This is a “bookend” piece. We already did “Stupid Democrats.” Republicans are usually much better than Democrats at messaging, but not this time, they are screwing up bigly. And the results are showing up in opinion polls.
The public blames Trump and the GOP.
Nearly half of voters, 47 percent, say Trump is mostly to blame for the shutdown, the poll shows, while another 5 percent point the finger at congressional Republicans. But just a third, 33 percent, blame Democrats in Congress. . .
But even if the wall was popular, the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll suggests voters would oppose shutting down the government to secure funding for it. Nearly two-thirds, 65 percent, say the president shouldn’t shut down the government to achieve his policy goals, while only 22 percent say a temporary shutdown is acceptable to change policy.
A more recent poll shows the same attitudes.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 53 percent of respondents blamed Trump and Republicans in Congress for the shutdown, while 29 percent blamed Democrats. . . Another poll from CNN found that 55 percent of respondents blamed Trump, while 32 percent blamed Democrats. . .
Trump’s disapproval ratings are also rising, with the CNN poll showing his overall rating worsening by 5 percentage points since the shutdown started.
We’ll do another story about various angles of the shutdown, but we chose to pull this angle out and run it by itself, to be sure it was not muddled.
Our system is supposed to work. . .maybe I should stop there. Our system is supposed to work with the House and the Senate coming up with ideas for new laws. They each write “bills” and send them to the other house. If a president wants something, he has always sent the request to Congress, and the two houses hash it out. The system is not designed to have a president make up any law he wants and throw people out of work to get his way.
But this is not Donald Trump’s fault. It is not the “Trump Shutdown.” Trump has made clear what he wants. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has sent a “clean bill” to the Senate, to reopen the government. Before this even began, the House and Senate agreed on a temporary funding bill, and Trump said he’d sign it. Then, said he wouldn’t. But that’s history.
Right now, we have the optics of the House trying to reopen the government with a clean bill—no pet projects or bells and whistles hidden in it. On the other side, we have Trump, obeying the talk show hosts and standing his ground on halting the government until he gets his Mexico border wall. Never mind that we have a more serious problem on the Canadian border.
The Department of Homeland Security made improving resources and personnel a goal in its northern border strategy, which was updated in June 2018. The biggest threat along the border, it said, was illicit drug trade. However, possible terror threats stem “from homegrown violent extremists in Canada. . .
The most recent State Department country report on terrorism for Canada notes that the nation experienced three terrorist attacks in 2017, and that “the main internal threat is from lone actors” inspired by organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaida.
But on Mexico, U.S. diplomats said “there was no credible evidence” showing that global terrorist groups have set up shop in Mexico or sent members into the U.S. via the southwest border.
Anyway, the point is that Pelosi has taken a stand, and Trump has taken a stand.
But polls are starting to show that the American people are increasingly saying the government should do its job—and Congress should do its job. And that is dangerous for Republicans—not only because they increasingly are being blamed for the shutdown. At some point, people will object to the second half of the sentence—Congress should do its job. The job of Congress is to negotiate and pass laws. In that process, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is AWOL (absent without leave). He’s not doing his job, and the voters of Kentucky may remember that when Mitch asks for another term in next year.
It’s likely that McConnell is refusing to act because the last time he did—to negotiate temporary funding with the House—Trump shot him down. But this is not a time for hurt feelings. It’s not a time for him to pout and tell Trump, “fine, if you want to run everything, go ahead!”
If Republicans were smart… McConnell would get a promise from Trump that he won’t change his mind again. Then, he’d put together a bill that Trump would sign. Then he’d send that exact bill to the House for negotiation.
Right now, the optics are an intransigent Pelosi, an intransigent Trump, and an AWOL McConnell. But if McConnell got the Senate to pass a bill with wall funding, then he could say that the House is refusing to agree to wall funding. As it is now, the House is trying to open the government, and the Senate is standing in the way, as it did in blocking Merrick Garland.
You might object that according to Senate rules, Democrats could threaten to filibuster, right? Even better.
If Republicans were smart… they’d call the Democrats’ bluff. Suddenly, the Senate wouldn’t be irrelevant. It would be obstructed. Force some Democratic schmuck to stand on the floor and talk nonsense for hours. The longer that goes on, the better it looks for the GOP.
Senate Democrats would be seen as choosing to stop the wall, even if it means keeping people out of work, endangering airports, stopping tax refunds and food stamps, and all the other government services we take for granted.
Another danger for Democrats is that the same polls that show Republicans are being blamed for the shutdown, are also showing an increase in public support for Trump’s wall. Note this from the first poll above:
While more voters oppose construction of a border wall in the poll than support it, 47 percent to 44 percent, the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows slightly less opposition to the wall than other public surveys conducted before the shutdown. In a pre-shutdown Quinnipiac University poll last December, 54 percent of voters opposed a border wall, while 43 percent of voters favored one — the greatest level of support for the wall since Quinnipiac began asking about a wall in 2016.
Of course, that same poll says, “Just 12 percent say the U.S. faces neither a crisis nor a problem at the border.”
As it is, GOP Senators are beginning to feel the heat.
Two of the most vulnerable Republicans on the ballot next year, Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine, have already broken with Trump and called for the government to reopen even without an agreement on the border wall. Other Republican senators haven’t gone there yet but are growing increasingly frustrated by the impasse.
“It hurts all of us and everybody that’s looking from the outside. They’re like: What is wrong with you? Why can’t you find a solution?” said Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, one of the Republicans up for reelection next year.
The problem for those GOP Senators is that McConnell is sitting on his hands. If he acted, there would be pressure on Democrats to pass the bill—especially those Democrats who are still from Trump states, as noted in a private meeting between Democratic Senators and Representatives.
“If I am getting comments and contact from my constituents expressing concern that the Democrats are not prioritizing security, then I think we can do better,” said freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.).
Spanberger, who represents a district won by President Donald Trump in 2016, spoke up at a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday morning to warn Democrats were losing the messaging war in her district and needed to be more clear about the kind of border security measures they support.
Anxiety is building on both sides. If the Senate can pass a bill, the pressure would be even greater on the House to negotiate on the wall, not the shutdown. Democrats would be screwed.
Don’t expect that to happen. Republicans ain’t that smart. Trump is too afraid of his base to budge, and McConnell is too hurt to do his job, even if he could become the hero of the fight.