The media consensus is in: The Democrats got their butt kicked.
Even liberal columnists are saying so.
Chuck Schumer overreached on the government shutdown, and he’s wound up with the worst of both worlds. Left-wing groups are furious with him for caving in, and he barely got anything from the Republicans in exchange for stopping the shutdown.
The headline on liberal New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg’s piece captures the sentiment: “Schumer Sells Out the Resistance.”
Talking Points Memo slapped this headline on an AP story, calling Schumer “The Face of Retreat” and saying he has become a “punching bag.”
That’s not how it looked during the countdown to the closure. The conventional wisdom heading into the shutdown was that President Trump and the Republicans would take the lion’s share of the blame because they control everything in Washington.
But the Senate Democratic leader thought that because the DACA program is popular, he could use a shutdown as leverage to win concessions and win plaudits from the party’s left-wing base.
What Schumer failed to anticipate was that the public didn’t think an immigration dispute was worth closing down much of the federal bureaucracy and furloughing millions of workers. It’s the same lesson that Republicans learned in 2013 when they shut down the government over an effort to repeal ObamaCare. In both cases, the minority party simply didn’t have the power to deliver.
Maybe that’s why Schumer yesterday said he was taking his part of the deal off the table, the Democrats voting for wall funding as part of a DACA compromise. That was part of his one-on-one offer to Trump when he thought they could avert a shutdown, but he now complains that the president and his staff kept shifting their position.
A look at the coverage in the New York Times is instructive. A news analysis by veteran Carl Hulse says that “over the weekend it became clear that using the shutdown to insist on protections for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants was a serious miscalculation. By abandoning the strategy on its third day, Democrats believe they limited whatever damage there may be and gave the public time to forget about the disruption before the crucial November election.”
And, he writes, “by supporting the government’s reopening, they provoked a surge of outrage from the party’s left as progressive activists and lawmakers assailed the deal as a capitulation based on a mere promise by Mr. McConnell, a longtime foe known for his obstruction of the Democratic agenda.
On the op-ed page, Michelle Goldberg writes that “it’s hard to overstate how disgusted many progressive leaders are.” She says that “political cowardice carries its own risk. It emboldens your enemies and disheartens your allies …
“Democrats reinforced their reputation for fecklessness. ‘Make no mistake: Schumer and Dems caved,’ tweeted Fox News’s Brit Hume. ‘What a political fiasco.’ It makes me sick to say it, but he’s right.”
I’m sure she doesn’t agree with Brit all that often.
The op-ed page also features moderate conservative David Brooks, who can’t stand Trump and is supportive of the dreamers. But he offers a checklist of all the things the Democrats did wrong:
“It’s not that people don’t like DACA. They do. It’s that they just don’t recognize themselves in a party that thinks it’s worth closing the government, destabilizing the economy and straining the military for it.”
Brooks mocks the party’s “superb messaging”: “We bravely shut down the government to save the Dreamers even though Donald Trump is responsible for shutting down the government …
“The problem was not that the leadership capitulated on Monday. It was that the Democrats talked themselves into this crazy position on Friday.”
And it’s the damning quotes from pro-immigrant groups that shows the pressure Schumer was under.
So it’s a rare media win for Trump, but the problem hasn’t gone away. The funding for the government will run out again soon and the impasse over the wall and the dreamers will be even harder to solve. One thing seems virtually certain: The Democrats won’t be playing the shutdown card again.