That was no way to run a railroad, nor the government of “the greatest country on earth,” either. The leaders of both Republicans and Democrats were getting a harsh and angry earful from the country, with the noise getting louder every hour. Push had come to shove, and both won.
Partisan red-hots of both parties scurried about the Capitol on Monday afternoon, spinning thousands — nay, millions — of words trying to prove that “the other side” blinked first. But for once the Republicans held their ground and waited for the Democrats to blink.
Donald Trump, the master of applying a devastating label to his opponents, did it again, calling the option of shutting the government down “the Schumer Shutdown,” and it stuck. The label was alliterative, blunt, and most damaging of all, memorable. Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, knew the blame game was over and he had lost. He was cooked, and the Democratic pigeons with him.
This time those pigeons couldn’t count on having their old reliables at their backs. The New York Times, whose headlines usually reflect Democratic talking points, printed a story on Friday night, just to get Chuck Schumer’s week end off to a dismal start, accurately headlined “Democrats Seem Set to Block Bill to Keep Government Open.” The president’s label, “Schumer Shutdown,” was in only two words the handwriting on the wall. A senior aide of Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, tweeted to all a screenshot of the headline, and the tweeted observation of a reporter for The New York Times that it’s “hard for Ds to say this is a GOP shutdown if most Rs vote to keep gov’t open & they’re joined by red state Ds.” Indeed.
This was something new for the Democrats, nearly all of whom were ready to vote against the legislation because it did not rescue the “Dreamers,” the immigrants brought to the United States illegally, although through no illegal act of their own, and shielded by an executive order, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, issued by President Obama five years ago.
President Trump, like many in his own party, is sympathetic to the plight of these Dreamers, many of whom are no longer children but who have grown up in America and have known no other home. He doesn’t want to send them back to a place they have never known. To resolve their dilemma, Mr. Trump would agree to a legislative fix if the Democrats would give just a little, and agree to funding for his wall on the border, which many Democrats agree is necessary to retrieve order from the chaos there. A casual observer might think this would be a happy trade for both sides, each side getting most of what they say they want.
But casual observers would not be paying close enough attention. Mr. Schumer and his side recognized, as the weekend ground on, that the public, having had enough, would begin to understand that the Dreamers were not the point of the Democratic goal. Their actual goal was to preserve “chain migration,” the ability of legal immigrants to petition to bring on their parents, adult brothers and sisters, adult sons and daughters, their spouses and children.
Once citizens, these remote-control immigrants could bring in their relatives, and the cycle continues. “The result,” Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies tells John Fund of National Review, “is chain migration, in which yesterday’s immigrants decide who tomorrow’s immigrants will be.” It’s grossly unfair to immigrants who are trying to come here in good faith, under long-established rules.
Unfair or not, chain migration is a godsend for the Democrats, an ATM machine on the border to assure a never-ending supply of new immigrants who can be easily assimilated into the Democratic Party and who will be expected to vote early and often.
The impasse ended, if only for now, when Chuck Schumer accepted the offer of Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, which he could have accepted earlier. The shutdown would end with temporary agreement to get the government open again, and continue negotiations until the new deadline of Feb. 8. “The process will be neutral and fair for all sides,” says Mr. Schumer.
If so, that would be a nice change for everyone. Threats and tantrums are inevitable when Congress is as divided as it is now, reflecting the divisions in the country at large. The strategy of the minority party is “if you don’t have the votes, throw a fit.” That has worked in the past. This time, it hasn’t. So far. We can all be glad for that much.