Happy New Year!  It certainly promises to be an interesting year politically.

I haven’t paid close attention to the various partisan maneuvers over the federal government shutdown. There really are only a few basic things to be kept in mind. First, The Wall (note my Trumpian capitalization) is a monumentally dumb idea, for a variety of reasons known to anybody who bothers to actually understand border security issues. The Democrats’ victory in the 2018 midterm elections should have put The Wall issue to rest, since a majority in the House of Representatives would surely never approve a Wall. That is how democracy is supposed to work: elections matter and the majority decides.

But The Wall is central to Donald Trump’s xenophobic, racist persona, and so he insists The Wall must be built. And he will use his power to veto funding for the federal government in order to compel the majority to yield on his pet issue. Make no mistake about it: this is blackmail, but the blackmail victims aren’t the Democrats who are to be coerced, but federal employees and the much larger population who use their services. So, it is a particularly despicable form of blackmail—contemptuous of democracy and indifferent to the suffering of innocent third parties. Which is why the threat to shut down the government should never be used by a responsible democratic party. Which is why the Party of Trump is not a responsible democratic party.

But let’s be realistic. Sometimes in life we have no choice but to yield to coercion. I can see the Democrats eventually making a deal that includes funding for The Wall. But in so doing they should make it clear: we are doing this even though we know it is bad policy. We are doing it to avert the suffering of others willingly inflicted by the amoral jerk who occupies the White House. If they can be that clear about why they are doing it, I’ll be able to forgive Chuck and Nancy for compromising.

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