Friday, January 25, 2019 will mark the day that the Republican Party died. On that day, President Donald Trump (R) caved and agreed to sign a continuing resolution funding the remaining twenty-five percent of the federal government in exchange for – well, nothing. It was a complete fiasco. A portion of the federal government was shut down for over thirty days for nothing.
Mr. Trump made three major mistakes leading up to the partial government shut down and he should have known better in regards to all of them.
First, buried somewhere in the Art of the Deal is or should be the admonition that you never state that “this is the final offer” unless, indeed, it is. I learned that from a seasoned labor negotiator when I first started practicing law during negotiations with the Operating Engineers for a multi-year labor contract. The reason is that the parties to a bargaining situation need to know that you mean what you say. That means that no matter what, that is, in fact, your final offer and that you will live with the consequences. (The pronouncement that Mr. Trump would shut down the government and accept the responsibility amounted to a “final offer.”)
There is a scene in Draft Day where Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner), as a general manager for the Cleveland Browns, scribbles a note to himself (take the linebacker) just before the opening of draft day for the NFL. Despite pressure, changing scenarios, and advice from a bunch of armchair quarterbacks, Sonny commits to his original decision. In the end, the note is revealed and Sonny does, in deed, take the linebacker. It is the essence of resolve.
When Mr. Trump caved, it sent a message that when he says, “this is the final offer” you need not believe him. That will have repercussions beyond dealing with the Democrat opposition – repercussions with China, with Russia, with North Korea, with Iran and with just about anyone that bargains from comparative strength. Every international leader knew that former President Barack Obama was so weak that he would cut and run at the first sign of pressure (thus the Iran nuclear agreement). Mr. Trump is now going to have to contend with skepticism about his own resolve.
Second, Mr. Trump relied on the encouragement and promised support of the feckless Republican members of Congress. They stood on the sidelines and told Mr. Trump that he had to stand firm, let the government shut down and demand “the wall.” And, at the first sign of resistance, the first adverse comments from the mainstream media, the first frown at a cocktail party by Washington, D.C.’s A-listers, they abandoned Mr. Trump in return for favorable coverage. They were led by known weasels like Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) – an acolyte of renowned Republican back stabber, John McCain – and Marco Rubio (R-FL). In 2017-2018, the Republican led Congress failed to do anything about border security. It was a wasted opportunity just like the Democrats failure to deal with immigration reform in the first two years of Mr. Obama’s term. Like the Democrats, the Republican members of Congress deal with difficult problems by making them campaign fodder without ever seriously considering a means to resolve them. This new split-Congress will be no different – border security will not get resolved and neither will immigration reform. What a waste. We send people to Congress to solve problems and they go to Congress to posture and preen before the cameras instead.
Mr. Trump has witnessed this for two years now and he should have known better than to trust the Congressional Republicans to do any heavy lifting.
And finally, third. Shutting down the government is a fool’s errand. Congress has so insinuated the government into every aspect of personal and business life that it has become essential for maintenance – much like the remora (a sucking scavenger) is essential to the maintenance of a shark. This is not meant to be a laudatory comment but rather an observation on government dependency. Virtually everything we do requires government concurrence in some manner or another – everything from buying milk (government licensing and inspections) to driving a car (driver’s license and registration) to selling lemonade on a corner stand (health inspections and licensing). So when you shut down government the unfortunate result is that the very people that the government is supposed to protect become the victims of government inattention. It is not the temporary suspension of paychecks for 800,000 government workers that is important, rather it is the impact on the innocents. (Quite frankly the number of non-essential workers identified should give us pause as to government waste and intrusion.) The government workers will be paid despite not having worked for a month and, of course, Congress has immunized itself from any government shut down and their salaries, benefits, and travel privileges remain uninterrupted. Government remained unaffected during the shutdown while people suffered.
Mr. Trump should have understood this effect and instead of shutting down government he should have shut down the border, cut off welfare payments to illegals, strengthened enforcement against those employing illegals, transferring and redirecting funds and assets confiscated from drug and human traffickers to construction of barriers and began arresting and deporting members of the illegal immigrant communities. I don’t believe that is a permanent solution but it applies the pressure where it belongs, not on the innocent general population. In other words, there needs to be a correlation between the object and the methods. Putting pressure on the general population while immunizing those responsible for the problem (Congress) is a pointless operation. But that is Washington and that is pretty much how they deal with every problem.
For almost four years now I have written columns advocating a new national political party. While the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans in actually trying to solve problems, they at least have a much higher degree of unity – I think it’s because most of its members have been raised on slogans in lieu of action and aren’t really that bright. Be that as it may, neither party has a claim to problem solving. What I have consistently proposed is a new national party drawn from mainstreet small business, skilled trade unions, minority chambers of commerce, and those still in pursuit of the American dream. The stated goal of the new party should be to solve problems – not to get re-elected.
You may think me naïve and naïve I may be, but unless a course correction is made soon we will have arrived at socialism by inaction and a welfare state encouraged by liberal/progressives and enabled by a worthless national Republican Party who are afraid.