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Mon Dec 31, 2018, 09:52 PM

A Shutdown Reveals the Transformation of the GOP [View all]


A Shutdown Reveals the Transformation of the GOP
Republicans used to force government closures in the name of fiscal restraint. Now they’re digging in for the sake of the profligate wall.
6:00 AM ET
Charles J. Sykes
Author of How the Right Lost Its Mind

Republicans used to shut down the government in the name of fiscal restraint. Now they’re digging in for the sake of a boondoggle. This Trump-era shutdown could well become the longest ever, eclipsing the Clinton-era 26-day standoff over Medicare spending, and the Obama-era 16-day standoff over Obamacare. GOP tactics in the past may have been misguided, but at least the party was in theory fighting on behalf of its signature goal: reducing the size of the federal government.

This time, there is no talk of budget cuts, recisions, reform, or sequestration. After years of warning about the debt and the deficit, the alleged budget hawks have fallen silent. Even for the ideological performance artists in the Freedom Caucus, this shutdown is all about actually increasing spending for, of all things, the Wall, a Stone Age technology to deal with an Internet Age noncrisis.


This wall-induced shutdown is the greatest insult yet. Republicans in Congress must know that Trump’s campaign pledge will do nothing to address immigrants who overstay their visas, drug trafficking, asylum seekers, or the overall question of immigration reform. Leaving aside the ugly symbolism of the United States building a massive border wall, it would require the promiscuous use of eminent domain to seize private property, trigger an environmental nightmare, and cut off vast swaths of territory from access to natural assets such as the Rio Grande. Could it be that even private-property rights have gone the way of spending cuts and fiscal restraint? If Ann Coulter wants a wall, she must get her wall.

It seems fitting that Speaker Paul Ryan is leaving the stage at this juncture in this way. According to The Washington Post, “Ryan’s last moment on the House floor came Saturday evening when he gaveled the empty chamber shut, the last legislative session of 2018 going out with a whimper.” Picture this man who supposedly devoted his entire career to deficit reduction, just going through the motions in the service of a profligate mania. He’s not pretending anymore. Neither is the party.

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