Right Opinion

Shutdown Fallout

Bill Wagner · Jan. 25, 2018

If you were one of the dozen Americans who tuned in to “Morning Joe” the other day, you learned what the Democrat spin is on the disastrous Schumer shutdown. First, it was Exhibit A in how ineffective and out of touch Trump is; he was AWOL on the final negotiations that only succeeded because Democrats demanded and received concessions from Senate GOP leaders on getting DACA debate to the floor. Second, there were no winners, but even if you thought the voters might blame Democrats more, it won’t matter in November; the folks will not remember anything about the shutdown in 10 days, much less 10 months. That’s not even a good try.

Trump set the tone for the negotiations by sticking to the GOP guns and refusing to accept the conventional wisdom that the GOP always loses these things. And then he had the discipline to keep the GOP on track as he abided by one of the key rules of negotiation — when your opponent is destroying himself, get out of the way and let it happen. Nary an ill-advised tweet in sight, and as far from AWOL as you can get.

The voter comment is half right. No doubt that the substantial majority of voters never felt nor will recall the shutdown come election time. But the Democrat audience that matters has a much longer memory. The far Left feels betrayed, and hell hath no fury like a checkbook scorned. The true believers remain certain that if Schumer had only kept the faith, Trump would have caved, and life as we know it would have been restored. They are absolutely livid and threatening all kinds of retribution, including supporting primary challenges to those who voted to end the filibuster.

As a measure of how whiplashed Democrat leadership is, Schumer announced that he is withdrawing his offer to fund the wall in exchange for DACA movement and is now demanding clean amnesty for Dreamers and the continuation of chain migration. It’s a panic reaction to the possible loss of campaign funding and will put everyone back in the soup in three weeks since those conditions are non-starters.

I get it that the base matters, but Democrats are now playing to a subset of their party’s one percent. And that’s even before everyone comes to their senses and realizes that immigration/DACA are the ultimate tail wagging the budget dog. It’s getting all the PR, but it’s a rounding error compared to the budget items that define the role of government. I don’t know about you, but even we junkies are not sure what’s actually in the budget. When that becomes front and center, look for the Democrat base to dig in its heels even more.

The other impact of the Democrat cave is on the attitude of the GOP negotiators. You can really only play the shutdown card once, particularly when the effort crashed and burned so badly. So the GOP will be emboldened to go for the jugular in three weeks. It should resist the temptation. The smartest move now is to surface the Goodlatte proposal and signal a willingness to negotiate some of its more aggressive provisions: force Democrats to either come to the table, or risk looking like radicals to the majority of their voters.

Everyone says they are for border security, so find a way to call it something other than the “wall.” My guess is that maybe 10 percent of voters even knew that chain migration and the lottery system existed, but once it’s clearly on the table, anyone with an ounce of common sense will conclude that’s no way to run an immigration system, just like most folks will conclude that a path to permanent legal status for Dreamers is fair. There is a deal here, if the GOP grabs the messaging again the way it did for the shutdown.

One of the most impressive aspects of how Trump is handling these negotiations is how the far Right has been blocked from making the perfect the enemy of the good — sort of the anti-Cruz from 2013. If Schumer persists in doing the bidding of the far Left, odds are that it will further fracture Democrat voters. And putting Goodlatte in the mix for negotiation sets up a win for the GOP either because it will get the right results, or force Democrats to show their radical hand, or both.

Toss in the personal impact of the tax cuts, and as long as the GOP doesn’t overplay its shutdown advantage, there is a chance to not only make progress on the decades-old immigration stalemate but to also grab the high ground on the November PR game. The GOP is being handed a gift here, as even the generic Democrat-vs.-GOP ballot is swinging back. Let’s hope the GOP can figure out how to take yes for an answer.

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