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The Big Picture

David Brooks recently wrote a provocative column titled, “Democrats Go for the Jugular! (Their Own). ” He pointed out that, historically, every attempt to use the shutting down of government  as a vehicle for gaining acquiescence on an issue has failed—leading to greater unpopularity of the party that uses the strategy. Americans don’t think it’s fair and, by its very nature, it can’t work. Eventually it makes the party doing it look as if they are trying to hold the whole country hostage to their own agenda.

Just as importantly, Brooks pointed out that focusing on DACA as the issue on which to draw a line in the sand was self-defeating for two reasons: DACA was never going to be a direct part of the budget reconciliation bill anyway, and it makes the subject of identity politics, divisive as it is, remain front and center in the debate between both the Democratic and Republican parties. As Brooks points out, some Democratic progressive leaders, such as Kamala Harris were furious that Chuck Schumer “caved in” without a stronger commitment on DACA from the Republicans. So keep the government shut down longer? Another shot in the foot.

Extension of DACA and a path to citizenship for Dreamers is supported by a majority of Americans. Making that absolutely clear in the congressional debates when the bill comes up is the way to pressure Republicans into supporting it—after all, their voters support it. Making DACA a point of division and the property of only one party may satisfy Republican haters, but it won’t get a bill passed. There are plenty of other issues in immigration reform that will show the differing points of view of the two parties.

What Brooks’ column brings up, and something the Democrats need to address, is that if identity issues are the central issues in a Democratic campaign that tries to unseat Republican control of Congress and eventually the presidency, they are going to satisfy only the more extreme of the progressive wing of the party and not address issues important to the considerable number of Independents and disgruntled Republicans who are fed up with Trump and Trumpism  and whose votes Democrats will need  in order to get rid of Republican control.

The current Republican led government has de-regulated environmental protections, financial sector protection for the public, and health-care protections via Trump appointments and executive orders. Nearly every one of these de-regulation actions presents a clear and present danger to our country. Our immigration policy has been hijacked to meet racist and business-oriented goals, creating a picture of America as selfish and greedy to the rest of the world. Our foreign policy is frankly incoherent and dangerous and no longer pays any attention to human rights issues. Government pull-back from scientific achievement and addressing climate change is clearly destructive toward our long-term survival and leadership in the world, and our trade policy is short-sighted and one that will hurt us in the international marketplace in the long run.

All of the above are real issues. So are discriminatory police practices, hunger, poverty and increasing economic disparity within our country. These latter issues adversely affect Black and Brown Americans more than others. These need to be addressed too. A vibrant and effective Democratic Party will strive to reverse the directions that the present administration, with the votes and blessings of the rest of the Republican Party, have taken. Democrats need to focus on this big picture and address it with a comprehensive plan instead of hinging their entire efforts on attaining Pyrrhic victories on identity issues. 

Reader Comments (2)

I don't have the time to address all of these concerns thoroughly, but in short order:

You assessment of the impact of deregulation is rhetorical.
Your concept that new immigration policies are racist is unproven. If you're referring to the "shithole" comments, it's a tough truth, but not racist. Most of the world is a human shithole as is a fair portion of this country.
It's irrelevant how you think we appear to the rest of the world. People still want to come here by the tens of millions.
Pseudo-scientific predictions of doom have been proven wrong innumerable times in human history. Goodness, the summer Arctic sea ice was supposed to be gone years ago. Even so, climate change has always been a tremendous benefit to humanity. Admittedly, some individual humans will suffer in the transition.
Economic disparity is a wonderful thing. It means we all have the chance to attain something more than a governmentally predetermined outcome.
There are no discriminatory, systemic police practices in general operation. People are arrested and imprisoned on par with their committance of crime.
If you want black and brown Americans to have more economic opportunity, we need to keep out non-Americans.
If you want a country where you've given your individual power to the government and allow these fools to regulate your independent thought and action out of existence, keep voting for "progressive" candidates and their vicious ideas. We'll be entering a quasi-dark age in a couple of generations festooned with the banners of neo-Marxist ideologues.

January 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

Casey, I agree with you and David Brooks: shutting down the government is a losing strategy. Too many citizens are impacted unfairly. As much as I empathize with DACA recipients, shutting down the government was not going to achieve justice for them. As Schumer said last night on Rachel Maddow's show, he took the best deal he could get. McConnell moved -- a little -- and Schumer had to take it.

My heroes in this episode are the senators who got together in Susan Collins's office and worked out a compromise. I want MY senators in that room with the famous "talking stick." I'm disappointed they were not there. The leaders in the House and Senate need to stop playing to the "base" at the far right or far left. Polls show that the American people want investment in infrastructure, comprehensive immigration reform, healthcare solutions that make sense and cover most if not all Americans. That's a brief list. There are many more issues.

At present the far right holds the Republicans hostage. Increasingly, the far left is taking hold of the Democrats. The result is gridlock. The peoples' business doesn't get done. Witness the lack of an approved budget.

One more thought: If Democrats think they can prevail in the coming election cycles just by NOT being Trump, they are mistaken. Trump won the key swing states because he had an answer: "I'm bringing your jobs back." That isn't likely to happen. The mining, refining, and manufacturing jobs that left are not coming back. The point is: Trump had an answer. The Democrats did not. They still don't. And if the economy stays strong and/or continues to improve, Trump will win again.

January 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterC.W. Spooner

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