Soon the government will reopen, and the 115th Congress will never be the same. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., made sure of that over the weekend.
With his shutdown stunt, the minority leader has achieved one of two things. Either Schumer has inoculated his minority from future shutdown fevers or Schumer has weaponized the shutdown virus. Both possibilities should keep Republicans from celebrating too early.
At first glance, and as I wrote earlier today, the shutdown seems like an immediate miscalculation. Schumer didn’t achieve anything on policy and Schumer lost ground politically. After a few days of drama, it looks like he has stunted the chances of his minority growing into a majority. But that early ailment could have a long-term benefit.
Democrats burned bright for three days bringing the fight to the White House and whipping progressives into a delirium. But the fever broke almost as soon as it started. When Schumer went to the floor Monday, he could only promise his frenzied base “fair consideration and an up or down vote” on a permanent DACA fix. In other words, it was a failure. But it might be a constructive failure. Consider the last shutdown.
While that failed Republican shutdown left the GOP reeling, it also quarantined the more conservative wing of party. As minority leader, Mitch McConnell slammed shutdowns as “a failed policy.” And almost as soon as he became majority leader, he immediately promised that Republicans “will not be shutting the government down or threatening to default on the federal debt.” Whenever conservatives got ornery, McConnell would throw a bucket of cold water on them by pointing to the failed parliamentary experiment of 2013.
Perhaps Schumer is practicing the same kind of medicine, doing the same to immunize his radical base for the next three years. I can almost hear him now…
The shutdown didn’t work, Bernie. Oh c’mon, Elizabeth! Honest to god, Kamala! I tried my very best. Let’s just cut a deal now to win the majority later. Keep up our strength for 2020.
No one can disagree that something was definitely injected into the party bloodstream—if not an inoculation, then an aggressive mutation. While it took Republicans four years to work up the courage to shut down Obama’s government, Schumer’s Democrats did it during President Trump’s first year. It’s possible that the minority leader never meant to break the shutdown fever. It’s possible he wanted to encourage it.
Democrats may soon become trigger happy. There isn’t any reason for them to be gun shy. When Reagan was president, Democrats shuttered the federal government eight times to various success. After the first shot, it’s easy to imagine future salvos…
The shutdown didn’t work, Bernie...but who's up for round two? Oh c’mon, Elizabeth…it wasn’t that bad! Honest to god, Kamala! I tried my very best…it was that the timing was wrong. Let’s burn it all down now to win the majority later. Flex our muscles ahead of 2020.
At this point it could go either way. All that matters now is how Schumer spins the shutdown to his base. Everything has changed and Democrats are still dangerous either way.