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The great Mexican standoff of 2018

In case you haven't noticed, the U.S. Government ground to a halt on Sunday morning. It's now up to all federal government agencies to give furlough notices to all 'non-essential' civilian employees and a 'promissory note' to all active military service members that their wages will be paid AFTER the government resumes normal operations.

This isn't the first time this has happened, and as long as we have two political parties that don't trust each other, it won't be the last. The fight between the Democrats and Republicans has now escalated to what to call it. Is it the Trump Shutdown or the Schumer Shutdown, the Republican Shutdown or the Democrat Shutdown?

Me, I call it the 'Great Mexican Standoff of 2018.' It's not your classic Mexican standoff when two parties are facing each other with equal firepower and loaded pistolas. No, this standoff is for the heart and soul of the Hispanic community's vote in the 2018 mid-term election or the 2020 Presidential election.

I firmly believe that the Democrats caucused and decided, that in addition to continuing their full-throated opposition to anything the President says or does, they would shut down the federal government as a visible act to attract the Hispanic vote. By throwing themselves on the barbed wire and declaring 'viva dreamers' they expect to coalesce support from Hispanics for Democrat candidates in November (especially in 'Red' states where some Senate seats could swing the Republicans' way).

This act of 'selflessness' was nothing of the sort. The Senate Bill had everything the Dems wanted and they could have looked like statesmen and stateswomen by voting for it. Instead, they chose to cut bait and played their biggest card of all (the Dreamer card) in the hopes of being seen as heroes among Hispanic voters. By doing so, they traded away the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the military's wages for a short-term identity politics gain.

What the Dems don't seem to realize, however, is that thousands of CHIP recipients tend to be of Hispanic ethnicity. Neither are they aware that during the last 30 years the number of Hispanics in the U.S. military has grown from 3% in 1985 to 14% in 2016! That's over 1.5 million active duty service members aka voters. There are also thousands of self-identifying Hispanics working in federal jobs.

Shooting yourself in the foot is never good medicine.

Shooting yourself in the foot is never a great way to get rid of a bunion. Shooting yourself in your voters' feet is even worse. Unfortunately, that's what the Democrats have done. They have sacrificed a sure-fire path to the moral high ground (by saying 'yes' to a budget deal) and instead have chosen to fall on their sword. By doing so they have made victims of the same people they were trying to help by shutting down the government. Remarkable.

Everyone could have won had the Democrats voted for the budget and accepted the promise from the White House and House and Senate Republicans to negotiate an immigration deal that included the DACAns before the March 5th deadline. It boggles the mind why the Democrats would risk condemnation from the majority of American voters for their actions unless, of course, you believe that their vote was the first shot in a culture war with Republicans for control of the House and Senate in 2018 AND the presidency in 2020.

The Democrats' hope is to make a DACA deal, which would include a form of amnesty for the DACAns' parents, a vote for 'racial equality' and 'fairness,' and that anyone opposing this would be labeled a racist or anti-immigrant. If Republican law-makers accede to those demands they will immediately lose a big chunk of their base's support. On the other hand, for the Democrats, it is a win-win situation. Republican caving on the chain migration issue, fractures the Party. Standing their ground makes them look heartless and insensitive to immigrants. I don't see a clear winner, here, only collateral damage.

Stephan Helgesen is a retired U.S. diplomat and now political analyst and author. He has written eight books and over 750 articles on politics, economics and social trends. He can be reached at:

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