Well, that didn't work

Well, that didn't work

Democrats learned that a government shutdown doesn't generate political leverage.

Republicans four years ago learned, to their chagrin, that shutting down the federal government is not the best way to endear themselves to voters.

Now perhaps the Democrats have learned the same bitter lesson. Everyone soon will know because the agreement they reached Monday that reopens the federal government runs out on Feb. 8.

The goods news, of course, is that the much-vaunted shutdown, the one Democrats wanted to use to force President Donald Trump to sign an immigration amnesty bill he opposes, was brief.

In fact, few people even noticed. It started at midnight Friday and ended on Monday, and not with a bang but a whimper.

Given the terms of the Democrats' decision to call off their filibuster of a continuing resolution to keep the government running, they didn't get much.

Democratic Minority Leader Charles Schumer said he was persuaded to abandon the filibuster and allow a revote to reopen the government after Senate Republicans agreed to allow a debate and a vote on legislation addressing the legal status of young people brought to the United States by their illegal immigrant parents.

But that issue is just a part of the discussion, along with "chain immigration" and a border wall. So there is no guarantee that anything will pass, vote or not.

Schumer apparently realized that he was on the wrong side of public opinion. Nonetheless, his retreat drew scathing criticism from those who insisted that Democrats stay the course.

Frank Sharry of America's Voice, an advocate group for immigrants, was among those disgusted by how the shutdown ended.

He said he was "moved to tears of disappointment and anger that Democrats blinked." At the same time, Democratic senators like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California and Kristen Gillibrand of New York built credibility with organizations like America's Voice by voting to continue the shutdown in pursuit of the controversial immigrant legislation.

They each have been mentioned as possible presidential candidates in 2020, making it important for them to be seen acting in solidarity with an important element of their party's base.

It is, perhaps, too much to hope that legislators on Capitol Hill, driven either by politics or policy, will abandon the notion that this kind of brinkmanship is either an acceptable or effective means of doing business.

It could, theoretically, be effective. But shutting down the government hardly provides an atmosphere conducive to effective lawmaking.

Once burned does make some people twice shy. Now that both sides have been burned, members of both parties should be more reticent about including this boomerang in their political arsenals.

Unfortunately, this kind of scorched-earth partisan politics will only further divide Republicans and Democrats in Congress. What once was bad continues to get worse. The least they can do is leave the rest of us out of it when they go to war.

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