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The Shutdown Debacle: Trump and the Politics of Hate

Democrats face the fury of their activist base for the remarkably pathetic “deal” they swallowed to end the government shutdown after three days. As hapless Maine Senator Republican Susan Collins can attest, any deal that is premised on Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s “intention” isn’t worth the breath required to describe it.

Senate progressives and the gaggle of Democratic presidential hopefuls – Sanders, Warren, Harris, Booker et al – all sensibly voted against the deal. While Senate leader Chuck Schumer and his colleagues face protests from their own supporters, three things are worth remembering about this debacle.

The True Cost

First, the talking heads’ focus on who won and who lost in the showdown ignore those who are paying the true cost of Congressional folly: the 700,000 DREAMers, brought here as infants through no fault of their own, who because of Donald Trump’s executive order to end DACA now face deportation to countries they have never known.

The overwhelming majority of Americans want this threat to DREAMers’ status removed; yet Congress – despite pledges from both parties – has once more refused to act.

A Good Shutdown?

Second, don’t be fooled: this shutdown is exactly what Donald Trump wanted. Last year, he tweeted that a “good shutdown” would be useful. As the deadline approached, he pledged, in his publicly televised bipartisan meeting, to support a bipartisan deal on the dreamers. When Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsay Graham presented him with that deal, he blew the meeting up, adding his vulgar racist slur about “shithole countries.”

When the government he is charged with leading shut down, Trump and Republicans were primed and loaded. Trump’s own campaign – yes, he has a campaign structure in place for 2020 – released a truly loathsome ad, slurring Democrats as “complicit” with any murder committed by “illegal immigrants.”

The ad ends with Trump’s personal endorsement of its “message.” This foul slur is exactly what the requirement of a candidate’s personal endorsement was designed to deter, post-Willie Horton.

Strategically Vile

For Trump, this kind of vile racist politics is central to how he got elected. It is also integral to how Republicans, a minority party, have managed to gain control of the House, Senate and White House. Republicans in virtual lockstep echoed the President’s slur, repeating endlessly the lie that Democrats cared more about “illegal immigrants” than they do about our soldiers in the field, about children’s health care or veterans.

Trump wanted the shutdown so he could unleash his vile politics of hate. Republicans shamelessly joined in. This cannot be ignored or accepted. It is not politics as usual. It is an ugly and vicious posturing that will drive this country apart, and unleash furies that may benefit Trump and his Republican choir in the short term, but will subvert this country in the end. Our true fury must be turned to throwing these arsonists out of office before they set the country on fire.

Third, while Democrats deserve rebuke for their hapless performance, progressives should be clear where responsibility lies. Democrats at least stood up for decency, even to the extent of spurning Republican intransigence in the face of a government shutdown.

Promise Keepers?

Now Republicans have made a pledge to resolve the DACA problem, something that Trump, McConnell and Ryan all have claimed they want to do.

Over the next seventeen days, immense pressure should be put on them to fulfill their promise. They gave their word. Now we should push hard to make them fulfill it, or to very publicly expose that they lied once more and are prepared to spit in the face of the 85 percent of Americans who want to protect the Dreamers from deportation.

The greater the pressure on Republicans to fulfill the pledge, the harder it will be to trample the Dreamers seventeen days from now when Republicans will face the expiration of government funding once more.

The GOP’s shameful treatment of the DREAMers isn’t accidental or random. It exemplifies the repugnant preying on racial fears that is a core strategy of Donald Trump’s Republican Party. We must build a broad majority that rejects that politics and its practitioners.

This debacle demonstrates once more why the growing insurgency must remake and recharge the Democratic Party, displacing those who stand in the way. It also demonstrates why ending Republican control of the House, Senate and White House is an imperative for anyone who cares for the future of this country.