Littwin: The shutdown was a political fiasco, but the real losers here are the Dreamers

Let’s get the non-alternative facts out of the way first. The Democrats caved in a major way. They got nothing of significance in return for abandoning the shutdown. If they were going to fold after a long weekend, they should never have voted to shut down the government in the first place. As political tactics go, the shutdown was a fiasco. As a message to the growing anti-Trump resistance, the cave-in was a disaster. Other than that, it was a pretty good day.

What I mean is, you can argue all you like that it was a Trump-inspired shutdown, because it was, but you still have to admit the ending was a Chuck Schumer shellacking. Democrats must be longing for the days of Harry Reid.

The worst part of the mini-shutdown is that Democrats gave hope to the Dreamers that a shutdown was going to lead to victory over Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Stephen Miller, John Kelly, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Steve King and Republican majorities in the House and Senate. That wasn’t going to happen in three days. It probably wasn’t going to happen in three months either — and I say that as someone who thought Democrats had to shut down to prove that they were willing to fight.

And now?

Let’s face it, even if McConnell is true to his word (and he didn’t promise much, so that should be easy) and the Senate somehow does pass a bill (meaning at least 11 Republicans have to sign on), there’s no guarantee or even a hint of a guarantee that the House would pass the Senate bill, or even take it up, or that, if it came to it, Donald Trump would sign it.

I wouldn’t be completely surprised if the Senate found a bill to pass, but you might remember that the Senate overwhelmingly passed bipartisan immigration reform in 2013, only to see the House pretend it never happened. This isn’t just a longshot. It’s a shot so long Steph Curry would be hesitant to try it.

The fact is, Schumer caved because 10 Democrats are defending seats in November in states that Trump won. Of course, the math was exactly the same on Friday and exactly nothing had changed. Republicans control the government. And we’re already hearing a lot from the White House on “amnesty” and “open borders” and then there was that weekend ad on Democratic “complicity” in crimes. A Trump spokesperson went on CNN to say the president would never sign the Gang of Six bipartisan compromise, although if aides craftily excised the Durbin-Graham names from the memo, he just might.

The one thing confirmed, for maybe the thousandth time, is that Trump has no idea what he wants on immigration, other than the wall. If Trump, the erstwhile dealmaker, can’t say what he’ll sign — that’s McConnell’s contention, by the way — how do you ever get to a bill? If Trump didn’t accept Schumer’s stunning offer to exchange DACA for building the wall, what will he accept?

But the point is not that Republicans won on points here, although they did, or that Democrats suffered a mild setback, which will probably be long forgetten by November. It’s finding a way forward. The only way to get the House to pass a bill would be for Trump — who, you’ll recall, needlessly ended the DACA program — to strongly support it and to do as he promised,  to take the heat for Republicans. OK, I can’t imagine that either. The clearest way forward is imagining Democrats winning back the House in November, which experts are calling a tossup.

At this point, there’s heat all over. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner both voted for cloture, which basically ended the shutdown. Both are members of the Gang of Six, which fashioned the compromise that Trump rejected. Cory Gardner’s vote was expected because he’s Cory Gardner. Bennet’s vote was, well, not exactly a surprise either, even though he had already made the tough vote for the shutdown.

When I talked to Bennet Monday afternoon — Gardner, you may remember, doesn’t return my calls — he said he understood why Dreamers would be upset. He was upset himself  — and, I’m guessing, not only by the now-obvious notion that Democrats, in the minority everywhere, had overpromised.

“Now we have to make the most of the opportunity that we have to get enough Democrats and Republicans together to produce a piece of legislation that can actually pass the Senate,” Bennet said. “We know the odds are not great.”

The odds are not great, and nothing that happened Monday changes that. Denver Dreamer Victor Galvan took to Facebook Live Monday afternoon to express his outrage and disappointment. At times near tears, he told those watching he wasn’t surprised by Gardner’s vote, but that he knocked on doors for Bennet in 2016 and he feels the senator “lied” to the Dreamers.

“You say you were going to side with us and then you don’t …” Galvan said in a message for Bennet. “You promised you were going to move the Dream Act forward and this was an opportunity to do that. Republicans were already blaming you for the shutdown. How much worse could it have gotten?”

It could have gotten worse. (See 10 Senate Democrats in Trump states above.) A prolonged shutdown could have jeopardized the already slim chances of Democrats retaking the Senate in 2018.

But is it time now to abandon hope? Well, not all hope. After all, polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support the Dreamers, who are, of course, complete innocents in this affair. What’s most discouraging is that the Dreamers are so much the easiest part of immigration reform and we can’t even get that passed.

The polls showed Americans blaming Republicans for the shutdown. But the polls also showed that Americans didn’t want to shut down the government for the Dreamers. That’s the basic rule of shutdowns. Those who vote to shut down the government nearly always lose. Ask Ted Cruz.

But don’t waste any tears on Democrats. The losers here are the 800,000 Dreamers who signed up for DACA— and how they’re losing, once again, through absolutely no fault of their own.

Photo by Senate Democrats via Flicker: Creative Commons


  1. I thought that was a well written article. Shutdowns are always political fiascos, but they can still be teachable moments.

    For instance…we now know that all the Trumpian “Art of the Deal” BS was just that. There is no ninth dimensional chess at play in the White House…besides that which is possibly being deployed to hide the next tee time from the press.

    We know that some of the front-runners for the Dem Nom are woefully short on spine, so much so that the condition seems to have robbed them of the ability to speak…Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren being the two standouts in this regard.

    We also found out that, as crazy as it sounds, Republicans really don’t have a plan to mitigate the damage their own policy positions have on their poll numbers. According to pollsters, they were predicted to, and have, weathered the lion’s share of the blame for the shutdown (again), and they are obviously oblivious.

    If I were a betting man, I’d say the bad bet is on the players who have no cards, or are incompetent with the ones they’ve received, and might instead bet on the players who were just too scared to play the decent hand dealt to them (again).

    Maybe I’m giving them too much credit, and where politicians are concerned, it’s practically an ubiquitous habit, but Republicans just showed their “tells” to the Dems at the table…let’s hope they were paying attention….and let’s hope the Republicans don’t put the oreos away.

  2. Elections have consequences.

    “Hiding news that doesn’t fit an ideological or a partisan agenda is perhaps the worst form of media bias. And it’s one more reason the public holds the press is such low esteem.” – Investor’s Business Daily

    “(Mr. Trump) won’t be president. He was sliding in the polls before the video, and the video now means that he has no way to climb back. Which independent voter, which suburban woman, which Main Street Republican on the fence is going to vote for Trump now?” – Mike Littwin

    Magical thinking: The belief that one’s own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world. It is common in very young children. – Radiotherapy


    Great column!

    Refreshingly, amazingly, stunningly, unbelievably honest and unbiased.

    But is it a one-off? Stay tuned.

    November 08, 2016

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Flags of Valor
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation

  3. If modern U.S. elections actually had consequences, then the majority of voters should have had their candidate take office, rather than the vast minority that we see in charge now.

    There is a reason why Trump lost the popular vote…which of course is now apparent. Imagine what the world would look like if all countries allowed the losers of national votes to be in charge instead of the politicians with the most ballots.

    I guess if that practice was more common, instead of just taking place in the US and some authoritarian regimes, we’d have fewer reasons to hang or head in shame in Davos.

    After W, I really thought the majority of voters would reject the notion of putting the amateurs back in charge…wait a minute…they did.

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