Dahleen Glanton: The government shutdown is over for now. But everyone lost in the process
In the end, everyone involved in bolstering the longest government shutdown in U.S. history lost.
Regardless of which side claimed victory for the short-term accord reached Friday, the entire episode boiled down to a futile exercise in one-upmanship, a petty power struggle between opposing ideologies that held our nation hostage for 35 days.
Though a temporary agreement will reopen the government for three weeks, the battle over border funding is far from over. If no permanent agreement is reached in the interim, our democracy likely will again be held for ransom.
We all heard President Donald Trump make the threat in the Rose Garden. If he doesn’t get $5.7 billion for his border wall, he’ll shut the government down next month. He indicated that he might go so far as to declare a national emergency if Democrats refuse to give in to his demands.
Regardless of how it plays out in Washington, when all is said and done, the American people will be held liable for this mess.
Most of us understand this ongoing war between Trump and the Democrats is about much more than a mere barrier of steel bollards or whether it should be called a wall or a fence. It is a test of who we are as Americans.
Trump is determined to push forward the separatist agenda that moved his ultraconservative base to form an impenetrable cocoon around him. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is following the orders of liberal supporters who entrusted Democrats to stop him at any cost.
With Trump at the helm, this is who we have become as a nation — two sides so bitterly opposed that we are willing to sacrifice the values on which our country was founded in order to get what we want. But is that who we want to be?
We look to our elected officials to figure out solutions. But in this divisive political climate, they cannot. Or they will not. Because we will not allow it.
As they battle it out in Washington, we egg them on from the sidelines, insisting that concession must never be an option. And when we finally come up for air, we are as bloody and damaged as they are, yet we push them back into the ring.
It is easy to place all the blame on Trump or Pelosi, depending on whose team we support. But it’s us — the American people — calling the shots in this bitter ideological war. The Constitution granted us that power. And we are the only ones who can call a truce.
In the upcoming weeks, as the political wrangling continues in Washington, we must ask ourselves some serious questions. How far are we willing to stretch the limits of our democracy before we have to worry about causing permanent damage? How much longer must we yell for our team to beat the other to a pulp before we realize that the fight can only end in a draw? And when will we recognize that the enemy is not the opposing view, but rather our inability to seek middle ground?
At this point, most of us simply want to see normalcy again. For many, that means a return to days when we trusted that our government was working for our best interests, though we might not have agreed with every decision. For some it means standing against whatever Trump stands for, even when it brings our government to a halt. For others, it means standing with the president, even when he causes great harm.
But for all of us, it means being able to declare ourselves the winner while deeming the other side the loser.
During the partial government shutdown, we closed our eyes to the damage being heaped upon our government. We were OK with looking away while federal employees worked without pay, flocked to food pantries and took second jobs to make ends meet. We were all too willing to render our government ineffective and put our nation’s prosperity in jeopardy — if that’s what it took for us to emerge as victors. In the end, all of us paid the price.
The shutdown proved our country is dysfunctional. It weakened us as a whole, and made us more vulnerable.
It was a competition that only served to make us angrier with one another and less willing to reach out to one side to join the other.
Most of all, it made a mockery of our system of government. And when it was over, everyone in America ended up on the losing side.