Shutdown the dismantling of America
by Erich Pica and Mark Magaña
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The fate of the Dreamers, healthcare access for children, and our most basic environmental protections could be decided in the coming days. With so much at stake, it is time for progressives to reconsider their established playbook, for the sake of all we hold dear.
A year into a morally bankrupt administration, days after the worst tax package in history, Democrats have met a moment of crisis that demands leadership. There is a clear moral choice between temporarily closing the government or, on the other hand, indulging Trump’s darkest instincts on immigration and spending cuts.
We don’t raise this subject lightly. We must do all that we can to avoid a government shutdown as millions depend on important government services that should never be disrupted on a whim. Only a shutdown in the name of preventing something far worse is defensible. Unfortunately, that moment has arrived.
Having focused on capturing billions in tax cuts for corporations and the rich, Congress is expected to punt the question of long-term government funding into 2018 with another short-term continuing resolution—its third since September. Negotiations like these, with government services effectively held hostage, is when Trump and the GOP believe they have the best chance to push their misguided agenda forward.
If Democrats blink, it could mean disaster. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been halted. Protection has run out for thousands of Dreamers and is running out for hundreds more every day, leaving these Dreamers targeted for deportation.
If Democrats blink, it could mean disaster.
The Pentagon could get a raise while everything else gets a cut and the long-starved EPA could see its budget slashed even further, leaving communities on the frontlines of extraction and pollution even more vulnerable to toxic health risks.
The government shutdowns brought on by the Gingrich revolution in the mid-90s and the Tea Party revolt of the Obama years were all precursors to our current political environment—theatrical, predicated on ignorance, and designed to reverse hard-fought progressive gains for the American people. It should come as no surprise then that Trump recently mused that a “shutdown would be good for him.”
But besides being unpopular, something else these episodes have in common is the goal of fundamentally diminishing the government and how it serves the most vulnerable. The Gingrich revolution sought billions in cuts to the social safety net. Fifteen years later when the Tea Party flirted with shutdown and default, the demand was largely the same. And when Senator Cruz led the shutdown of 2013, it was used to block providing millions with healthcare. These were campaigns strategically planned to cut or end some of the most popular government services in our history.
The current situation could not be more different. The biggest controversies threatening to derail the normal and necessary work of funding the government are not even debated outside of Washington. Overwhelmingly the American people support protecting the dreamers, oppose a border wall, demand that the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) be renewed, and strongly oppose Trump’s draconian cuts to our environmental protections.
If Trump and Congressional Republicans seek to force their priorities on the American people through must-pass spending legislation, then we expect Democrats to make the right moral choice. There is no reason for Democrats to vote for a spending bill while undermining our deepest values and policy priorities. If the GOP persists, then Republicans will have the responsibility of shutting down the government to advance an agenda so toxically unpopular that they are no longer even electable in Alabama.
Lawmakers need to know that there are inhumane shutdowns and there are moral shutdowns. We are now on the precipice of a moral shutdown, waged against a party and a President set on pulling America apart. A tactic meant to diminish government and hurt the most vulnerable is different from a tactic meant to check Trump’s worst impulses and preserve basic services for future generations. In fact, they’re the exact opposite.