During President Donald Trump's inauguration, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., read an excerpt from a letter written by Maj. Sullivan Ballou, a Union soldier, to his wife a week before he would perish at the first Battle of Bull Run.
Ballou wrote that he was willing to give his life for his country to "help maintain the government." Schumer encouraged people to read the letter, which he said gave him solace and strength.
In his first major act as Senate minority leader, Schumer has written a letter of his own. It is evidence that he has rejected the lesson contained in what he called "one of the greatest letters in American history."
Government funding is set to expire at the end of April, so Congress must pass legislation to avoid a shutdown. Schumer and other top Democrats have written to congressional Republicans telling them they'll shut down the government if Trump and the GOP pursue the policies which got them elected.
"If Republicans insist on inserting poison pill riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood, building a border wall or starting a deportation force, they will be shutting down the government and delivering a severe blow to our economy," Schumer and his brethren wrote. (Note how he says it will be the GOP who are shutting down the government if they don't capitulate to the Dem's threat. The people making the threat are, naturally, all innocent. Such is the disingenuous argot of Washington politics.)
Other Democrats have issued similar threats. "That's our ultimate card...to threaten to shut down the government when we get to the end of the funding, that's coming up fairly soon, the end of the continuing resolution," Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said recently, "That's really the only card we've got." The threat is credible because spending bills require a 60-vote threshold to pass in the Senate.
There's much irony in Schumer's letter. The "poison pills" he mentions are also known as Trump's campaign promises. It would be richly comical if it were not so gratingly disingenuous of Democrats to suggest the president in the first quarter of the first year of his term of office shouldn't do what voters made it plain they want. Democrats aren't obliged to vote in favor, but it would be irresponsible of them to shut down the government to get their way.
Trump repeatedly promised to deport criminal illegal immigrants, build a wall, halt taxpayer funding of abortion, and increase military spending. These weren't ancillary to his main agenda; they were his main agenda. Eight in ten Trump voters favor building a wall on the Southern border, for instance.
There's an added irony because this is exactly the type of brinksmanship for which Democrats pilloried Republicans during the Obama administration. Back then, Democratic lawmakers called Republicans murderers, arsonists, anarchists and terrorists. Coons likened Republican antics to "hostage taking," while Schumer labeled Republicans extortionists and hostage-takers.
But that was then, three and a half years ago, and this is now. In the minority, Democrats have warmed to antics they once regarded as beyond the pale.
"Go out there and win an election," was President Barack Obama's admonishment to Republicans who threatened to shut down the government in 2013. That, after a brief shutdown, is precisely what they did. In fact, they won two elections, not just one.
It's probably asking too much of congressional Democrats to follow the selfless example of Ballou, a patriot. They don't appear ready to heed Obama's advice. With this new act of political brinksmanship, they are showing that they still refuse to accept the reality of the election result.
The gazette editorial board