The current government shutdown under Donald Trump is now officially the longest shutdown in American history, surpassing the shutdown under Bill Clinton in 1995 to 1996, which lasted 21 days.
This shutdown started on December 22 after Trump claimed that he would shut down the government unless Democrats agreed to a deal to build a wall on the US/Mexico border. A deal was never reached, and the American government has been shut down since.
What has happened during this period, however, has proven to mirror much of what has happened over the Trump presidency. Foremost on this list is the National Address that Donald Trump gave on January 8. Despite Trump’s claims to the contrary over Twitter, a majority of Americans are not in favor of the wall being built on the Mexican border. So, Trump’s address was meant to try to convince Americans that the wall was necessary for national security.
However, public opinion didn’t change following the address, and Trump’s statements got publicly picked apart by Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Bernie Sanders also had a public rebuttal to Trump’s address on YouTube shortly following the actual event. Pelosi and Schumer both went as far as to say that Trump has been having a temper tantrum, both in their private meetings to try to reopen the government and in the public address.
Trump’s claim that “The Democrats now own the Shutdown” over Twitter was also rebuked by Sanders, who pointed out a previous Trump tweet saying “I am proud to shut down the government… I will be the one to shut it down.” The majority of Americans seem to agree with Sanders. According to USA Today, 53 percent of Americans believe that Trump and the Republicans are at fault for the government shutdown. Only 29 percent blamed congressional Democrats and 13 percent believed both sides were equally at fault, with the remaining percentage not having a view.
Many people also think that Trump’s focus on keeping the wall in the news may be a “smokescreen”- a piece to keep in the news while he tries to either make other deals or cover up other news. That “other news” is more likely than not the investigation into Trump led by former FBI head Robert Muller, which has hung like an ominous black cloud over his presidency. The investigation seems to have been gaining a lot of steam recently, with NBC claiming that he is “just tying up loose ends” and is near the end of his investigations- with many saying he may have a mole in the American government.
What has been lost in the middle of the American political carnival, however, is the effect that the shutdown has had on the people of the USA. Over 800,000 government employees are no longer being paid, and according to CBS, 420,000 of them will have to work anyways-without getting paid. Among these are TSA agents and prison employees. Their statements have almost unanimously contradicted Trump’s claims that “Many of these people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing.” He himself would later contradict that claim, saying that “[he didn’t care] that most of the federal employees working without pay are Democrats.”
More of Trump’s claims involving the shutdown have been insensitive, at the very least. On January 6, Trump claimed that he “could relate” to Americans working without pay, saying that they “will make adjustments.” Obviously, a lifetime millionaire who once called a million-dollar loan “small” saying he can relate to people who need paychecks being forced to work without pay was not met well by many people. ABC-Chicago interviewed Diane Rock, who angrily stated “I… will be evicted because Trump and his administration will not fund HUD projects.” It is, however, worth noting that government employees will be paid for their work after the shutdown is over, as has been pointed out by many Republican lawmakers.
The effects of the shutdown, however, have probably been felt most at America’s national parks. Due to the shutdown, and since helping service a national park is not considered a vital job to the American government, many of the park’s employees aren’t working during the shutdown. However, the parks have remained open, leaving some of America’s most historic preserves vulnerable to essentially being trashed. Parks such as Joshua Tree and Cape Hatteras were almost forced to close down due to the sheer buildup of trash that has occurred. Volunteer groups have stepped in to help clean the national parks, with the largest being the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Organization, which has volunteered at at least six national parks across the country, according to EcoWatch.
With no side willing to budge in this political battle, the shutdown looks like it may continue for some time. This period of time will undeniably go down in US history when all is said and done, no matter who caves first to public pressure. Now all that remains to be seen is how much the shutdown will cost- not in money, but in the lives and livelihoods of the American people.
This was written in January of 2019, and the only one of the pieces on this website not to have been published. However, I believe that it is one of my better writing pieces and certainly a good enough piece of work that I would want to represent me on this portfolio.
It’s also worth noting that I watered down some of my personal opinions in this speech as well, in order to make it more suitable for print. I consider myself progressive and very left-leaning politically, and refrained from using stronger language in order to not alienate people I was trying to reach. I feel that it is important to state my personal political beliefs because it is important for us as journalists to be transparent, and while I would never change a story or not report facts that don’t line up with my personal ideologies, I can fall into the trap of unconscious bias in my reporting. To you, the reader- if you see what you think are examples of unconscious bias in my work, let me know, and I will either defend myself or agree with you.