Back home on Friday night after watching the journalism drama “The Post” at the ArcLight in Pasadena, I hunted around for coverage of the political drama “the shutdown.”
I found MSNBC live broadcasting a view of the Senate floor from on high, with knots of senators, one for each party, in discussion, and occasional emissaries walking between them.
Reflecting on the void in presidential leadership, one of the commentators said something like, “This is what parliamentary democracy looks like.” That would be OK, I figured.
The big difference would be that smaller parties often have power in parliamentary systems, and paralysis can result in a snap election. Now that would be interesting indeed.
As predicted, the Senate majority leader was fairly artfully tying his opponents to “illegal immigration” and lack of health care for kids. The minority leader had a weaker hand, in my opinion, but played it well, painting his opponents as intransigent on the issue of those brought here illegally as children.
At midnight, like an aircraft carrier with its engines shut off, the government was cruising on momentum.
I suspected the gyrating compass of blame would come to point at the President. His flip-flops on the Dreamers have been well publicized and as the government ran out of fuel, he seemed to dither.
But polls released on Monday showed that Americans were fairly discerning in this contest, spreading the blame equitably. A larger group of 41 percent saw the Republicans as the ones at fault, while 36 percent said it was the Democrats, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll.
My theory is that while clueless on an awful lot of things, Trump is a kind of savant when it comes to manipulating his army of supporters. And I think he felt his way to the confrontation on immigration, believing he could win it.
But another set of polling data, released by the Pew Research Center on Friday, may have helped the impetus towards a short-term agreement Monday. The data said 74 percent of Americans favor permanent legal status for those brought here illegally when they were children.
Even among Republicans and those leaning that way, the poll showed that 50 percent support legal status, with 40 percent opposed.
Americans are still a generous lot. Even in these times, when columns of foreigners have marched into Europe from the Middle East and Africa, when the President propagates the notion of “the other” taking your job, and even in the face of bombings by immigrants, a big majority of Americans remain willing to give the Dreamers a break.
Those numbers suggest that a year of propaganda from the President, aided by his enthralled TV network, has not had that much effect on the American polity. They have not strayed from their overall character as a forgiving and generous people.
But the Pew poll also carried a bad omen for the party in power. A revolt is brewing, with support for a voter’s incumbent representative at 48 percent. Republican support for their own representatives is lower than Democratic support for theirs leading up to the anti-Obama wave in 2010.
The good thing for the party out of power is that Monday’s agreement to fund the government will allow that overall dissatisfaction to continue percolating. And the Democrats get away with pushing identity politics – instead of non-denominational economic fairness – one more time.
These are tumultuous times, but watching the dramatization of the news process in “The Post,” I was reminded of the times back then, when anti-war demonstrations filled the streets, when political anger combined with profound cultural revolution, when internal political sects set off bombs and robbed banks.
The actual and current drama of the Trump era is set in a more stable time. From day to day, the politics seem turbulent and just wild, with the action pushed along at breakneck pace by the man in the White House.
But the fabric of American society remains strong and elections are coming. The mood that has settled over the current craziness is found in an old Persian adage: This too shall pass.