By Robert A. Vella
Although the history of government shutdowns is very long in America, the current dynamics where Republicans attempt to use it as a weapon to force Democrats to acquiesce to their ideological demands is very recent (see: Shutdowns Are ‘All Games of Chicken.’ Here’s How They’ve Evolved.). This ploy emerged in the 1990s under Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who led a political movement which was antithetical to democratic governance. Let’s be clear, these ideologues are hostile to the very idea that a democratically elected government is empowered to enact the will of the people. That means they oppose federal regulations such as environmental protections and labor laws, social programs to ease poverty and improve public health, involvement in the education of children, taxation, and a whole host of other roles which are philosophically progressive. By 2016, this movement had also openly embraced xenophobic racism and it rallied behind the aggressive banner of Donald Trump.
Because Democrats and Independents are supportive of democratic governance, the shutdown ploy can only be effectively used by that faction of the Republican Party.
So, that is primarily what’s driving President Trump’s determination to shutdown the federal government. His border wall demand is simply a metaphor for his political base. Still, there’s more to Trump’s megalomania and it’s all about his insatiable yet fragile ego as well as his vain efforts to protect himself from criminal investigation and impeachment.
During a contentious meeting on Wednesday, Trump reportedly told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that he would “look foolish” if he reopened the government while the border wall funding was being negotiated. Obviously, Trump’s ego and political image are more important to him than the well-being of the country. However, the longer this shutdown lasts the more pain will be felt by the American people and the more angry they will become. In the coming weeks, food stamp assistance will be cutoff, income tax refunds won’t be dispersed, and three-quarters of a million federal employees won’t have any income. And, that’s just the beginning of the pain.
But, Trump’s motives aren’t limited to ego. White House aides reportedly believe that the government shutdown will distract the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives from investigating his administration, and that it might also impede federal criminal investigations of Trump associates and his family including the investigations under Special Counsel Robert Mueller.