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When it comes to a shutdown of our federal government, even a partial one, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

You have to start at the top, but President Trump isn’t the only player in this shutdown fiasco. Members of both parties in Congress are complicit for their chronic feet-dragging on organizing a federal budget, debate its pluses and minuses, then voting for a compromise spending bill long before the situation reaches crisis/shutdown status.

In the 14 government shutdowns since the start of the Reagan administration, most ended quickly, sometimes within hours. Members of Congress seem to understand the political, next-election implications of thousands of workers being laid off, or working but with paychecks to come sometime later.

The longest shutdown in that span, in 1995-96, lasted three weeks, costing taxpayer billions. The 16-day 2013 shutdown’s eventual price tag was $2 billion, paid out retroactively — for services that was not provided.

No, it really doesn’t make any sense to normal Americans.

Maybe the problem is that too many politicians do not understand that we are all in this together. It’s not about Democrat or Republican priorities. It’s about doing what’s right for the rest of us.

But while true leadership starts at the top, our government is basically a trilateral agreement involving the executive, legislative and judicial branches. The Trump administration seems fixated on making that arrangement top-heavy.

The president’s televised pre-shutdown meeting with Democratic leaders to discuss major issues was problematic. Trump claimed ownership of a then-possible government shutdown, but less than a week later was telling the world via Twitter that a shutdown is all “on the Democrats,” while saying the pause could “could last for a very long time.”

It is our belief — and hope — that most Americans, no matter what their party preference, are sick and tired of this sort of game-playing. This is very much like the captain and first mate on the Titanic arguing about a cricket match while their vessel slips into the depths.

While having any part of the federal government shuttered may seem like Nirvana to anti-government fanatics, it is anathema for the hundreds of millions of citizens who rely, daily, on government services. Think of it as the Veteran Administration’s failures in recent years on a massive scale.

Assuming it is our leaders’ mission to protect and preserve the U.S. Constitution, ordinary Americans need to demand better service from our elected representatives in Washington — and as we said at the start, that starts at the top and works its way through both houses of Congress, and the courts.

Having three more or less equal branches of government serves a valuable purpose, and no single branch should be given unreasonable powers over the other branches. The Founding Fathers’ reasoning behind the three-prong paradigm those many years ago was to ensure that government — the entirety of government — functions efficiently and equally.

Because as the name implies, we are the United States of America, with heavy emphasis on the “United” part. Our elected leaders need to start acting as though that concept is an integral part of their thinking and actions, as it was designed to be.

While polls indicate a majority of Americans place blame for the shutdown on Republicans, the truth is that both parties are responsible, because such a breakdown demonstrates a fundamental failure to govern, which means they aren’t doing their jobs.

Here is the bottom line, and it is an immutable truth — there are no winners in a government shutdown. None.

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