The government shut down is a lot like a labor strike. In the latter case, the union pulls the workers off the job if certain demands are not met, and the two sides need to agree on something before the strike ends. In the case of the government shutdown, it is the President who makes the demand uses the threat of a veto to enforce them. It will not end until the two sides agree on something.
I know something of the psychology of such negotiations. having been largely responsible for two of the longest teacher strikes in American history – one in Chicago and one in Detroit. This was because I was the senior advisor and strategist to the respective Boards.
At the onset, there is the initial blame game – and it is on that side where the public pressure INITIALLY is felt. The emphasis on the word “initially” will be evident later in this commentary. In terms of the teacher strikes, it was traditionally directed at the board, with demands that they be the ones to cave. In the government shut down, it is on the President to cave now.
Yes, there is a base of core support for the President as there were for the Boards in Chicago and Detroit, but the media, the Democrat political machines in those cities and most of the public wanted the teachers back in the classrooms at almost any cost. Historically, the boards of education would, indeed, cave-in to the pressure. That was the initial expectation.
But what would happen if the Boards did not cave in? First of all, it would be a longer strike as the union held out for the traditional cave by the board. Eventually, however, the Chicago and Detroit Boards won the reforms they demanded — more money for the classroom, expansion of the empowered (charter) school program, employee sharing cost of insurance, a REASONABLE increase in salaries and a few other contract provisions.
My strategy was simple. Put the best and final offer on the table on the eve of the strike and then DO NOT COMPROMISE, making the strike the end of negotiations, not the beginning. Of course, this would be a long strike because the union had never faced a board that did not cave. It would take time for the union leaders to realize that the Boards were not going to cave. In both cases, the boards weathered the pressure and then it happened.
As I had advised both Boards – and you can imagine what they would have thought of me if I turned out to be wrong – the public sentiment shifted. The parents, the politicians, the press and the public all wanted the kids back in school, and when it became obvious that the Boards were holding firm, the pressure shifted against the Union.
The Boards used the time to sell the benefits of their proposal – benefits that focused on the children and the classroom. Suddenly, it was union recalcitrance and excessive demands that were preventing a settlement – and eventually the union had to cave, and the strikes ended.
Evaluating the current government shutdown from outside the negotiating rooms – a bit risky – I would advise a similar strategy for President Trump. To wit.
He should give a national address to the nation, detailing his position on the funding request. This should be a lawyer-like brief that explains the need in detail – how the new barriers in California have reduced illegal crossing; how his concept is not the Medieval wall his critics claim, but a high-tech varied approach; and that the funds are minuscule in terms of the federal discretionary budget. He should tell America that he has not abandoned his desired to have Mexico pay for the wall in one way or another – but the need for the wall is fundamental no matter who pays for it. He can again explain the number of people entering illegally, the numbers of known criminals and the numbers of crimes already committed by illegal aliens and the MS13 gang. He should note that, based on history, the vast majority of those thousands of people at the American border will not be eligible for asylum under current laws.
Conversely, Trump should reassure the public that he totally supports legal immigration. Not only is it the historically and morally for America, but our economy – especially with the record low unemployment rates – needs the workers. He should emphasize that good immigration requires good vetting – and that is not possible with open borders.
As a show of good faith, the President should modestly reduce his demand from $5 billion to $4.5 billion – and declare that it is non-negotiable any further. He can express his willingness to consider any other proposals that the Democrats may wish to discuss, but there will be no deal without the $4.5 billion … period.
In addition, Trump should put down a specific proposal for resolving the Dreamer issue. The vast majority of Americans believe that those brought to America as children should have the threat of deportation – that hangs over their head like the Sword of Damocles – removed that their future in America be secured. It can be Trump’s proposal, not the blanket amnesty that the left wants.
Assuming – and that is always dangerous – that Trump has enough solid support among congressional Republicans to prevent a veto override in the House and/or the Senate, he can then invoke his toughest strategy with the following statement.
“I believe that protecting our border is so critical and so fundamental to the security of the United States that I will make further provisions if we do not have an agreement that includes the $4.5 billion wall funding by February 1st. At that time, my requirement will go to back to the original $5 billion AND I will not sign-off on any bill that provides back pay for those federal employees who were not required to work during the shutdown. I hope that every American will help me to both end this shutdown AND secure our border by contacting their senators and representative in Congress and tell them it is time to get our government workers back on the job.”
Weeeell … you can imagine all those talking heads on the telly exploding. They will call it an abuse of power when, in fact, it is merely the “use” of powers granted to the President. The presidential veto is just one of the balances in the balance of power. Of course, they will declare it to be the end of our small-d democratic republic, but that fear-mongering claim has already been a bit overused. They will scream for impeachment, but they have already shot their wad on that one. (For those of salacious mind and not familiar with the etymology of the latter phrase, it originated during the 1800s and refers to the cotton cloth that held gunpowder in place in the old muzzle-loading rifles).
Though nothing in life can be certain, I would give the strategy a 90 percent chance of ending the government shutdown in January – maybe even early January. It may just trigger a bit of a revolt of the moderate Democrats who have been suffocating under the demands of the Party’s radical base which currently has undue influence over the agenda. It would be interesting to see where newly-elected Speaker Nancy Pelosi comes out after she no longer needs the votes of the congressional radicals to become Speaker again.
I offer up this idea with some caution. It is never totally safe to propose strategies when one is not on the inside of the negotiations or advising on the strategy as it rolls out – and so far, I have not been invited to the White House to confer in the matter. So, let’s just call this an idea – not a proposal. What do you think?
So, there ‘tis.