Nancy Pelosi For The Win

Nancy Pelosi For The Win

James Joyner believes Nancy Pelosi is getting too much credit for the shutdown:

Essentially, then, Pelosi is being credited for being ruthless with an unbeatable hand. Trump was betting that Democrats would care more about the non-military parts of the government being shut down that Republicans and caving. He lost.

Yet, all the polls showed that the public blamed Trump for the shutdown, so Democrats were winning the political fight. They just had to be as willing as Trump to let Federal employees suffer in order to get the win. Pelosi was able to persuade them to hold out.

Beyond that, it may have been the furloughed employees themselves that turned the tide by refusing to continue working without pay.

I certainly agree that it was the workers that did the shutdown in, and the power the workers have here is quite important going forward. They may have the ability to determine who “wins” a shutdown by what they do. That’s bad for Republicans, who tend to lose shutdowns even without this.

It’s also important to point out that while the polls were comparatively kind of the Democrats, they weren’t actually really behind the Democrats. Voters mostly wanted the shutdown to end, and over half were willing to see the border wall funded to make that happen. In other words, they agreed with the Democrats on the substance but did not agree with the fight. The last time you had these sorts of bad-for-Democrats-worse-for-Republicans dynamic was when Hillary Clinton’s favorables were low and Trump’s were lower and people (including myself) assumed this would benefit Clinton.

It’s not just that she held the caucus together, but she was betting heavily that things would turn out the way they did. In retrospect that seemed inevitable, but the longer this went on the more intractable the situation and the greater the temptation to come up with a face-saving deal even as the cost of doing so rose along with the costs of not doing so. All of which could be avoided by making a largely symbolic concession early (not that symbolismisn’t important). It’s not just that she won the politics of it on the surface, but the economy didn’t crash and neither did any planes. Neither of those were a given and if either of them had happened there is no telling how this would have gone. Trump might have been willing to let either happen before caving, and might have even emerged victorious from the rubble.

But she made that bet and won it. She gets the W.

So now what? Well, we may be here again in a few weeks but I suspect not. Ordinarily I urge caution when it comes to doing touchdown dances, and that’s the sort of thing that might count double for somebody like Trump. I’d worry you could talk him into another shutdown the same way that Obama and McKay Coppins mocked him into running for president in the first place. But these are special times and special circumstances and I think Pelosi and the Democrats are right to make this as painful as possible for Trump. Make him never want to do it again. Make him never want to listen to the people who convinced him to do this again. If we’re lucky, take the shutdown arrow out of the quiver entirely. Whatever else I might think of Trump’s judgment, I don’t think it’s quite so bad that he will try the exact same thing and expect different results.


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Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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43 thoughts on “Nancy Pelosi For The Win

  1. That’s bad for Republicans, who tend to lose shutdowns even without this.

    Some of them realize this. Earlier this month, nine Republican Senators introduced legislation that would provide for automatic continuing resolutions in the event Congressional appropriations expired. Can’t be applied to the Department of Defense for constitutional reasons. The group is largely Senators from western states: six of the nine, and those six out of a total of 11 Senators from western states. Closing national parks and national forests — which always happens — is not good for the large tourism industry there.

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  2. I agree with your analysis generally but Pelosi does deserve credit. Yes the shut down dynamics fundamentally favored the Dems but it takes political skill to actually be conscious of those dynamics and to maintain both party unity and even more importantly message discipline. A rogue Democratic Congressperson or Senator gloating on camera about the Dem advantage, for instance, could have screwed the whole thing in the public eye.

    I can’t imagine Trump would be dumb enough to try again. Even if he somehow was Mcconnell certainly won’t want to return to this well and will probably warn him behind the scenes that he’ll be risking a veto override if he tries which would make him look even more impotent.

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    • Trump, by all accounts, was utterly baffled about why no Democrats were willing to make a deal with him around Pelosi. He literally couldn’t understand why they were “loyal”. (I don’t think “Because they agreed with her and because Trump’s position allowed no actual negotiation and everyone knew it” ever crossed his mind).

      Further, Jarod was apparently still promising he could make a deal, get the Wall, and end this with his Mad Skillz, as late as Wednesday or Thursday.

      All of which makes me think a trip back to the well is not impossible, as Trump clearly does not understand why public opinion was against him, does not understand why Democrats did not cave and flock to him begging him to fix it, and one of the people he listens to most is apparently even more delusional about it.

      That being said, I suspect he’ll sign whatever budget is put in front him, declare a National Emergency, and then lose pretty much instantly and badly in court. (Trump has, as best I can tell, spent the last month sandbagging any case he had in Court. He literally stripped this down to pure Congressional intent for money authorization — we have Congress on record as “heck no” — and even went out of his way to make sure everyone knew the emergency was a pretext to get to the money, and not that the emergency necessitated the need to use the money. I do not envy whatever lawyer has to defend that mess in Court.)

