Whose Shutdown Is It Anyway?

By Eli Morton ’21 on behalf of Gettysburg College Democrats

The recently-ended government shutdown is an example of broken politics in Washington and how one party in particular uses broken politics to attempt to prove its central thesis about the inefficiencies of government.

Government shutdowns are a wholly unnecessary consequence of the advent of the modern federal budget process. Since the 1990s, numerous shutdowns have occurred during periods of divided government. Most recently these occurred in 2013, 2018, and over the last month. The 2018 shutdowns were somewhat insignificant; they lasted very short periods of time, and they led to no meaningful political or policy change. The 2013 shutdown, initiated when Ted Cruz and a conservative coalition in the House sought the repeal of Obamacare, was longer, but amounted to the same result.

This most recent shutdown, the longest in American history, seems to have the hallmarks of most of the others, except this time, an even greater amount of pain was inflicted on government employees and contractors, not to mention many average American citizens given the basic services that were strained. It is probably safe to assume that Donald Trump will not bear the consequences of the shutdown – it will be forgotten, as all of the others were.

However, these shutdowns may not be as invisible as this analysis indicates. The Republican Party’s central platform dating back to Ronald Reagan, and to some degree prior to that, has been to disparage the effectiveness of government. It is the unifying thesis by which they have run every major race across the country for decades. By shutting the government down, the GOP may not accomplish its stated goal in every case, but it bolsters its case that “government is best which governs least.”

This may appear to be an effective way to convey a political message, but the consequences of a lack of appropriation – the central duty of Congress – palpably strain the American economy and hundreds of thousands to millions of workers. That is, especially in the case of this shutdown, a dereliction of constitutional duty and an abuse of power by both an apathetic Congress and a president with hegemonic intentions.


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