is willing to budge on the issue, and as such, the government will remain shut down for the time being.
On the Republican side, there is talk of declaring a national emergency and using civil asset forfeiture to build the wall without Congressional funding. Both of these are not only ill-advised and certain to be met with legal challenge (particularly the national emergency declaration), but they are deeply un-conservative and show that the need to win is greater than the need to be right.
On the Democratic side, opposing the wall is only the latest in this We Must Oppose All Trump Does fever that is rampaging their party. I do not need to re-list all the times Democrats in prior administrations have called for increased border security and even called for a border wall. Their inability to see past Trump and to support things that are actually good ideas is absurd and detrimental.
Both sides are now embracing a philosophy that began bubbling up during the Obama presidency: Negotiation is for the weak.
In years past, those we would call “establishment” Republicans (a term that has lost all meaning since Trump took office) would negotiate with Democrats by starting the debate at the position they wanted to end with when negotiations were over. Democrats then only had to move a very little toward the center, making something that was still very liberal the new “center.” Thus, the Democrats were able to score more victories than they otherwise would have with a divided Congress.
This practice alienated conservatives and led to the rise of the more extreme conservatives who decided to stake out the far-right positions and refuse to budge – the early years of the Freedom Caucus. As these conservatives gained more and more power, and Republican leadership scorned them more and more, their positions became stronger. The rise of Trump began soon after.
Now, with a Democratic base trying to push the party further and further to the left, and up-and-coming politicians heeding that call, the Democrats are letting the philosophy become their overarching strategy. They have decided they will not negotiate on some of these major issues, the current immigration crisis included.
That leads us to the present, where the government is shut down. It is starting to affect federal workers and has created problems even for people who do not work for the government.
Negotiating to try to bring any of these people back to work is not working. Neither side has brought the spirit of negotiation to the table, and they are instead focused on talking points, sound bites, and hoping voter pressure will cause the other side to flinch. It is not a healthy path.
Sure, a divided government is a feature of the system and not a bug, but the Constitution was established on the idea of compromise as people with extreme views were able to come together for the greater good and create the system we now have. Negotiation isn’t a bad word or a bad idea, but it is currently treated as one.
Of course, I don’t have a solution. I’m not at the negotiating table. I support the wall but abhor the idea of doing it through executive declaration. I also hesitate to give any president, much less Trump, that kind of power. But I also support the idea of government actually running because even though less government is better, some government is necessary.
We have to encourage reasonable debate and negotiation. That’s not a call for surrender by any means, but it is a plea to get us away from the brink of madness we’ve been floating on for years now. It’s time for American government to become productive again, and to do some real good.