Was it #TrumpShutdown or #SchumerShutdown? Whoever was to blame, the Democrats were forced to back down over fears that they would be blamed as much as the Republicans. McConnell has regained some of his magic and many on the right of the GOP feel emboldened to push their agenda onto immigration. The Democrats are left unsure of what to do next as left-wingers take aim at the centrists who caved in, viewing Trump and his party as untrustworthy. So what happens now. Where do we go from here?
The Red Corner
Republicans are happy over their perceived victory. After being forced to give in back in 1995-96 and 2013, anything that didn’t end in surrender is worth celebrating. Their party stayed mostly united on mostly on-message, despite the four defections in the pre-shutdown vote. The price they pay isn’t a heavy one as there are some Republicans who want ‘Dreamers’ to have protections, even permanent residency status. Why punish children for their parents’ actions after all?
Yet the shutdown also exposed weaknesses. McConnell will be under pressure from both supporters and opponents of DACA to please their crowds. Pulling out of the agreement or not fulfilling the promise to get a bill on the floor will make Democrats even less likely to compromise again. Something had to give last time. This time might be different.
Moreover, the Republicans still got the blame. Despite the Democrats taking some heat, public opinion blamed the GOP for the shutdown. It’s not hard to see why: Republicans have control over the House, Congress and the Presidency, to some extent and yet, a shutdown happened on their watch. Ironically, had the shutdown lasted longer, the independents might have sided with Republicans eventually. As it is, Republicans might still bear much of the blame for the shutdown. Any splits over Dreamers will lead us right back to the same problem.
The Blue Corner
In all honesty, despite the GOP taking the blame, Chuck Schumer didn’t have a strong hand, though he played the cards he had pretty well. He managed to convince some Republicans to join his cause, but he couldn’t escape the criticism that he was helping to cause the shutdown and he couldn’t take the risk of losing potentially vital support from independents. He caved in, angering much of the Democratic base and his own left-wing factions who trust McConnell as much as they trust Trump himself.
DACA is still on the table for a compromise, but Schumer blinking first is leaving a sour taste in the mouth. He will need to do a lot of convincing to show that he still cares for Dreamers. Schumer’s put his trust in the wrong man before. If he gets fooled again, few will be sympathetic this time around. He might also have re-awakened the ghost of internal strife between centrists and the left, brought to the fore after Clinton’s defeat and briefly smothered after last year’s election wins.
Yet, Democrats still have some cause for celebration. The Children’s Health Insurance Programme (CHIP) is off the table after Republicans agreed to fund it for six more years, a vital concession. Schumer kept his party mostly together and showed that Democrats are willing to go for a confrontational approach, for a while. Schumer might have leverage over McConnell regarding Dreamers and he can take some comfort that, long-term, the 2018 ‘blue wave’ is still going strong. The idea of obstructionist Democrats will probably be temporary as Trump, the Russia investigations and splits in the GOP grab headlines again.
Trump came out with a somewhat mixed bag. Someone clearly had the inspired insight to take Trump’s phone away during the shutdown because he presided over it without making the situation any worse. Disruptions were kept to a minimum and he can claim that he protected America’s military and made sure that the shutdown wasn’t as bad as it could have been. His attacks against Democrats blocking his agenda might have more impact if another shutdown comes up. He’ll also be happy that Democrats might be willing to discuss his border wall and exchanging his demands for demands over Dreamers.
But, then again, this is Trump we’re talking about. We’ve seen the way the man changes his mind over and over. If he pushes Democrats too far or contradicts his party so that another deal falls apart, then people won’t be fooled again, even if Schumer is. The frustrations in his own party are understandable: they know, if he doesn’t, that bipartisan deals aren’t just good for government, they’re good for the country.
But Trump wants more winning. He wants a border wall no one asked for, paid by Mexico but not before the American people fork over their own hard-earned cash first. He wants Mueller off his back and any investigations over his actions shut down. He’s guided by his temper and whoever spoke to him last which makes him unpredictable. However, he first needs to sort out the issue of Dreamers, a problem he himself created.
The Knockout Round
On top of all that, the shutdown didn’t solve the problem that it’s supposed to solve: the budget. As both sides rightly argue, stopgaps aren’t a permanent measure. America needs to have a budget and it needs it now. No one wants to have to vote for yet another stopgap bill or oversee yet another shutdown. A more feasible solution needs to happen or everyone goes back to square one.
The truth is every side came out as winners and losers and while the shutdown has been averted again, there is still no real answer to all the questions that led to it happening. The big questions over immigration, military spending, the deficit and the border wall are still hanging over Washington and so far, the answers are nowhere to be seen.
Once again, we find Republicans cheering, Democrats nervous and Trump in a good mood. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that the roles will be quickly reversed before very long.
A battle has been fought to a stalemate, but the war isn’t over yet.