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William Rivers Pitt | Bellycrawling Through History With Schumer and the Democrats

This was a failure on both a moral and tactical level.

US Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference January 20, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Even now, more than a year later people are still grinding their teeth over the question of the age: How? How is Donald Trump the president of the United States? Was Hillary Clinton that poor a candidate? Did Bernie Sanders stay in the race too long? Was there Russian interference in the election? Did everything turn on racist xenophobes flooding the polls like they seldom have before? Or did enough voters simply wake up two Novembers ago and say, “Screw it, let’s break the country”?

I have my theories, none proven, but I do know this much: If the current iteration of the Democratic Party is what passes for “The Resistance,” we may as well slap a gaudy crown on Trump’s head and name him “Emperor Of All The Things.”

The Democrats lost in 2016 for the same reason they got rolled so completely on this shutdown/Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) deal: The so-called “opposition party” has a genuine knack for being strategy-free when it matters most, and they keep managing to forget who they’re dealing with on the other side of the aisle. “I wonder how many times you have to be hit on the head,” President Harry Truman once asked, “before you find out who’s hitting you?” The modern-day inheritors of Truman’s party still have no answer to that question.

It went like this: Because Trump made everyone think he was unfit to serve as president again after he compared nuclear penis size with Kim Jong-un on Twitter, he had to have a very public meeting on immigration with Sen. Chuck Schumer to show everyone the bats had not fully commandeered the belfry. The meeting appeared to go well, and a deal to protect the Dreamers seemed close at hand… until White House immigration hardliner and noted fascist Stephen Miller got GOP Sen. Tom Cotton and some House Freedom Caucus wreckers to convince Trump a deal was bad politics with his base. This led to the infamous “shithole” incident, and the prospect of a deal went up in smoke.

We are expected to trust this demonstrably untrustworthy hack to do as he promised and allow debate on an immigration bill.

Pressure from a variety of pro-Dreamer organizations, as well as from within the Democratic Caucus, was brought to bear: Attach the looming government spending bill to a deal for the Dreamers, and if the GOP balks, let the government shut down. Schumer and the Democrats did exactly that… for less than 72 hours.

It was at this juncture that the Democrats once again decided to showcase their uncanny talent for self-immolation. By Monday perhaps the most preposterous deal in recent political history was struck: If Schumer and his people voted to reopen the government, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised with sugar on top to allow debate on an immigration bill aimed at salvaging DACA and the Dreamers sometime in early February. Note well: McConnell didn’t say he would do this. He said it was his “intention” to do this.

Schumer went for the “deal,” backed by a clutch of Red State Blue Dog Democrats who couldn’t summon a single damn for the 700,000 people who got hung out to dry, again. DACA recipients, many of whom have put themselves on the line with bold action to protect themselves and their peers, now know full well who it is they can count on when the chips are down. Hint: Few with a (D) after their name make the cut.

“We have visited more than 350 offices in both chambers, and spoken to 95 of the 100 senators directly,” writes activist and DACA recipient Reyna E. Montoya for Truthout. “We have had over 800 conversations with lawmakers. Now, we are hanging by a thread. Democrats have caved in and given up our safety and future. We have once again been abandoned.”

The sentiment was repeated by a number of organizations deeply invested in the Dreamers’ fate. “It’s morally reprehensible and political malpractice,” said Ezra Levin of the Indivisible Project. “It’s Schumer’s job to keep his caucus together and stand up for progressive values and he failed on both fronts.” The ACLU’s Lorella Praeli joined the chorus of denunciation: “We cannot rely on empty promises from those who have already proven to play politics with the lives of Dreamers. Today, Republicans — and too many Democrats — in Congress betrayed our American values and allowed bigotry and fear to prevail.”

The “Yeahbuts” were out in force after this shameful capitulation. “Yeahbut,” the Democrats are in the minority. “Yeahbut,” they got Children’s Health Insurance Program funding for six years. “Yeahbut,” McConnell promised he’d allow debate. All of this misses the point entirely.

This was a failure on both a moral and tactical level, and now the Democrats are in a mess of their own devising.

Had Schumer and the Democrats chosen not to connect a government funding vote with saving the Dreamers, there would have been an angry outcry to be sure, but there were compelling arguments for avoiding a shutdown. Shutdowns are expensive and have a direct effect on people’s lives. However, Schumer and the Democrats deliberately chose to shut down the government on principle, and then quit the second the weather got rough. Not doing it would have been bad enough (were there no alternate strategy), but doing it and then bailing almost immediately was flatly pathetic.

Worst of all, the “concessions” Schumer extracted from McConnell are absurd. We are expected to trust this demonstrably untrustworthy hack to do as he promised and allow debate on an immigration bill. Even if McConnell keeps his worthless word, he has no say on how Paul Ryan and the House Freedom Caucus will react to a Senate immigration bill, but odds are better than good they won’t even consider it. Beyond that are the intentions of Trump himself, who is about as predictable as an avalanche. Unless a true miracle takes place, legislation to provide real protection for the Dreamers is doomed.

This was a failure on both a moral and tactical level, and now the Democrats are in a mess of their own devising. The Dreamers got nothing for their efforts, and the party leadership looks like fools. Half the party thinks the other half is a pack of cowards. Meanwhile, 700,000 people are at grave risk. The Democrats and the pundits enjoy painting Donald Trump as a thoroughly unreliable negotiating partner. That’s true, of course, but right now, Schumer and his crew stand stoutly in the same shabby category.

“Tactics without strategy,” said Sun Tzu, “is the noise before defeat.” It’s awfully noisy around here lately. The same “leaders” keep bellycrawling through history, and this time, it’s quite possible that a million people — the Dreamers and their families — are going to pay a brutal price.

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