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      • Oh I believe Trump could be dumb enough to try and go back to the well but McConnell? I don’t see him going along with it. I would assume that if Trump seriously considers it McConnell will send word back channel for Trumps handlers to yank him back. If that doesn’t work I’d expect McConnell will quietly let something he and the Dems sort out come to a vote and pass it on a 60 vote margin. Trump typically signs what he gets.

        What I don’t know is what happens if Trump vetoes it. Quietly passing a bill to Trump I can see but an open veto override? I dunno.

        Agreed, I can’t imagine any attempt to emergency power it will go anywhere. Maybe that federal judge in Texas who tried to repeal the ACA based on how he was feeling that day will cover for him?

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        • Trump has no “GOP handlers”. They all quit.

          It’s Miller, Junior, Kushner, and Ivanka. Oh there’s Mulvaney, but he didn’t even want the job and clearly is just Trump’s “guy to fill a slot that I don’t care about” choice.

          Which one of them strikes you as willing to listen to McConnell?

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          • Probably Miller, or whoever is in favor on a given day. Trump has noone who’s reigning him in like the last two years but he’s not driving himself. You just need to peek into his mouth when he talks and see if you can recognize who has their hand up his ass any given hour by the color of their fingernails.

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            • Miller? Miller was the guy behind the family separation policy. Miller is all in on the Wall.

              From what I can tell, Miller would kill his own dog if it made an immigrant sad.

              Seriously, if there’s a godawful immigration policy, it’s Miller behind it. He is an absolute true believer in xenophobia.

              Miller is literally the last guy to reign Trump in on this, he’s the guy egging Trump on.

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              • Yes my core point is that McConnell can tell Trump behind the scenes if the GOP in the Senate isn’t going to back him up and any of Trumps hangers on can tell him that means if he tries to do the shut down again he’ll loose more quickly and embarrassingly than the first time.

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                  • Can and will are two different things. McConnell has two concern points: the damage Trump can do to the GOP if they don’t do what he wants and the damage Trump can make the GOP do to itself if they do what he wants. In the initial shut down McConnell assessed that the former danger was greater than the latter danger and accordingly went along with Trumps shut down. Now, with Trump diminished by the experience, his base cracked and the dangers of a shut down clearly demonstrated McConnell may revise his estimation of those two relative dangers and act accordingly.
                    I loathe McConnell with a well deserved ice cold loathing but I would never make the mistake of thinking him deranged or idiotic.

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                  • His tactic of outsourcing the negotiating part of his job the President looks pretty sane to me. He said that whatever the Democrats and Trump could agree on, he would pass. Basically removing himself from the mud fight.

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                  • McConnell did whatever Trump wanted him to do during this shut down.

                    What did Trump want him to do, exactly? Presumably, Trump wanted McConnell to pass legislation funding a border wall. Didn’t happen. IMO, McConnell masterfully deflected any blame for the impasse by reiterating that he’d only bring a bill to the floor which the president would sign *fully well knowing * that such a bill was impossible. In a slightly different context I’d say McConnell gave Trump just enough rope to hang himself, not because he’s anti-Trump but because he doesn’t give a rats ass about Trump’s stupid wall.

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        • Trump’s in a box, no doubt. The part I don’t understand is the logic of “threatening” to use emergency powers to build the wall. The scare-quotes are intentional, since I can’t for the life of me understand who he thinks he’s threatening here. He either has that power or he doesn’t, and Dems – if they were smart – should dare him to go down that road. They should encourage him, in fact, since there’s no way the politics of such a move doesn’t favor the Dems.

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        • I think he does. In Trump’s mind loyalty is doing what the Don wants, placing his or her interests above the personal. So when he looks at Dems rejecting his wall funding, the only filter he can view it thru (since in his mind it’s so clearly a good thing) is as an expression of coerced loyalty to Pelosi rather than voluntary agreement with Pelosi.

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  3. From the linky

    Pelosi was dealt a winning hand. She played it with the skill of a seasoned pro, which of course she is. But the fact of the matter is that no funding for Trump’s wall was possible without a majority of votes in the House. There was no way that was going to happen unless Trump conceded something extraordinary in return or Democrats caved in droves.

    I don’t think that’s correct. In the first days of the shutdown Pelosi chose to draw a hard line in the sand – no immigration/border negotiations until government re-opens – even tho doing so opened her up to criticism. It was a risk, and she was criticized for that. The chance she took, correctly as it turned out, was that drawing the hard line on not negotiating with terrorists petulant two-year old man-childs would play better in the long run than squishily signalling that there was an offer out there she might accept. No one expected Trump to cave this quickly. But people like Joyner seem to believe that now, after the fact, Trump’s cave was inevitable and – strangely – that Pelosi played very little role in it.

