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Tue Jan 23, 2018, 02:03 PM

Republicans did not win the shutdown and Democrats made gains. [View all]

While there was no clear final winner yet, it is still a moving picture, Democrats strengthened their tactical position in a number of ways and gave up almost nothing to do so. The Republican talking point that Democrats gained nothing that wasn't already on the table on Friday by shutting down the government for three days is false, but worse than that it is lame. Objectively virtually no one cares about the truth of that assertion other than dueling spin doctors, and well before November that argument will be ancient history to the electorate.

Republicans gained three more weeks of the government running with a despicable threat still targeting Dreamers. But that same threat would be true today even if the government remained shuttered. The Republicans were not going to fold quickly because of a government shutdown. There was no action Democrats could have taken to immediately remove the deportation threat that Dreamers face. We do not control the votes needed to do so. Good faith negotiations with the Trump Regime were tried and failed. Now the one and only question to consider is what course of action available to Democrats increases rather than decreases their leverage against Republicans over the next three weeks.

It is of utmost importance to remember that Democrats have not surrendered their nuclear option - no long term budget has been agreed to. Another shutdown will be triggered when this continuing resolution expires unless a dozen or so Democratic Senators agree to give Republicans yet another extension. Meanwhile the drama of the last 72 or so hours has significantly altered the political battle field in ways that do not favor Republicans. In political war like this the side that advances not only exploits their adversaries weaknesses, it prevents adversaries from exploiting their own. Each aspect is critical.

Republicans wanted to drive a wedge between Red State Democratic Senators and the rest of the Democratic Caucus, and failing that they gladly would have settled for cultivating some good attack lines against Red State Senators running for Reelection. Instead this is what happened. Democrats had sufficient solidarity on Friday to both vote down the first continuing resolution AND grant several get out of jail free cards to a handful of Senators facing tough reelection efforts in Red States this November. Even with that the first vote was not even close. So Republican Plan B was to attack all Democrats for shutting down our Government, thereby "bringing hardship" to many of our citizens. With a shutdown that barely made it past the weekend that line of attack lost all potency. Yes, but how did any of this play to the advantage of Democrats, say many in the media?

Let us count the ways. First, in order to drive a wedge between Democrats Republicans chose to play one of their highest cards; a full six year extension for CHIP funding. Senators like Doug Jones, who made that matter central to his campaign, were going to be hard pressed to vote against it. If enough Democrats feared "opposing" a CHIPS extension, the Republicans would have shattered the Democratic Caucus by passing the continuing resolution with significant Democratic support. And if Democrats shut down the government regardless, Republicans planned to pin the anxieties of families who depend on CHIPS onto us. Republicans played that card and now it's no longer in their deck, and the next shutdown deadline is already looming with Republicans no longer having that leverage. What would have been different if Democrats had supported the continuing resolution when it first came to a vote on Friday night? Plenty.

For one thing, however much grief Democrats in Congress now face from elements of the activist base, that anger would have burned far hotter had Democrats simply taken what Republicans offered them on Friday. Now there are discussions over whether Democrats got anything of value by refunding government for 17 days after allowing it to shut for three. Had the initial resolution passed on Friday all of us would be calling Senate Democrats sell outs. Republicans would have dearly loved seeing that level of dissension within Democratic ranks. Timing is a tactical asset when used strategically. The fact that the Senate Democratic leadership firmly opposed the Republican's fourth continuing resolution on Friday made that vote into the major news story in the nation. It wasn't preordained to be that way. Democrats could have taken the deal, securing six years of CHIP funding in return for keeping government open another month.

Between Friday and Monday the media essentially ran wall to wall coverage about the DACA issue, highlighting it as the main point of contention between Democrats and Republicans. That played solidly to our advantage, and more importantly, to the advantage of the Dreamers. Because when all is said and done public sentiment on their behalf is the most potent weapon Democrats have to wield against Republican majorities in both the House and Senate AND a Republican President threatening to deport them. The more the public hears about Dreamers the stronger public sentiment becomes in favor of providing them with a clear and compassionate path to citizenship. The three day government shutdown became virtually an infomercial about DACA, but news coverage was just starting to shift more onto the negative effects of a government shutdown with the start of a work week on Monday. That was the media climate, Democratic obstruction, that Republicans were geared up to wage war in, but it got nipped in the bud when the Senate passed a continuing resolution on Monday.

Now that this temporary continuing resolution runs out one week sooner than the initial one, it helps guarantee that coverage of efforts made to prevent another shut down will stay central to the public eye. The three day government shutdown that Democrats helped trigger on Friday added to the ongoing element of drama about this issue moving forward. It is out of the weeds and onto the middle of the fairway. That is exactly where we need it to be. I would argue that DACA will receive far more public attention under these circumstances than it would have had the government not reopened, because the closure itself then would have been the predominant topic of discussion, not what caused it, beyond talking heads apportioning blame between Democrats and Republicans regarding it

But that is not all. Democrats in my opinion successfully positioned themselves as being the adults in the room while putting the infant Trump in the full glare of the spotlight. Our efforts to reach a negotiated resolution were clear and obvious, Trump's inability to take yes for an answer or even to be clear about what he actually wants was fully exposed throughout this drama, with even leading Republicans conceding that point. This is exactly the framing that we need to have take hold should we be forced again to deny stop gap funding to the government when this resolution expires.

Personally I think it is of secondary importance at best whether Mitch McConnell can be trusted to keep his word about anything. More significant is the fact that he was forced to give his work both in public, and to many Republican Senators whose personal honor is now on the line also with the Democrats with whom they worked closely with over the weekend. In the long run our long national nightmare will best be contained if splits develop among Republicans over loyalty to Trump.

So, in summary, I think there was nothing Democrats could have done other than what they did to provide protection to Dreamers during this particular round of fights over government funding. We were not dealt a strong enough hand to dictate our own terms, prior to the midterms anyway, without the strong support of the public. Tactically I think our position has been strengthened to some extent by recent events. I do not consider that to be a loss, or a surrender.

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