Doug Thompson: Shutdowns always backfire

Same tactic, different party, same result

Posted: January 27, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Federal government shutdowns solve nothing. They kneecap support for any issue they try to force. This has now proved true on both ends of the political spectrum.

Republicans tried a shutdown to get Obamacare repealed four years ago. That stunt clearly and severely backfired. The same thing happened last week when Democrats forced a brief shutdown over immigration. Polling showed it. Yet Democrats are now accused of betraying immigrants brought here as children, who will soon be vulnerable to deportation to countries of origin they never knew.

No situation is ever so bad that it cannot be made worse. Making vulnerable descendents the scapegoat for resentment over a shutdown managed it.

Senate Democrats must have known what would probably happen before the shutdown started. They "caved," all right -- to demands for a shutdown. Their mistake was not ending the shutdown. The mistake was having one.

Congress has left children of undocumented immigrants are in a terrible state. "Most of these would-be college students are about as Mexican as I am Scottish. Pay for something in pesos and they couldn't make change. They're going to live here." That quote is mine -- from a column almost 13 years old. Northwest Arkansas, a prosperous area that draws immigrants, lives with this cruel dilemma every day.

The problem is real and severe -- and not helped by demands for a banzai charge. All this latest shutdown did was take attention off the GOP majority's dysfunction. Even dysfunction looks better than a shutdown.

So what is the answer for these vulnerable descendants? As best I can tell, the answer is bleak. Democrats would have to win the 2020 presidential race. Then the new president could re-impose the executive order of protection. The current administration repealed it last year. Then a new administration can hope and pray the federal courts, packed with the current president's appointees, do not overturn that protection.

That approach leaves those descendants exposed for at least three years. I wish there was a better plan. There is not. The president got elected by promising a wall and to make Mexico pay for it. The author of this fantasy will not approve a realistic option. I would be both stunned and thrilled to be wrong. I also suspect anyone arguing there is a quicker, more likely way before a new president enters office is either a zealot, selling something, or both.

The dire limbo these descendents are left in is exactly the same state they were in before June 15, 2012. That was when the previous administration issued its order. There is massive, bipartisan support for helping them, but the support is more broad than deep. The shutdown showed that. Large majorities support fixing the problem -- but most opposed a shutdown. The public saying it wants something and the public being willing to sacrifice for it are two different things. Sometimes, the difference is vast.

Before the next presidential race, frustrated Democrats need to avoid making more of the same mistakes the TEA Party made. The Resistance movement follows the TEA Party's playbook. That is no secret. They should not follow it so closely that they fall into the same ditches.

Just like the TEA Party did, their counterparts now believe there is a vast reserve of support out there if only the candidates are dedicated enough. OK. Prove it. Win Democratic primaries this year and then federal races. Show support when it counts. While the recent Women's March was impressive, no ballots were cast. Getting together big crowds in a nation of 323.1 million people proves nothing. Winning elections does.

Every voter gets one vote. It makes no difference how energized he or she is.

If Resistance candidates lose in primaries to Democratic "establishment" candidates, show up at the November election anyway. That may be the most important lesson of all for Democrats in the past several years.

Pardon me as I quote myself again, this time from last month: "The 2018 elections are not about Democratic resurgence. The 2018 elections are about Democratic survival. If they cannot win while the GOP is so abysmally led, how can they win if the Republicans wake up?"

Here is where the TEA Party road map leads when followed too closely: To a fractured party that nominates a scam artist who promises an energized base everything it wants, then wins with a plurality.

Do not go there, Democrats. Half of the two-party system already has.

Commentary on 01/27/2018