It was as predictable as it was sad. After 69 hours of defiance, the Democrats voted to reopen the US government late Monday. They blinked. They caved. They choked (insert appropriate sports-related metaphor here). And what did they receive in return? Republican "assurances" that the Senate would have a clean vote on "Dreamers", the roughly 700,000 young people were brought to the United States illegally as children, mainly from Mexico and Central America.
From Mitch McConnell no less. The man who, as Senate Majority Leader, held out the entire final year of Obama's term as president and denied him his Supreme Court pick. One could say that McConnell's words are worth less than the paper they are printed on, but Democrats didn't even get it in writing. All they have is a good old verbal assurance. Yeah, good luck with that.
Remember, this was a mess of Donald Trump's own making. After all, former president Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, programme gave the Dreamers legal protections and shielded them from deportation. Trump, through last year's DACA order, rescinded those protections, created an uncertain future for these young children and demanded that Congress fix it.
As comedian Bill Maher puts it, the Democrats have a bad habit of bringing a knife to a gunfight. Here, they had a proverbial cannon at their disposal. Reuters/Ipsos polling data released on Monday showed Americans deeply conflicted about the immigration issue, although majorities in both parties supported the DACA program.
And the Democrats had a Trump card: The Republicans control The White House and both Houses of Congress. The American people don't really pay attention to the details. If something goes wrong, they simply blame the party in power and vote them out. And the shutdown would have undercut Donald Trump's self-proclaimed image as a dealmaker who could fix a broken Washington. It's utterly perplexing.
Liberal activists, were understandably, apoplectic. "Today’s cave by Senate Democrats — led by weak-kneed, right-of-centre Democrats — is why people don’t believe the Democratic Party stands for anything," said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
Immigration activists were no less harsh about the deal reached by the Democratic leadership. Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream, said the members of the group were "outraged." She added that senators who voted Monday in favour of the deal "are not resisting Trump, they are enablers." Other groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union expressed disappointment and shared similar criticism.
Jovan Rodriguez of Brooklyn, New York, a Dreamer whose family came from Mexico when he was three years old and ultimately settled in Texas, the latest development was more of the same. "Why do we have to wait - again? It’s like our lives are suspended in limbo,“ he said. And they have been for months. I don’t trust the Republicans and I don’t trust McConnell with just a promise. That’s not good enough any more.”
The White House downplayed McConnell's commitment and said Democrats caved under pressure. "They blinked," principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told CNN. In a statement, Trump said he's open to immigration deal only if it is "good for our country."
But all isn't lost
But there is a silver lining. This is essentially a band-aid over a tourniquet. Maya Kosoff, writing in Vanity Fair, pointed out that the Democrats haven't lost as much as people think. "While the party has to swallow the indignity of Republican celebrations for the next 24 hours, they still hold a critical point of leverage. The government will run out of funding again in just over two weeks, and this time, Democrats won’t have CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) hanging over their heads," Kosoff wrote.
"Instead of battling an uncertain messaging war with Republicans, who initially clobbered Democrats for not accepting CHIP as the cost of doing business, Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will have the upper hand: McConnell promised them a vote on DACA. If he fails to deliver, it will be Republicans, not Democrats, who look unreasonable," Kosoff added.
While this is true, the Democrats have a less than stellar track record for fighting for what they believe in: Gun control, Obamacare, gay marriage, NAFTA. In each instance, rather than leading the American people to their position, they instead waited for the American people to come around to their way of thinking. For many liberals hoping that the party will grow a spine and fight back against Donald Trump and the Republicans, the words of former president George W Bush come to mind: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, can't get fooled again.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jan 23, 2018 16:46:36 IST