I talked with a relative the other night who is upset over the partial government shutdown. He is a private businessman, but his occupation requires him to deal frequently with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Sorry, they are not open, so this person has to change his business plan significantly. He hopes the shutdown will end soon, but he said in exasperation, “They’re talking about years now!”
It’s highly unlikely that the partial shutdown will last for years, but this businessman is deeply disturbed by two things—the unknown of when the shutdown will end and the frustration over the inability of Washington to compromise.
Every human being understands compromise because it is an essential element of life. Without it, every transaction and every social relationship would grind to an angry halt.
Yes, we know what President Trump, the Republicans and Democratic leaders say about the controversy and the positions they have staked out. Each is responding to its base, and it is reasonable to argue they are simply carrying out the wishes of their constituents.
However, at what price? This is a political game of chicken, and the way to win that game is to make the other side swerve first. But if neither side swerves then both sides lose.
Let’s say the shutdown continues for months with neither side blinking. An increasing number of average Americans, like my businessman relative, will join the pox-on-both-their-houses camp, and why shouldn’t they?
The issue to the entrenched sides is the border wall, but that’s more of a metaphor for the larger differences between Washington’s policy makers that contribute to intransigence and dysfunction. It’s like when a married couple has a bitter fight over who should take out the trash. We know the real issue is much deeper.
That’s what is most troubling about this mess. If it weren’t the wall, the two sides would be locked in mutually assured destruction over something else. The real wall already exists, and it’s Washington separating the two parties.