December 2017. The Republican-controlled Congress passed a major tax cut. January 20, 2018, exactly one year after Donald Trump became president, the Democrats, finally gaining leverage because of the need for 60 votes to pass a budget bill in the Senate, stonewalled over DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and the federal government shut down for three days.
Democrats demanded compassion for children of illegal immigrants who crossed into the United States and brought their children with them. Far-right conservatives wanted tougher controls on our border with Mexico. Security is their concern. The president demanded that Democrats agree to build his wall and refused to compromise until a temporary budget bill was passed.
So, which is more important for the nation, compassion or security?
Whatever the outcome of this continuing impasse, the real underlying issue for both sides is winning the Congressional elections in November.
Both sides have placed their bets on what will sway their base: continued conservative control of Congress or a major sweep where Democrats win dominance in the House and possibly the Senate, too.
Both the tax cut and the demand to settle the DACA dilemma are high-risk gambles.
The Republican bet is that cutting taxes will boost the economy in time for the November elections. People vote with their pocketbooks. In addition, at least 200 major American corporations have given bonuses to their workers after the tax cut. Why might they be doing that? 1) To please the president in hopes of favorable treatment down the road (Trump tends to reward people who cater to him and punish those who challenge him); and 2) Most super wealthy donors favor a Republican Congress to a Democratic one. Money will flow in the November elections as a result.
There are dangers to this course of action. It is a gigantic gamble to hope that more money in the economy will actually shrink the $1.5 trillion addition to the national debt over 10 years. It may not and we will be passing even more debt to the younger generation. They will likely curse us for our self-centered and self-serving actions.
The other danger is that the tax cut will increase the inflation rate exponentially. That will mean the Fed will have to increase interest rates on loans to compensate, costing the consumer more money through higher loan prices. Depending on how bad inflation gets, it could also wipe out the savings of the poor and middle classes.
Americans will get to find out whether the Republican gamble works in the next two to five years.
The Democratic gamble in demanding that the DACA children be protected before passing a spending bill burnishes the compassion and empathy image of the Democratic base. This decision was carefully calculated to rouse the base to vote in November. The Democrats lost in 2016 because of voter apathy. The emotional DACA issue could increase voter turnout among their base.
However, before the compromise ending the government shutdown was passed the evening of Jan. 22, the Democrats used what little leverage they had to force a vote on DACA on Feb. 8.
We don’t really know who will end up taking the blame for the government shutdown or whether it will matter in November at all since the shutdown was so short. This much is clear: the Democrats knew they were taking a gigantic gamble. When the pressure increased after the shutdown, Democrats were divided as to what to do. According to the Republicans, the Democrats choked and settled for a very weak compromise. That looks to be the case. Rather than strengthening the support of their base – minorities – they now have increased distrust and uncertainty, not a good place to be for the November elections.
President Trump was also taking a major gamble. He constantly plays to his political base. His recent racist and anti-immigrant comments only reinforce and reassure them that he hasn’t abandoned them. That apparently means more to him than the good of the country. He has the power to end the dispute over DACA with the mere stroke of a pen. By merely extending the time period for DACA youth to stay, the impasse could be ended.
It seems like Democrats, Republicans and the president all made risky gambles to win the November Congressional elections. In this first stage, the Democrats have stumbled.
As a result, uncertainty and fear will continue for the DACA students as to whether they will be deported. We will have to wait until February 8, when the next crisis date arrives, to find out what happens in the next act of this political soap opera which will not end until the November elections.