Chuck Schumer started a government shutdown he couldn’t finish.
The New York Democrat, among the shrewdest operators in national politics, stumbled badly because he succumbed to the siren song of the anti-Trump Resistance. He believed any charge could be made to stick to President Trump, no matter how implausible, and chose the dictates of an inflamed Democratic base over common sense.
His embarrassing climbdown after a short, mostly weekend shutdown shows the limits of the Resistance. Yes, an anti-Trump midterm wave appears to be building and Democratic activists — marching in the streets by the thousands and badgering Republicans at town-hall meetings — are energized. But this doesn’t mean that Democrats can act with impunity as long as they are fighting under an anti-Trump banner.
Schumer sought to attach an extraneous matter, an amnesty for so-called Dreamers, on a must-pass government funding bill and when Democrats inevitably didn’t get what they wanted, blame Trump for the ensuing government shutdown. This effort depended on gravity-defying spin that proved sustainable for less than three days.
The fact is that the Republican House handily passed a bill to keep the government open, with the support of the Republican president. Almost every Republican in the Senate voted to pass that bill through the upper chamber — where it required a supermajority of 60 votes, and therefore some Democratic ayes — while almost every Democrat in the Senate opposed it. Republican leaders said they didn’t want a shutdown and urged Democrats not to force one.
It was always going to be true that people, even reporters, were going to notice all this.