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  4. I read James Joyner a lot, but I’m not with him on this. I question the framing as “either-or” In this framework, either Pelosi was responsible for the win, or air traffic controllers were.

    The thing is, if you’re Nancy Pelosi and you’re taking a hard line of ‘no negotiations while the government is shut down’, you understand that things will slowly get worse and worse under the shutdown. What’s going to break first and make a big mess? That’s hard to predict. It might ATC. It might be TSA sickouts creating huge lines. It might be something else. But it will be something, and Trump had very clearly taken responsibility for it.

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  5. I don’t think Trump really appreciates, or maybe just doesn’t understand, the differences between the kind of negotiation style that has worked for him his entire life and what works in the context of government. For one thing, in business, just getting up and walking away is always an option. At worst you’ve really just lost an opportunity but you’re not really any worse off than before you started.

    That’s not how this works; a bill must be passed, a “deal” — win, lose, or draw — MUST be struck eventually. Walking away isn’t an option. And Pelosi is a far more skilled and experienced negotiator in that scenario than he can hope to be. He’s simply out of his depth.

    I read a really good tweetstorm (that I have absolutely no hope of finding to linky) explaining how, despite his bluster and bravado, he’s an incredibly weak President. He’s managed to enact approximately none of his campaign agenda unless it happened to coincide with what any generic Republican president would have done anyway.

    Sad.

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    • “He’s managed to enact approximately none of his campaign agenda unless it happened to coincide with what any generic Republican president would have done anyway.”

      That this is true, and yet his presidency has thus far been an endless and unmitigated disaster, is perhaps the most brutal indictment of the Republicans one could imagine.

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      • A lot of the damage falls into other categories, though:
        1) Stuff he didn’t promise and aren’t standard GOP.
        2) Stuff he caused damage trying to do but didn’t succeed
        3) Stuff unrelated to policy (ethics stuff, basic competence stuff)
        4) Stuff attributable to appointments other Republicans wouldn’t have made.

        But back to the main point, I think it’s actually kind of hard to pin down the extent to which he has accomplished his “campaign promises” when entering was so off the cuff. But even those things he was clear and consistent on he’s generally failed.

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        • Right, and going back a bit from the present moment it’s important to remember that Trump had a GOP House and Senate for two years yet didn’t pressure congress to pass funding for the wall. The timing of his petulant about-face on the CR and wall funding – right when House control passed to the Dems – is therefore a bit suspicious*.

          * The suspicion only arises if you attribute rationality to his decision-making, which may be granting him too much credit.

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    • “He’s managed to enact approximately none of his campaign agenda unless it happened to coincide with what any generic Republican president would have done anyway.”

      It’s really cool how sometimes regression to the mean exists and sometimes it doesn’t.

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  6. hey keep going with the sack dance, i’m sure that will definitely work out for you

    after all, it worked so well after the debates in 2016

    trump definitely had no chance in the election after that

    (although I do appreciate that we’re at least admitting that Pelosi took actions that she knew would damage the country in hopes that this would encourage her opponent to submit. a masterstroke of political maneuvering, unlike that dangerous idiot Donald Trump, who took actions that he knew would damage the country in hopes that this would encourage his opponent to submit.)

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    • We are not admitting any such thing. Had Pelosi knuckled under to Trumps hostage taking then Trump and the GOP would have responded by taking further hostages for further concessions. The country was better served by standing up to Trumps ultimatum than it would be repeating this dance over and over with each budget deadline and debt ceiling. Especially the latter since it’s anyone’s guess if Trumps administration would have the competence to not blunder over the debt limit and blow the country’s credit rating to hell by accident.

      Refusing to concede to Trumps shut down ultimatum was both what was best for the Dems and the Country as a whole; something the electorate seems to have recognized by placing the blame and scorn for the shut down squarely on the President and his party.

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  7. “Had Pelosi knuckled under to Trumps hostage taking ”

    lol

    Trump: “Border security is important so I want to build a wall, give me some money to do it”
    Pelosi: “Nobody anywhere in the entire government gets paid until you change your mind”
    North: “Truly Trump is an evil hostage-taker”

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    • My goodness the spin DD, I’m in awe! The Dems and the GOP sorted out the spending bill; Trump and his minions had indicated they’d sign it then Coulter et all pitched a fit and Trump reversed course refusing to sign the bill unless wall funding was added in.
      And this after he publicly on camera acknowledged he’d be responsible for shutting the government down over wall spending. The public, who were mostly not paying attention, wasn’t fooled into thinking Pelosi somehow had caused this; who on earth do you think you’ll fool with that spin here on a website full of political nerds who most assuredly were paying attention?

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