Joshua Heath | About That Editorial from The Signal…

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

The Signal’s Jan. 25th editorial regarding the government shutdown tortured the truth to the point where that humble old companion must be crippled beyond recognition, in a wheelchair with one leg and a bandage prominently stretched across her forehead. 

Though it appears the larger crisis has ended, with President Trump recently accepting a three-week reopening of the government, revisiting the paper’s words can help shed light on the true cause of it all. 

In short the piece said that Democrats were to blame for federal employees going without income this winter, since they twice refused a GOP proposal that would pay those workers but keep the government closed. The Republicans wanted to have it both ways — close our institutions, but also ensure the folks affected still received their checks — and liberals said no. 

Democrats’ refusal of this legislation showed they were playing partisan games, didn’t care about the federal workers, and actually wanted to prolong their suffering as a way of hurting President Trump politically, the editorial went on to say.

The twisted logic at work here is clear to see. Let’s start with some basic facts. First, consider that in 2017, the Department of Homeland Security hailed the agency’s success in achieving “the lowest level of illegal cross-border migration on record.” In other words, the flow of undocumented folks coming into the United States through Mexico has gone from a flood to a trickle. And officials saw only a modest increase in their numbers the year after.

Now can one argue that any illegal immigration is troubling and worth taking action against? Sure. There are solutions that exist to improve the situation even further.

But the President’s approach — blow the issue out of proportion, bypass Congress and shut down the government in order to build a costly wall that clearly isn’t needed — is simply beyond the pale. During the last election, Trump ran on his immigration vision, centered around a physical barrier on the southern border and voters rejected that strategy when they gave Democrats control of Congress. 

The president, instead of recognizing this, instead betrayed the will of the people by shutting down our institutions in order to achieve a project folks don’t want. That’s authoritarianism, it’s un-American, and not something that can ever be treated as normal. Contrary to what The Signal argues, Trump, not the left, was playing the worst, most craven kind of politics.

Imagine if Barack Obama pulled a similar stunt after Republicans took back the House in 2010, and refused to sign a budget unless the GOP gave him one of his major policy wishes, like an assault weapons ban. Every conservative in America would have said he had turned into a mad king — did he not see what happened during the election?! — and they would have been right. 

House Democrats were right to refuse to negotiate an inch. The only acceptable way forward, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, was to fully reopen the government and the White House could then negotiate with legislators over border security in a normal fashion. That’s the deal Republicans eventually accepted.

There could be no compromise, like giving the president wall funding in exchange for new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections. Nor could Democrats accept the GOP proposal to pay federal employees while keeping the government closed, as that would only give Trump incentive to prolong his dictatorial power play. The tactics being employed by the White House were illegitimate and went against everything our country stands for; they had to be opposed absolutely.

In 1860, President Abraham Lincoln rejected awarding the South’s new pro-slavery legislation in return for those states staying in the Union. His reasoning was simple: That region had just lost an election. If they could suffer defeat but get their preferred policies anyway by threatening to secede from the nation, our democracy would never recover. In the future, angry political losers would simply play the same gambit, and in the process destroy the entire notion of a government run by a popular majority.

Likewise, if Pelosi had caved to Trump, and thereby established the norm that the president could get his way by bringing government to its knees — even after losing a landslide election — American society would have been uniquely threatened.

Only a goofball could hold Lincoln liable for the carnage that arose during the Civil War, 750,000 deaths in total, because he refused to negotiate with the South. It is just as odd for The Signal to blame the pain endured by federal workers on Democratic resistance to Trump’s authoritarianism. 

When a group of fanatics threaten our government, be they yesterday’s confederates or the president and his allies, the suffering that comes as a result is their fault and no one else’s. They set the fire to our shared home. The cries of whoever gets burned on the inside rest on their shoulders.

Joshua Heath is a Valencia resident and a political science student at UCLA. He has served two terms as a delegate to the California Democratic Party. Democratic Voices runs every Tuesday in The Signal and rotates among several local Democrats. 

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