Sunday, January 21, 2018

Shutting Down the Government and the Women’s March

Image of last year's Women's March (NYT)
I tend to identify with conservative ideas a lot more often than not. I am neither proud or ashamed of that. It is just a fact based on my sense of right and wrong. Which is heavily influenced by my religious beliefs as an Orthodox Jew. It is in trying to understand the Torah’s religious principles that shapes my political views.

That said, Judaism is neither conservative or liberal. It is based only on the will of God. All we can do as believing Jews is try and do His will as best we can understand it. Which in my view more often reflects conservative ideas rather than liberal ones. But not always. That is why for example I support abortion rights – a liberal position in spite of my generally conservative leanings.

Sometimes my religious perspective results in ambiguity about public policy. I am opposed to gay marriage – a socially conservative position. And yet am very sympathetic to treating homosexuals with the dignity they deserve as human beings – a more liberal approach.

I mention all of this because I want to make clear where I am coming from about a couple of things that happened yesterday:  The government shutdown and the Women’s March.

I can understand the motivation of Democrats (mostly liberals) for refusing to vote for an extension of funding that would have kept the government open. They `sincerely want to help ‘Dreamers’. 

Dreamers are young children who were brought into this country by parents that violated our immigration laws - smuggling their family into this country. Most of those children have known no other country than America. They have no memory of their parents’ home country. They are culturally American. Most of them are well integrated into society and are high functioning productive members of it. They are mostly employed or are in schools. They contribute billions of dollars to the economy. 

It is not their fault that they came here illegally. Until now they were subject to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and were given the right to remain here legally. DACA will soon expire. I don’t think that anyone with a soul would want to see them deported. Including the President and Republicans (mostly conservatives).

The problem is that even though both sides want new legislation to solve this problem, the President and Republicans want to include tough security measures on our borders that would require billions of additional tax dollars. Democrats refused to do that. One can debate the merit or necessity of that kind of border security. It would have been nice, however, if they had put aside that issue and solve the ‘Dreamers’ problem with some sort of compromise.

Is this on Republicans? Not exactly. They were prepared to pass legislation with a compromise accepted by Democrats.  But the Trump White House refused to do that without tougher border security measures. So the failure to pass DACA legislation is basically on Trump.

While all this was happening, the government was in danger of shutting down. Congress needed to appropriate funds as part of the budgetary process by September 30 in order to keep it going. When that doesn’t happen they pass temporary funding. Democrats decided not to do that and instead use it as a threat in order to force the Republicans to pass DACA legislation. In short they were willing to sacrifice the well being one set of people in favor of another. They were willing to hurt the livelihood of government employees for the cause of Dreamers. It would have been one thing had they sacrificed their own salaries. But they will not lose a penny. They decided it was OK for others to suffer for their cause.

The right thing to have been done was extend government funding and continue to negotiate for a DACA policy that both sides want.  Especially since not a single ‘Dreamer’ was in any danger of being deported. My guess is that they will in any case never be deported. But that didn’t stop Democrats from carrying out their threat.  The government has shut down and many of its employees were laid off. No matter how many Democrats say it’s a Trump shutdown. It is not. The government shutdown is on Democrats.

Interstingly polls seem to indicate that most of the American public blames Trump and by extension Republicans. I can only surmise that the constant barrage of anti Trump media coverage (much of it deserved) has conditioned the public to blame Trump (and Republicans) when anything goes wrong. But that is clearly not the case here. Trump can be blamed for not passing DACA legislation. But not for the government shutdown. Two separate issues that are not tied to each other.

The Women’s March  is yet another thing that troubles me. Before anyone stones me - let me explain. It is true that women aren’t treated fairly in our society. There is as of yet no parity in pay between men and women. No equal pay for equal work. Which is an outrageuos injustice that has gone on far too long. It is also true that women are not yet treated with the same respect as men are in the workplace. Their opinions in the boardroom for example - if valued at all - are not as valued as are those of their male counterparts. The glass ceiling is alive and well and has not yet been broken. 

Another legitimate cause for women to march is the recent spate of revelations about the vastness  of sexual harassment and abuse so pervasive today. I admit to being shocked at the extent of it. I have never personally witnessed it. But I’m sure it happens and worthy of protest.  

But it seemed to me that this march was not only about that. It was almost an ‘anti man’ march. The message I got from media coverage of it was that  attitude expressed was ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’. A phrase coined by feminist icon Gloria Steinem.  And that it’s time that women ‘took over!’ 

Now before anyone calls me on this and tells me to show an exact instance of that, I can’t do it. No one there said those words. Or that they hated men. But based on the angry rhetoric heard in some of the news clips, it sure seemed that way. You would think that women as a whole were being subjected to the slavery of antebellum South. Which is hardly the case.

Until Trump was elected, I am not aware of a single march for women in the last 30 years. It was only with his election that these marches began to take place. The first one being a massive one right around Trump’s inauguration.  Long before revelations about the massive degree of sexual harassment.  Clearly this was more of an anti Trump rally than a pro women rally.

Also if one surveys some of the placards carried by participants in yesterdays’s women’s march one will see signs supporting gay rights. And Palestinian rights. In fact one of the organizers of this event was a Muslim woman by the name of Linda Sarsour. She is an avowed supporter of the anti Israel BDS movement. I might understand why Muslim women might feel they are treated unfairly in Islam. But in an interview I saw. Sarsour spoke about the mistreatment of Palestinian women by Israel. Not by Muslim countries.  This exposes an agenda that is as much anti Israel as it was pro woman.

That said a lot of sincere well intended people participated in that march yesterday, motivated by the above mentioned legitimate grievances. But I doubt they fully understood the nature of that protest. , Which - aside form being anti Trump – had at its core a liberal-left agenda. The pervasiveness of sexual harassment or promoting equal rights for women seemed almost beside the point if one looks at some of those placards! If one has any doubts about that, watch the video below.

This is my view of things. But I am sure that liberals will deny it all - and consider themselves to be on the right side of these issues. And that’s what makes horse races.