Donald Trump just put America through the longest federal government shutdown in history, single-handedly keeping over 800,000 federal workers from being paid for over a month, hobbling law enforcement agencies and airport security, blocking immigration proceedings, causing delays in airline flights across the country, forcing hundreds of thousands of people into having to make hard decisions between paying their mortgages, buying their medicine or feeding their kids.
In the end, neither Mr. Trump nor the country gained anything at all from this exercise, but we did learn some important lessons from it.
Here are a few things we found out:
- Donald Trump is not the skilled negotiator he’s made himself out to be. He got absolutely nothing in exchange for putting thumbscrews on the country for 35 agonizing days.
- Trump, his cabinet and family members are incredibly detached from how 99.9% of the people in this country live every day. On day 34 of the shutdown, Trump himself suggested that affected people could simply ask their grocery stores to provide them with free food, ask their banks for loans and ask their mortgage holders to go without payments during the shutdown, thinking it was all that simple. Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump (Eric’s wife), in a TV interview actually said of workers caught up in the misery of the shutdown, “It’s a little bit of a pain, but it’s going to be for the future of our country … It’s not fair to you and we all get that, but this is so much bigger than any one person.” Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, a multi-millionaire, told CNBC he “didn’t understand why federal workers were going to food banks” or “why furloughed federal workers faced a liquidity crisis when they could just take out a loan.” These comments indicate a complete detachment from the realities of working class life in America. If you voted for Trump thinking he represented “real people like us,” you were a fool.
- We found out the federal government is not just important, but crucial to the operation of the country. Many of us took for granted efficient
air traffic control, the presence of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at airports, stewardship and cleanliness of our national parks, food supply inspections, proper maintenance of commercial aircraft, IRS refunds going out, financial help for housing, and federal help that keeps agriculture afloat in this country. The federal government doesn’t have a PR company singing it’s praises every day, so we don’t think about these functions very often if at all, let alone their value to our everyday lives. Thanks to Trump’s shutdown stunt, though, we all got a wake-up call about how important the federal government is and what it does for us. Right wingers who portray yourselves as country-loving “patriots” take note: you really need to STOP bashing the federal government and recognize how important it is to our all of our safety, security and quality of life in this country. Have some respect for your federal government and stop bashing it all the time. It helps so many of us in so many ways.
- We found out the GOP simply can not govern. Two years under Republican rule has markedly increased divisiveness, racism and intolerance in the U.S. and ushered in an era of unprecedented uncertainty, chaos and turmoil since Trump took office. We’ve endured repeated and ever-longer government shutdowns, America reneging on it’s treaties, whiplash-inducing reversals in foreign and domestic policy positions, all of which are putting America in an unprecedented state of instability and disarray that is making our country less respected and more unsafe every day.
- We found out that Trump is a wonderful recruiting tool for Democrats. Every crazy thing Trump does to destabilize the country, threaten people’s livelihoods, alienate our allies, confuse America’s populace and put the country into more chaos, drives more people towards empowering Democrats and increasing their numbers in state and federal elected offices. Trump and Republican rule are teaching this country a hard lesson that will probably be with us all for a long time, or even permanently, after his presidency is over. That lesson is that the political left far better represents real people in this country and is a far better steward of our government than the political right, which exists to make wealthy people even wealthier at the expense of everyone else.
- Trump’s followers failed to realize that Trump’s wall and promises Mexico would pay for it were nothing but a joke — a laugh line — like the kind offered by a carnival barker who just wants to get people excited. Building a “beautiful concrete wall” along the southern border and having Mexico pay for it was NEVER possible under ANY scenario. Most Americans knew that right out of the gate, and we all laughed at it, albeit nervously, at Trump’s outrageous claims that he was going to build a massive wall. If you are one of the people who actually believed it, shame on you. The only responsible thing you can do now is admit it was a joke, and that you got seriously taken by someone the rest of us already knew had a longstanding reputation as a fraudster. After all, Trump and his family are known for promoting fraudulent get-rich-quick investment schemes to unsophisticated people who are struggling. Trump’s family foundation has been charged with engaging in self-dealing and other illegal activities. Trump has been sued multiple times for stiffing his workers, including employees and caterers, his chauffeur, his subcontractors, his dishwashers, painters, waiters and even his golf course architect. Did you really think he wouldn’t stiff you, too, Trump voters, if you bought into his promises?
We all learned a lot from Trump’s shutdown, but the bigger question is, did Trump learn anything from it?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the one person equally at fault for extending the shutdown to a full 35 days, is fond of saying, “There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.” We’ll see on February 15th if Donald Trump has learned anything at all, or if he kicks us all again for nothing.