We’ve heard the term “hostage” a lot during the weeks of the federal government shutdown. It’s useful to recognize that this is not the first time the Republican Party, acting from a position of disadvantage, has engaged in these tactics.
In 2003, when Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn proposed a tax hike that was intended mostly to support education, his fellow Republicans used – and abused – language in the Nevada Constitution that gives a minority a veto over any tax increase.
The legislative session wore on for weeks while Assembly Republicans held the process hostage. The session finally ended without a budget being approved, followed by one special session, then another. Finally, a Republican from Battle Mountain switched sides and let the majority prevail.
The intransigents thought the public would thank them in the next election. But when 2004 rolled around, the only victories the GOP holdouts won were in primaries. They defeated a couple of Republicans who had sided with the Democrats, but the Democrats increased their majority in the general election.
A few days ago, I heard from a Nevada attorney who handles migrant cases about another form of hostage-taking. He said, “Not only are over 800,000 federal workers not getting paychecks today, this fool of a president has held close to one million DACA holders hostage to his … ego wall for two years. They go to work, go to school, raise families, some of them all the while having to look over their shoulders for ICE to send them packing to a country they have never known.”
Donald Trump initially said he would not cause a shutdown. That prompted Fox and Friends and Rush Limbaugh to attack Trump while he watched them on television. The next day, he reversed positions and triggered the shutdown.
It’s always good during this presidency to remember that the public voted against Trump and his policies in 2016 and against his policies again in 2018. He has never shown any sensitivity to the fact that he is an appointed, unelected official. George W. Bush did so, particularly in the first months of his administration, before September 11. He worked and consulted with Democrats, aware that the public had given him no mandate.
Trump, however, acts as though he won election, using his daft claim that “millions and millions of people” cast illegal votes.
The public plainly voted against him and yet he pushes policies they rejected, including expenditure of U.S. taxpayer dollars on a wall for which he said the U.S. would not have to pay.
Using these machinations to achieve what could not be achieved at the ballot box is ongoing proof of GOP weakness.
Dennis Myers is an award-winning journalist who has reported on Nevada’s capital, government and politics for several decades. He has also served as Nevada’s chief deputy secretary of state.