Freshmen Democrats who expected to hit the ground running in January are feeling the pressure as the partial government shutdown over border wall funding enters its fourth week.
Newly-elected Democrats in Trump-won districts are unable to pursue their overtly progressive agendas, and many are concerned that the party’s leaders are not doing enough to compromise as they struggle to pacify angry constituents, according to multiple reports.
Freshmen Dems hurt by shutdown
The Democrats have attempted to project an image of unity and strength in their refusal to negotiate with Trump to open the government, with party leaders saying that the shutdown is hurting Trump more than the Democrats. Polls show that more voters are indeed blaming Trump for the shutdown than Democrats.
But while the Democrats appear to be winning the PR battle on the national level, with no small help from the media, cracks are starting to show. Freshmen Democrats, many in vulnerable districts that Trump won in 2016, are having a hard time convincing their constituents that their party is doing enough to compromise on border security.
Rookie and veteran Democrats arranged meetings last Wednesday and over the weekend to discuss how to handle the shutdown, as members of the incoming class are reportedly “freaking out” about moving forward without a clear strategy from higher-ups. Some Democrats are warming up to compromising with Trump by trading border wall money for legal protection for so-called Dreamers, illegal immigrant children who were allowed to stay and work in the U.S. under an Obama-era program that has become known simply as DACA.
“I think it’s something that should be in the discussion here, because things are obviously going so slowly,” said Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) at a Democrat huddle on the shutdown last week. “I think this is ground that most Democrats should feel comfortable standing on.”
While Democrats are uniformly against the wall and many support Pelosi’s approach, some are worried that their leaders aren’t doing enough to project the image that they are willing to compromise to end the shutdown as they field angry phone calls from government workers missing paychecks.
“If I am getting comments and contact from my constituents expressing concern that the Democrats are not prioritizing security, then I think we can do better,” freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) said at a closed-door caucus meeting last Wednesday.
Support national emergency?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have said that they support border security, but their proposals remain cloudy. They are refusing to negotiate with Trump on money for the wall, which Pelosi has called “immoral,” but some freshmen and veteran Dems are questioning whether this extreme rhetoric is helpful. Others have said that they would be more comfortable with the party focusing on logistical rather than moral arguments.
“We can be making that point of emphasis a little stronger,” said Rep. Ron Kind, a moderate Democrat (D-WI). “Anytime you can get Democrats back talking about fiscal responsibility again, that’s a good place for us to be.”
Some are even warming up to Trump’s proposal to declare a “national emergency” to fund the wall without congressional approval, The Hill reported. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said a national emergency “might be the best of the bad lot in terms of the options left to us,” though Trump himself has said that he doesn’t want to take such a drastic measure and would prefer to go through Congress.
Meanwhile, some Republicans have shown that they are feeling pressure as well, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a vocal supporter of the national emergency route, suggested that Trump temporarily open the government for a few weeks to get things back on track.
As the shutdown standoff continues, it remains to be seen who will blink first — but the shutdown is hurting Democrats more than their leaders may be willing to admit.