Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2019

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Where I Stand:

Walled in: Time to quit playing to the chorus

Pain is relative.

That’s what our country is learning from President Donald Trump’s shutdown of the government. As this craziness moves into its second month of seeing over 800,000 federal workers furloughed with no pay, many hundreds of thousands of federal contractors also idled with no payment and no chance to be reimbursed, certain employees forced to work critical jobs without pay coupled with the high anxiety of knowing that while they work for free that their personal bills keep piling up to the point of distraction, it should not be lost on any of us that all this could have been avoided.

All the president wants is a wall, and he has been willing to have the people he works for (that’s us) and who work for him (that’s the federal workers) pay the price. As a result, he has built a wall around the box he has put himself in as he struggles to find a way around or through a tough-minded speaker of the House.

It’s about now that the Trump chorus — which represents somewhere around 30 percent of the country — should be revving up its computers and smartphones to let me know how wrong and wrong-headed I am. Some messages make sense but most — not so much.

I am reminded of the time when I was just a young lad — I think it was 1958 — and polling was a relatively new industry. There was one poll that asked the respondents a simple question: Who is the president of the United States? I have never been able to forget the answer.

Fully 30 percent of Americans said that the president of the United States was Harry S. Truman. I will save you all the need to Google by reminding the baby boomers and sharing with the newer generations that in 1958, Dwight David Eisenhower had been the president since 1952!

What was a young boy to think? That 30 percent of America was stupid? Uninformed? Willfully ignorant? I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears, but there it was. How could so many people be so wrong all at the same time?

My point is simple: We have no good reason in 2019 to believe that we will ever get to that place where 30 percent of Americans will all of a sudden become knowledgeable. And it should not be lost on any of us that the Trump chorus — come hell or high water — hovers around 30 percent.

But, I digress. I was talking about pain being relative. As in none of Trump’s wealthy friends or relatives have a clue about the pain ordinary Americans are being forced to endure during a government shutdown. If you don’t believe me just roll the tape of the past few days of the president’s family and friends demonstrating their complete lack of empathy and understanding about the lives of working people.

At some point, though, the pain our friends and neighbors have to endure because of Trump’s shutdown starts to affect the broader population. We have reached that point.

Take the air traffic controllers, for example. Most of them have had to work without pay, doing a high stress job that holds the lives of the flying public in the balance. Add to that stress the inability in many cases to pay the rent, buy food for their families and pay the bills that keep sanity in their lives and you can see the witches’ brew that is created that cause them to lose the focus that is essential for them to keep planes in the air and away from each other.

Not to be overly dramatic but Las Vegas, for example, lives on our guests’ decision every day to fly into and out of the Entertainment Capital of the World. How long do we reasonably have a right to expect that the flying public will trust their lives to stressed out, unhappy and overworked air traffic controllers? Now imagine every city in the country feeling that kind of pain!

I don’t know how long Trump is going to keep up the charade of protecting America’s borders by way of a wall that may not be needed and no one really wants or wants to pay for, but the bottom line in America today is that he needs someone to provide a strong dose of common sense as well as a civics lesson about how democracy should work in the United States.

Thursday’s Senate votes demonstrated that there are a handful of Republican senators who understand how wrong this shutdown is. Would that there were just a few more Republicans willing to stand up and be counted.

Friday’s announcement that Trump was reopening the government until mid-February and paying federal workers what is owed them is also welcome news because it means that there were many more Republicans who forced Trump to capitulate.

What remains to be done is to do what Congress is supposed to do: negotiate, compromise and fix the immigration problems in this country.

We all hope sanity prevails. If it doesn’t by the Feb. 15 deadline, we will need many more Republican patriots to step up to fight the future madness of King Don.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun