Polman column: Five takeaways from the farcical Trump shutdown
It’s morning in America. Air traffic controllers will get paid again to ensure our safety. Food inspectors will get paid again to stop the spread of disease. And the economy will stop hemorrhaging money (the shutdown tab was $11 billion). Hopefully, this detestable episode — assuming it’s not repeated — will be viewed as just another Trumpian debacle.
Here are five quick takeaways, culled from the 35 days of needless pain:
There is a concept in the American system called “checks and balances”
How is it possible that Trump failed to process the message that voters sent last November? By a historic margin of nearly 10 million votes nationwide — the most massive repudiation ever suffered by a president in a midterm election — Americans awarded the House to the Democrats and told them to put a leash on Trump.
It’s clear by now that “The Art of the Deal” was just a book title concocted by his ghostwriter, because this guy can’t negotiate a parking ticket. Nancy Pelosi has proven that Trump is just as susceptible to the laws of political gravity as anyone else. Does he really think the next three weeks will melt Pelosi’s steel?
There is a limit to the public’s patience
For many Americans, especially those who rarely pay attention to politics, Trump has likely been viewed as a distant carnival act. But this time, he was hurting real people. His job approval rating, in the latest poll sponsored by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, is 34 percent. Another new national poll says that his job approval among women has dropped to 27 percent. And in the latest Quinnipiac poll, only 28 percent of independents endorsed shutting the government to finance a border wall.
If those trends continue — and it’s hard to foresee a reversal — many Republicans on the 2020 ballot may have to decide whether it serves their interests to follow him off the cliff. And speaking of Republicans…
There is even a limit to the Senate Republicans’ servility
At any time over the past month, Mitch (“We are all behind the president”) McConnell could’ve pushed legislation to reopen the government and sought to rally a veto-proof majority. Instead, he indulged Trump’s intemperate and pernicious actions. As the old saying goes, if you lie down with a dog, you get up with fleas.
But in the end, even some Republican senators opted for flea medicine. Cory Gardner and Susan Collins (both of whom face tough re-elections in blue states), Lisa Murkowski, Ron Johnson (who reportedly yelled at McConnell, “This is your fault!”), Lamar Alexander (who’s retiring in 2020 anyway) and Mitt Romney all signaled their restiveness. If Trump threatens another shutdown in mid-February, perhaps other Republicans will join these slim ranks in rediscovering Article I of the Constitution, which entrusts Congress to “provide for…the general welfare of the United States.”
There are no limits to this regime’s ignorance about how average people live
A quick memo to Trump’s fervent rally-goers: He is nothing like you, and he has no clue. This is a guy who recently thought that people needed a photo ID to buy food. Then he said, during the worst of the shutdown, that his victims can simply go to the supermarket and work out a deal to buy food on credit.
When was the last time he bought food in a supermarket? (Likely, never.) Can you imagine going into Wegman’s, loading up on $300 worth of family food for the week, and saying, “Hey, I have no money, so can we just work along?”
There are no limits to his delusions
OK, we knew that already. But one particular lie — his riff about immigrant women being blindfolded with duct tape and driven across the wall-less border — is a veritable road map of his mind. There isn’t a shred of evidence that this happens, and nobody in his administration has the faintest idea what he’s talking about.
It all reminds me of the scene in “Citizen Kane” when Orson Welles’ blustering plutocrat was nailed by a political foe. Kane, pig-headed as always, vowed to fight on. But his foe said, “You’re making a bigger fool of yourself than I thought you would. If it was anybody else, I’d say that what’s going to happen to you would be a lesson to you. Only you’re going to need more than one lesson. And you’re going to get more than one lesson.”
Email Dick Polman at firstname.lastname@example.org.