Whether you liked him or not, or voted for him or not, Donald Trump won the election in 2016, in part, with a promise to shake up the way Washington, DC works. But, one year to the day of his inauguration, the federal government was shut down in the most Washington way possible: nine members who held the budget hostage for an unrelated social issue.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
While Senate Democrats eventually blinked Monday afternoon, we had this 72-hour firestorm of a blame game that sounded more like little kids tattling on the playground than it did the leaders of our republic.
More than this single spat, though, is a reminder of just how broken things are. Draining the swamp hasn’t drained much of anything except bring New York swamp creatures to live among the existing creatures in DC. If anything, the swamp is getting more crowded.
Again, whether you like President Trump or not, (disclosure: I was/am a #nevertrump Republican) you can see there was is clear interest for him in settling the DACA situation. But, seemingly, as soon as the President makes a statement that shows heart regarding these young people, he quickly gets dragged back to his original Breitbart-style talking points by an obscure staffer named Stephen Miller. How a 32-year-old has that kind of control over the President of the United States is troubling, to say the least.
The hope is now that government has stepped back from the ledge again for a few weeks, Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and their Democrat counterparts, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, can find a reasonable deal on the so called “Dreamers.” Most conservative Republicans will even tell you this issue needs to be addressed. These people were often brought to the United States as young children who made no choice whether or not to break the law. They may just have to lock Stephen Miller in the Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue to make it happen.
If there is any winner out of the one-business-day shutdown, other than thousands of federal employees who got an extra day off, is surely House Speaker Paul Ryan. Not only did he hold his conference together to pass a funding bill, a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and to put immigration on the table in the coming weeks. That’s not simply herding cats, that’s getting 218 cats to learn how to tango in 20 minutes.
If we really want the federal government to look and act the way it does, it’s going to require new, common sense leaders. Each party has been sending firebrands from the near-fringe (think Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz) while thoughtful, moderate legislators like Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, and Mary Landrieu get shown the door. Its why members of each party who don’t find Breitbart of DailyKos to be reputable news sources need to start building up parties from the ground up. Be a precinct committeeman, run for your city council or county board, encourage smart, thoughtful friends to do the same. Those people become the bench for state legislative seats which become the bench for seats in Congress.
We, not the nutjobs on the fringe, need to take control. That’s the real way to drain the swamp.
Patrick Pfingsten is an award-winning journalist, political consultant, and PR expert. You can find him on Twitter @pfingsten1 or email him at email@example.com.