After 35 days, the longest government shutdown in American history has ended with Donald Trump caving in. In a sudden reversal, the president promised to support re-opening the government for a few weeks without funding for his wall – basically what Democrats had been offering him since the very beginning.
Pressure had been mounting on Trump and other GOP leaders to open the government. Polls consistently showed Americans blamed Trump over the Democrats for the shutdown, and the president’s approval rating had hit an all-time low. The White House’s efforts to shift blame on the Democrats fell flat due to the president’s own comments publicly accepting blame for an impending shutdown in a televised meeting with Democratic leaders.
Meanwhile, Trump and his allies kept handing Democrats wins with a steady stream of ignorant, out-of-touch comments. “Please stay strong,” pleaded the president’s daughter-in-law Laura Trump. “We appreciate everything that you’re sacrificing.” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow claimed workers were showing up out of allegiance to President Trump (many were required to keep working). Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross mused why workers were going to food pantries when they could just take out loans. In an attempt to clarify Ross’ comments, the President said workers could work out some sort of deal with their grocery store.
It was another victory for Nancy Pelosi, who kept Democrats united against funding for the wall even as the pressure mounted to give in, but it could not have been possible without the help of organized labor. Flights halted at Laguardia as air traffic controllers called in sick en masse, and delays soon piled up around the country. “Do we have your attention now, Leader McConnell? All lawmakers?” read a statement by Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. “Open the government and then get back to the business of democracy to discuss whatever issue you so choose. This shutdown must end immediately.”
Within hours, President Trump was at a podium waving the white flag. Though he couldn’t get any wall funding, failing to secure a longstanding campaign promise, the president was still preparing for a fight. “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15 again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency,” he said.
However, conservative media isn’t buying it. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter tweeted Trump the “biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.” Conservative commentator Lou Dobbs blasted reopening the government on his Fox News show. “Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and the radical Dems were taking victory laps within minutes of the President’s eighteen-minute announcement,” he exclaimed. “Illegal immigrants are surely pleased at the prospect they may soon jump to the front of the line.” They and other right-wing figures are pushing Trump to take be more combative.
With yet another self-imposed shutdown deadline on the horizon, the two sides are unlikely to come to an agreement with wall funding remaining a sticking point. Already-struggling workers may face yet more financial insecurity. While Democrats should celebrate this early battle victory, they must be ready for the war ahead.