The Democrats almost did it. We had a bit of power. The Republicans’ complete inability to run a functioning government and pass a working budget resulted in a total government shutdown.
Their only hope was to get some support from Democratic senators. Instead, what did we do? We caved. We had an opportunity to take a stand for what we believe in, and we blew it.
Republicans would be unable to pass any shutdown bill without Democratic support in Congress. The Democrats initially said any bill would have to include a resolution on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program set to expire in March. There are roughly 700,00 people in our country currently protected by DACA, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and its expiration would result in an uncertain future for these people.
These are the types of issues that the Democratic Party supposedly prides itself on supporting. No matter what, we should never be willing to compromise when people who have been marginalized by the Republican Party’s xenophobic policies need our help. Unfortunately, we did just that.
A group of 33 Senate Democrats voted for a budget bill with a handshake promise that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would allow for negotiations on a bipartisan agreement to resolve DACA’s expiration.
This is embarrassing. We had the power to force Republicans to give in to badly-needed protections for immigrants in our country but settled for a vague promise from a senator whom we have no reason to trust.
Yes, these Democratic senators were facing pressure. Republicans were out in full force spreading lies about how the shutdown was somehow the fault of the Democrats. But when they have a majority in both houses and the presidency, it is obviously their fault. We allowed the Republicans to flood the airwaves with lies and failed to step up to call out their deceitful ways and inability to take responsibility for their ineptitude.
But give them some credit: the Republicans have become masters of using deflection and deceit to cover up decades of promoting and enacting xenophobic policies.
Much of the Democrats’ platform is pinned upon standing up for the downtrodden and pushing policies geared toward equality, justice and fairness. During the week of Jan. 29, the Democratic Party failed in living up to this platform. When given the opportunity to stand up for current and future immigrants, 33 Democratic senators choked. They caved to pressure and accepted a weak compromise over real progress.
Going forward, there is little reason for optimism in the future of DACA. Clearly, Democrats are not ready to put forth the strength of will necessary to fight for the hundreds of thousands of hard-working individuals who will be left stranded by DACA’s expiration.
Ryan Steinberg is a sophomore majoring in political science.