If the government shutdowns of past were a model in crisis to go by, Congress, amidst and debatably owing to public furore, would be rushing through the corridors at the Capitol Hill, working towards a bipartisan bill trying to salvage America’s unwavering belief in democracy. Though reportedly, Nancy Pelosi is stated to have been present in her office over the weekend, discordancy of an unprecedented nature at the very heart of the American legislative structure has rendered the current ‘partial’ government shutdown, the longest of its kind.
The Democrats and notable Congressional representatives from the Republican Party have offered bipartisan legislative ventures into the opening of some government departments, only to find themselves blocked against ‘The Wall’; Donald Trump’s Wall, symbolic both of a promise made on the election campaign as well as the President’s incorrigible intransigence for a political compromise.
At the time of writing of the article, the government shutdown into its 24th day has begun to claim political victims across the board. Donald Trump, refusing to budge from his demand of $5.7 billion finds himself confronted by a surging Democratic Party and an increasing number of Americans pointing fingers at the President for the prolonged shutdown. A HuffPost/YouGov poll claims 57 and a CNN poll states 55 per cent of Americans holding Donald Trump directly or partly responsible for the shutdown. Despite their liberal leanings and provenance, which do matter in a bitterly polarized America, the polls are indeed representative of the mood the shutdown has been received with.
An image of Pelosi standing alongside Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell as Congress announced its intent to step in to rectify markets and salvage the American economy post the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers is one that reflects her longstanding role as the chief policymaker for the Democrats in the House.fv
The shutdown has become all the more unreasonable given that the government agency responsible for enforcing border security and by proxy a border wall if it ever comes to that, the Department of Homeland Security is one of those most affected by the shutdown. Employees of departments inclusive but not exclusive to Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Treasury, Transportation and the Internal Revenue Service have been furloughed or required to work without pay based on the nature of their work. Though Congress has, on a bipartisan level, consented to the provision of back pay to those having to live without their salaries since the start of the month, it does not point towards a compromise towards how to end the government shutdown.
For a better part of this century, Nancy Pelosi has been the face of the Democratic Party in the House. More than a mere figurehead, she serves as the bridge between the moderates and those on the left in her party. All the more so, she has been at the head of her party responding to crises and proposing measures to confront them. An image of Pelosi standing alongside Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell as Congress announced its intent to step in to rectify markets and salvage the American economy post the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers is one that reflects her longstanding role as the chief policymaker for the Democrats in the House.
However, the dynamics of electoral politics, governance and mass outreach have evolved quite significantly the last time Pelosi served as the Speaker of the House. Trump’s ascendancy to the highest office in the country at a time when the Republicans were in control of the Congress, pushed Pelosi and her Democratic counterpart in the Senate Chuck Schumer to play second fiddle. The midterms however, have pitted the two parties against the other on more equal grounds than before which meant that a showdown between Pelosi and Trump was only inevitable. That showdown is at the centre of the debate around the government shutdown with either Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi willing to concede ground to the opposing party.
The shutdown, in context to the American elections late next year, has a much wider role to play in defining each party’s narrative; a narrative beginning to form as politicians begin to announce their candidature. Nancy Pelosi might have regained her position at the top but she had to do so after fending off intra party concerns among a reinvigorated Democratic Caucus shifting its focus more towards the younger demographic. Freshly inducted Democratic members in the house, the likes of which Alexandria Ocasio Cortez have come to symbolize, do represent the party’s outreach to the younger population but so at the cost of moving towards the left. For now, Cortez would do well to not become the bête noire of her own party though a more ardent observer would base her rise to political fame on her criticism of the Washington establishment; the Republicans and the Democrats. Not to alienate new appointees will not require whipping them in line but would require altering of the central party narrative to cater to the, ‘most diverse Democratic Caucus.’ Pelosi does have her work cut out for her; party alignment being the primary goal.
Mitch McConnell’s unwillingness to bring any bill that would eventually not be powered by presidential consent is a tactic that Republicans will look to hold onto, until at least, Donald Trump’s stature in reference to the presidential elections next year becomes clearer.
The Republican establishment, in a bid to hold on to executive power in addition to Senate and gubernatorial offices is holding firm onto Donald Trump’s narrative. Mitch McConnell’s unwillingness to bring any bill that would eventually not be powered by presidential consent is a tactic that Republicans will look to hold onto, until at least, Donald Trump’s stature in reference to the presidential elections next year becomes clearer.
The presidential elections scheduled for November 2020 promise to make more headlines, both across C-SPAN and TMZ; the latter, unsurprisingly, emblematic of the changing nature of mainstream political outreach. The Democrats find themselves in as good a position as any to take the White House back. The Democratic National Committee is yet to stake its claim of the plethora of Democratic candidates that have announced or hinted a run for the presidential office. The task will be more arduous than it appears on paper for the party is yet to decide the narrative most fitting for a candidate to challenge Donald Trump at the polls. Candidates both moderate and on the left, seasoned and novices and those belonging to an ethnic minority have declared their intentions to run.
If Donald Trump’s stance on the current deadlock is an example to base a counter approach on, the Democrats will need to come up with equally stringent policy approaches, not dissimilar to Pelosi’s approach to the deadlock. The government shutdown owing to the wall will be resolved in the coming future for the political careers depend on its resolution but it will set the tone for a Congressional and Executive rivalry that is bound to create more differences than resolve them. Such differences will play their part in the Presidential elections to be held next year. In the meantime, all the 800,000 federal employees affected by the shutdown can hope for, is a political resolution that transcends partisanship, at least temporarily.
is an M-Phil graduate of International Relations with minors in political economy from National Defense University. His areas of research include Foreign and Domestic European Affairs. He is currently working as a Research Associate at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research.