The new year always feels like a new beginning. It feels like we all have a clean slate to work from.
It’s not true, of course. Challenges we face in life don’t follow a calendar. Need proof? Look at the continuing government shutdown in Washington.
All the signs say this will be a longer shutdown than what people have gotten used to. Neither President Trump nor the incoming Democratic majority in the U.S. House see any reason to give ground. This could last a while.
Is this really a surprise? Congress has developed a habit of delaying any hard decisions. Look at how regularly it misses the deadline to pass a budget, instead relying on continuing resolutions to keep the government going. Combine that with presidential petulance, and you have a recipe that can’t lead to anything but a shutdown.
All the while, officials from both parties pat themselves on the back for their leadership, their willingness to take a tough stand with the other side. If failure is their definition of leadership, they’re using a different dictionary than we are.
We’ve said before that fear is not an ideology upon which a nation may be governed. It’s still true. The terror both sides show when it looks like the other might get the least scrap of credit for anything is ridiculous. It results in government by denial. The goal shifts from finding ways to govern for the benefit of all to finding ways to block ideological opponents. It is an all-or-nothing proposition.
The infuriating thing here is that Congress just showed it can actually compromise and get a difficult task accomplished. Revision to the federal sentencing guidelines and criminal code was a long time coming. The bill that accomplished the revisions was supported by lawmakers from both parties and by President Donald Trump. Its passage was the right thing for the country and — what do you know? — there was plenty of credit to go around when it finally passed.
The putative issue for this shutdown is the U.S. border with Mexico. There is no fundamental dispute on the need for security at the border. The approach differs significantly. And what both sides are completely ignoring is the fact illegal border crossings are not the biggest issue for illegal immigration.
Last month the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on social science, released a report suggesting people who arrive on legal visas and overstay the visas’ expiration now “probably constituted most of the recent unauthorized immigrant arrivals.”
The issue of overstayed visas doesn’t look like the stereotypical debate in other ways: “In contrast to border apprehensions, where 95% or more of immigrants are from Mexico and Central America, the vast majority of overstays — almost 90% — are from elsewhere.”
It’s time for both Congress and the president to deal with reality. Security, including over immigration issues, is important. But understand the issue as it is, not as it was or how stereotypes say it is. Put the nation over your egos.
We don’t expect a solution that fixes everything and removes all areas of dispute. That’s not realistic. But we do expect the nation’s elected leaders to act like leaders, rather than scared little children with no idea what to do next.