Resources for Talking about the Recurring Shutdown Showdowns

It seems like only a few moments ago, as Speaker Boehner exited his role in the U.S. House of Representatives, that there was talk of a two-year budget deal. Two years with no showdowns that could lead to a shutdown of the federal government. It seemed too good to be true!

And it now appears that it was. After once again tgovernment shutdowneetering on the brink, this week Congress passed a continuing budget resolution, which gets us to December 22, and it looks like both sides have agreed on an omnibus bill that will fund the government until October 2016. It’s good news (though it does include some worrisome provisions including changes to the visa waiver program). While it may be a sign of progress it’s certainly not the new era of reasonableness and bipartisan cooperation we were hoping for.

Perhaps, rather than looking to our leaders for progress, we should strive instead to model good behavior for them. The upcoming holidays provide a great opportunity to work on talking to one another in a way that builds mutual understanding and a more pragmatic, less politicized stance. In preparation, we recommend arming yourself with a) some basic facts about what the real-world effects of government shutdowns, and b) some communications strategies designed to make progress without getting hung up on politics.

For some tangible examples of challenges our nation and our communities would endure if the federal government shut down, read this recent piece in the Washington Post. It highlights impacts such as timeliness of tax refunds, delays in home loan applications and national park closings.

For advice on how to navigate tricky conversations on this topic we offer this new tool, which we produced for our partner organization, Indivisible.

May the force be with you. If your holiday table often turns into a political battleground, the good news is it might be a bit easier to discuss the federal government in a civil way this year. Not only is the federal deficit at its lowest point since 2007, but fewer Americans cite the federal debt and deficit as a top concern. If you use any of these tips, drop us a line and let us know how it goes. We’re always looking for test cases that can help us refine our advice to communicators.

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