The U.S. government shut down on December 22 because Ann Coulter called Donald Trump a pussy. It remained closed for 35 days—depriving 800,000 federal workers of their paychecks—because various right-wing pundits mused that capitulating to Nancy Pelosi would constitute the end of Trump’s presidency as we know it. And when America’s long national nightmare finally ended on Friday evening—without any particular resolution—the president assured the nation that unless he can claim victory by February 15, he’ll be happy to close the government all over again.
Specifically, Trump opted to bring one-quarter of the federal labor force to a screeching halt because of The Wall—namely, the one along the U.S.-Mexico border whose future construction constituted more or less the entirety of Trump’s presidential campaign, has continued to be the great white whale propelling his administration’s domestic policy and is seemingly the final buoy keeping what’s left of his job approval rating afloat.
As such, “victory” in this context can mean nothing less than the actual building of an actual wall with actual funds appropriated by actual congresspeople. For Trump to renege on his biggest, baddest campaign promise would pose something near an existential threat to his presidency and, with it, his immunity to prosecution by one Robert Mueller.
Indeed, if the Longest Government Shutdown in History taught us anything, it’s that Donald Trump’s selfishness knows no bounds. That he will gladly throw the entire country under the bus to assert his own manliness and save his own skin. That he values nothing so much as his own survival—and possibly nothing else at all. That he regards his loyal fanbase as a mere prop with which to puff up his own vanity—and, when necessary, as a battering ram against all perceived enemies, foreign and domestic.
Think it can’t get worse? It can always get worse, and if America’s current chief executive excels at anything, it’s finding the bottom of the barrel and drilling a trap door underneath it.
If you’re looking for statesmanship in the Oval Office, all you can do is look to 2020.
Were you to ask me, here in January 2019, what kind of person I would like to see as Trump’s eventual successor—temperamentally, characterologically—I would simply point to the 35-day fiasco the nation just endured and say, “Someone who would not allow a mess like that to ever occur.”
While I admire elected officials who feel passionately about major issues and express their views strongly and clearly, I would never support a presidential candidate who is so single-minded about a particular policy that he would callously deny a month’s pay to 800,000 American workers in order to get what he wants, exactly the way he wants it.
Nor would I support a prospective commander-in-chief whose official acts are so easily and obviously swayed by a gang of radio and TV personalities whom a supermajority of the public finds repulsive. Whose self-esteem is so fragile, his innate sense of right and wrong so tenuous, that he will gingerly flush billions of dollars in productivity down the toilet in order to prove that, as a leader, he isn’t entirely impotent. Whose solipsism is so all-consuming that when he is informed—as Trump was in early 2017—that his tax policy will likely wreck the American economy within a decade, his only response is to say, “Yeah, but I won’t be here.”
What I would like in our 46th president—whoever she may be—is someone sufficiently grown-up to resolve a complex issue like immigration without holding nearly a million federal employees and their families for ransom. Someone who will negotiate in good faith and not view every disagreement as a zero-sum game. Someone who will assume responsibility for her failures and share credit for her successes. Someone who will lead by example and not perpetually be on the lookout for someone else to blame.
Someone who is interested in expanding her base of support, rather than merely solidifying the 30-odd percent of the population who will blindly follow her off a cliff. Someone confident enough to trust her own instincts, but also humble enough to confide in those wiser and more experienced than she. Someone who values country over party and understands that we live in a nation of laws and not men.
Will the Democratic Party nominate such a person at its convention in July 2020? And will America elect her on Tuesday, November 3?
Can we afford not to?