How did we get here?



As we write the good employees of the federal Farm Services Agency and Natural Resource Conservation Service worked through an hour-long protocol Monday morning to shut down. They went home for the day, at least, and eventually will get paid for all the time they were off. Seniors waiting for Social Security checks might have a harder go of it as delays are inevitable now. It will cost us plenty.

And we wondered, with no immediate resolution, how did we get here?

Many years ago the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would address, among other things, the fate of young children brought here by undocumented parents. We know many of them right here in Storm Lake. But a band of about 30 immigrant bashers, Steve King the most vocal and repugnant, insist that these bright young students at Storm Lake High School and Buena Vista University should be deported. It is amnesty, dadgummit. It happened twice, whereby the Senate would pass a bipartisan bill and the House would sit on it. The speaker will not schedule a vote, so afraid he is of mutiny among the radicals.

And so it happened again last week, leading to the government shutdown.

President Trump has insisted on border wall funding in any budget talks that would have precluded another government shutdown. It was Trump, none other, who insisted on border wall funding and tied it to the shutdown. Trump also declared that in March executive protections would be pulled from Dreamers. They would be on their own if Congress did nothing. And Congress was doing nothing, as usual. So the Democrats tied Dreamer protection to the shutdown negotiations.

On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offered in a meeting at the White House to agree to whatever number the President wanted on a border wall — an objective of King’s before Trump even knew there was a border with Mexico. Schumer wanted Dreamer protection in return. Trump said fine. Deal done.

Meantime, the White House called over to House Speaker Paul Ryan to tell him they had a deal. Ryan told Trump that he could not corral King and Company. Ryan could not agree to protecting the Dreamers. So the White House called back Schumer to report that the deal was off just two hours after it was struck.

And that’s the moment that the shutdown became real.

An ample majority of House members, Republican and Democrat, would pass a Dreamer protection bill in seconds, shutdown or not. Ninety percent of the American people support the idea. But Speaker Ryan insists on garnering a majority of his Republican caucus votes, not just a bipartisan majority. Ryan could open the government, free the Dreamers and build that wall with one decision to abandon the “majority of the majority” rule on which the perversely named Freedom Caucus insists. There is no way they want to endorse any of those Dreamers.

The government is shut down because Steve King and his amoral lot have confounded Speaker Ryan. It is shut down because Trump cannot be trusted in a negotiation. And, it is shut down because Democrats didn’t have the courage to protect immigrants when they had the votes in President Obama’s first year.

But it is mainly shut down over fear and hate for bright young people.

We saw it again, manifest, at yet another Storm Lake-Spencer sporting event. It actually was not so sporting. It was a basketball game at Spencer. Before the game students announced it was “USA” night against Storm Lake. Fans showed up in the front row with their USA shirts and chanted it at the diverse Tornado team. They chanted that everyone should lock their cars. The Spencer administrators must have thought it patriotic because nobody stopped it despite pleas from Storm Lake authorities.

How did we get to that place? How is it that we hear the “N” word used against a Storm Lake basketball player in Le Mars? Or epithets in Hull at a Christian school, of all places. Or that ugly episode when the Spencer students were calling Storm Lake students a bunch of “beaners” following a football game that Spencer won. They won the basketball game, too, so we are not sure what they are afraid of. This is America, where the white guy wins and the brown people go back to where they came from. Except, we invited them here. We begged them to work in meatpacking because the white people bailed out of it. And now we want to whip them and chase them and berate them and throw them out if we can afford to.

These kids get this hate someplace, and we hope it’s not the water. It’s their parents, their teachers and their friends. They get the message from people like Steve King and Donald Trump who think it is okay to treat people like that, and to hold a nation hostage over it.

We sat for a couple hours last Thursday and spoke with congressional candidate Dr. John Paschen, an Ames pediatrician who is as sober and serious and genuine as King is radical and self-obsessed and ridiculous. We thought: How do we get out of this thing? Paschen said he wants to listen to people and be an independent-minded Democrat. JD Scholten is a young man of good cheer running against Paschen. Leann Jacobsen of Spencer and Paul Dahl of Webster City are running too. Paschen and Scholten are vying hard against each other for the nomination but enjoy spending time together. If you elect someone like that, you are less likely to see a government shutdown. They are reasonable people. We must reject the hate and the fear. It made us feel better that Dr. Paschen is willing to give up his medical practice to strike a blow for kindness and listening to everyone. We all know how we got to this place, and we all know how to get out of it.