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Who’s Responsible for the Government Shutdown?

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

At 12:01 AM, on the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration, the government shut down. The Senate proved unable to pass a budget plan for the upcoming year, so all “nonessential” governmental operations have ceased. Now, politicians are delivering scathing speeches, releasing ruthless attack ads, and tweeting ferociously to ascribe blame to various groups and people for the shutdown. Here are some of the most compelling suspects.

Suspect #1: Senate Democrats

THE EVIDENCE: Certainly receiving the most blame from the executive office, the Senate Democrats assembled the necessary votes to prevent the budget plan that passed through the House from becoming law. Republicans argue, therefore, that they blocked the only viable spending plan from becoming law and, thus, are naturally the cause of the shutdown. Democrats, on the other hand, point out that the House bill failed to provide a solution for the DACA kids (dubbed “Dreamers”). Senate Democrats have long held the position that they would reject any bill that fails to negotiate a solution for the Dreamers. Although the bill does continue to fund CHIP, another essential Democratic program that provides American children with healthcare, Democrats still largely rejected the budget.  To their credit, Democrats have been very open to bipartisan negotiations, earning praise from several Republican Senators, such as Senator Jeff Flake.

THE ACCUSERS: President Trump and Congressional Republicans.

VERDICT: The Democrats have been abundantly clear about their positions and are willing to negotiate. Furthermore, they hold a minority in both chambers of Congress, so it seems very hard to pin all of the blame on them. They demand that American children have a right to healthcare and Dreamers are able to continue positively contributing to American society.

Suspect #2: Senate Republicans

THE EVIDENCE: Since Republicans have a majority in both the House and Senate, many expect them to keep the government functioning. The failure to pass a budget bill certainly demonstrates a poor ability to lead and continues their struggle to pass legislation, despite their majorities. In fact, multiple Republicans voted against the Mitch McConnell-endorsed spending bill. Democrats accused them of using CHIP and DACA children as political hostages by pinning them against each other, reducing them to political bargaining chips. Judging from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s recent tweet, it’s hard to blame them.

THE ACCUSERS: Democrats and most Americans.

THE VERDICT: Yes, the Senate Republicans are largely to blame for the government shutdown. Exploiting the lives of Dreamers and threatening the status of CHIP to force a government shutdown was a machiavellian political move to avoid the looming 2018 bloodbath. Many Republicans rejected negotiations with willing Democratic senators. However, they should not receive all of the blame, which leads us to suspect #3.

Suspect #3: President Donald Trump

THE EVIDENCE: Author of The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump has seemingly lost his former dealmaking prowess. After one year in office (with majorities in both chambers of Congress), Trump has narrowly passed one major piece of legislation: tax reform. One might assume that a slow legislative year suggests that the President also spent most of the year under the radar. One would be wrong; the president’s chaotic first year was fittingly capped with a government shutdown. And no one lays out a stronger case against the president than … President Trump himself.

THE ACCUSERS: Democrats, most Americans, and President Trump(?)

THE VERDICT: As Donald Trump once said, “The President has to lead.” He should take his own advice.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.



A Call for Civil Discourse

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

The turbulent 2016 campaign and election seemed to mark the apex of post-Vietnam political polarization in America. Fox News, Breitbart, and Info Wars perpetuated outlandish conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton (the story that claimed she was running a child sex ring particularly stands out), while the left frequently generalized all Trump supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic deplorables. Presidential Debates, once policy-driven ideological battles, became a cringeworthy competition between the candidates to deliver the most viral soundbytes as possible.* Social media, more prominent in the 2016 election than ever before, perpetuated fake news stories that further enraged voters from both parties. Understandably, these unprecedented occurrences did little to unify an already polarized nation. Rather, they contributed to the rise of tribal politics, a culture of party-line politics with little or no attempts to understand the viewpoints of opposing ideologies. For our country to effectively pass legislation again, this party before principle brand of politics must change.

The current climate in Washington provides no hope for addressing the magnitude of complex issues facing our country. As it now stands, whichever party holds a majority in congress tries to ram legislation through congress, frequently without mere deliberation with the minority party. Then, when the other party gains a majority, the new reining power tries to repeal all of the legislation of the preceding party and force its own legislation through congress. This is not how a functioning democracy should work. Issues that will outlive every member of the current congress (global warming, terrorism, nuclear proliferation) must be addressed without the petty partisanship of today. It’s time for both parties in congress to understand that the only way to implement successful long-term policies is to work with opposing parties on creating thoughtful compromises that better the lives of Americans.  The same goes for voters.

Many Americans now live in a bubble of partisanship — their friends, families, news sources, and religious institutions (also known as their “tribe”) all share the same politics. Ranging from the Evangelical Fox News viewer to the millennial Huffington Post reader, Americans live in a political echochamber where their opinions are often affirmed, reiterated, and validated, though never challenged. Voters and politicians must instead strive to seek out civil discourse. Thoughtful civil discourse challenges the viability of a political viewpoint, often identifying its flaws. It forces people to examine the logic behind their own opinions and can illuminate new ways of thinking. Unlike the overtly partisan politics of today, civil discourse inspires authentic political engagement that yields durable legislation.

*Quotes from the 2016 Presidential Campaigns
“Such a nasty woman.” — Donald Trump
“Just chillin’ in Cedar Rapids.” — Hillary Clinton
“I never attacked [Rand Paul] on his looks, and, believe me, there is plenty of subject matter right there.” — Donald Trump
Pokemon Go to the Polls.” — Hillary Clinton
“And — he referred to my hands — if they’re small, something else is small. I guarantee you there’s no problem. ” — Donald Trump
“Dab… I like that.” — Hillary Clinton
“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” — Donald Trump
Product of Errant Publishing Co.
Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
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