Right Opinion

Shutdown Theater

Bill Wagner · Jan. 22, 2018

The blame game continues in full cry. Give the GOP credit for staying on message (so far). Absent a DACA fix, the current bill seems acceptable to both sides, but the Democrats are favoring illegal aliens over the security of the American people. They are even calling it the “Schumer Shutdown.” Negotiations continue, and anything can happen, including Trump moving the goal posts and caving in to get a deal and stop the distractions over the great economic news. I hope not, but we’ll see.

But it’s an indication of how ingrained is the political mantra that the GOP always gets blamed for shutdowns and loses politically. How else do you explain the Democrats’ willingness to force a shutdown solely over an issue of protecting illegal aliens? Maybe it’s understandable since this is the same PR machine that has called $2,000 tax cuts for the middle class “crumbs,” labeled $1,000 bonuses “pathetic” and compared $2,500 stock option grants (all the direct result of the Trump tax cuts) to a pile of doggy-doo with a cherry on top.

But it’s worse than that. What always happens in DC is that politicians act as if the world began yesterday. In the case of DACA, all we hear from the Democrats is that we need to act now to protect the Dreamers because waiting any longer will never result in a resolution. But the Trump rescission of DACA, which, lest we forget, was simply Trump’s recognition that the Obama executive order was unconstitutional and on its way to being shot down by the courts, tossed the issue back where it belonged — in Congress — and doesn’t take effect for another month or so. What’s the urgency?

And there’s more. Whenever the possibility of Roe V. Wade being overturned comes up, the doomsday scenarios follow like day from night. But in fact all that would happen is that the issues would revert to the states, and each one would come up with their own rules. Nothing would be automatically illegal. This is a subject for another day, but I think the principles of the ruling are correct, but the case never belonged at the Supreme Court level. There is no constitutional issue at play. The likely result would be that while states might enact laws that deal with extremes differently, the vast majority of state laws would not be that different from Roe; in practice, when the dust settled, little would change.

The same holds true for DACA. Before Obama issued the EO, Congress had recognized that Dreamers were a special subset case of immigration reform and got close to a deal on them. When it fell apart, Obama — who famously said “I have a pen and a phone” and warned that if Congress didn’t act, he would — issued the DACA EO. But what was the state of play before Congress tried to address the Dreamers? They had been in limbo for many years thanks to a government that allowed illegal immigration (including the kids of illegal immigrant parents) to continue with a wink and a nod. And while that may be unsettling and uncertain for the Dreamers, there had been no great groundswell to round them up and kick them out.

Addressing their unique plight emerged out of immigration reform discussions but should have been part of a more comprehensive immigration solution, not dealt with by an unconstitutional EO. But returning to what economists refer to as the status quo ante by letting DACA expire would simply put the Dreamers back into the same uncertainty that existed for years prior. There still would be no burning desire to kick them out, and even Trump has expressed enough sympathy for them that the odds of his ordering a mass deportation are below zero. The problem would still exist, but the doomsday scenarios would not.

And yet, this is what the Democrats are citing as the reason to shut the government down. Is there any doubt that their motives are entirely political? The cards-in-the-air aspects of a government shutdown are risky enough that everyone should want to avoid it, particularly when the economy is roaring along. And there is always a chance that some face-saving deal can be reached to kick the can once again down the road a bit more. But this time it’s different, and the GOP would be wise to continue to act on principle, engage in the DACA PR war, and call the Democrat bluff.

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