Editorial: Please end it now
Editor’s note: Dan Davidson was unable to attend this week’s meeting of the Editorial Board and did not participate in the development of this position.
On June 21, 1788, our Founding Fathers ratified the United States Constitution, the bedrock upon which our republic was built and from which it has grown and thrived for the past 230 years.
The preamble to that document — which most of us were probably forced to memorize way back in seventh-grade — states, in part, that the words following it were being enshrined in our founding documents to “provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
If that is the standard, then our federal officials — each of whom swore an oath to “protect and defend” those words and the precepts underlying them — are failing us, and they’re failing us miserably.
As we write these words, the partial federal government shutdown has persisted for just over 26 days, making it the longest in U.S. history, and if we are to believe what our leaders are telling us, there is no end in sight.
As a consequence, 800,000 federal workers are going without their paychecks, national parks are shuttered, and a number of federal agencies — including the Internal Revenue Service, NASA, the Department of Labor, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration — are not being funded and will not be funded until Congress and President Donald Trump reach a budget agreement.
Most of us are very familiar with the point of contention: The president wants a $5.7 billion budget allocation to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a wall he says is the only way to effectively turn the tide of illegal immigration and stem the flow of dangerous narcotics across our southern border. The Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, on the other hand, insists funding such a wall would be an ineffectual waste of funds and argues instead that there are more sensible solutions to solve the border security problem. Consequently, they have vowed that the funding Trump wants will not be forthcoming.
In the Senate, meanwhile, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not call a vote on any legislation the president doesn’t support.
In effect, then, the president refuses to sign a bill that doesn’t include the $5.7 billion he wants for the wall, House Democrats refuse to advance any bill that includes the $5.7 billion, and the Senate has essentially taken a knee on the sidelines and is waiting to see how this whole miserable mess plays out.
Our purpose here is not to debate the merits of a border wall, nor is it to minimize this nation’s problems with respect to border security. The problems are real, and it may be that a wall is the best way to address them.
But the shutdown, now about to enter it’s fifth week, is doing nothing to solve those problems; on the contrary, it is exacerbating them, while simultaneously dumping a host of new problems into to the mix.
Make no mistake: This is not effective governance, it is not good for America, and it is not the way our government is supposed to work.
We’re not assigning the blame to the president, nor are we foisting it upon House Democrats; we think both are equally culpable, and we suspect the whole pretext of a disagreement over border wall funding — while perhaps valid in the beginning — has become nothing more than an excuse to deliver yet another whack to the ideological wedge that’s splitting our union like a dry log. At this point, it’s nothing more than politics and the paralyzing fear on both sides that, to give in — even an inch — might be perceived as some kind of loss.
Meanwhile, the real losers are those who really don’t have a dog in the fight they’re paying for. They’re the people who are desperately shuffling their finances to make their mortgages while they’re furloughed from their jobs. They’re the economically disadvantaged who depend on SNAP benefits to feed their children. And perhaps most ironically, they’re the employees who continue working to “provide for the common defense” and “promote the general welfare,” while their own personal welfares become more and more in doubt.
These are not anonymous anecdotes from hundreds of miles away; they’re human beings, and many of them are our friends and our neighbors.
It’s time for this to end, and it will only end when both sides agree to do what’s necessary to end it. That will mean talking to each other, discussing compromises, and maybe — perish the thought — actually working together for the good of the nation.
We are not so presumptuous as to think anyone with the power to turn this shameful page in our collective history will ever read our plea or heed it even if they did.
But we make it nonetheless.
This counter-productive shutdown is the very definition of dysfunction, and it’s causing incalculable harm to the people you swore to protect and serve.
Please end it now.