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A short list of responsible parties, now with an update

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At least one very serious journal has been quick to declare that airport workers and flight attendants were responsible for the end of a government shutdown that lasted more than a month and gave D.C. a “early stages of the apocalypse” feel that I’ve never experienced before, even in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

According to the editor of the journal, airport workers should be commended for being too sick or exhausted to work, or running out of money for child care or gasoline to get to work. Except he doesn’t put it that way. He just works from the very chilly assumption that a large number of people who work high stress jobs that involve keeping other people alive called in sick in droves because of some sort of coordinated effort and not simply because a large number of people had reached some sort of breaking point.

This is called solidarity with the working classes, apparently. However, another flaw with that belief — that it shares with the belief that we must credit airport and airline workers and the Democrats — is that it leaves out the majority of the people who were responsible. Here’s my list of who deserves credit, and I may have missed someone:

1. Every government worker who survived this bullshit. Some, like my sister and downstairs neighbor simply didn’t work. My sister will get back pay, my neighbor won’t unless Congress passes a bill for contract workers. Other people I know were paid and went to work but with a fraction of normal staffing strength. Some had to work and were not paid. Some had to work without pay at jobs that involve keeping lots of other people from falling out of the sky in crispy burnt bits. But they were frightened and frustrated and not a few were bored out of their wits. They didn’t view 35 days without work as a vacation, or a little bit of pain, and they knew exactly why they were going to food banks. Those who had to work without pay didn’t do it out of loyalty to America or the toad in the White House.

They had every right to take to their phones and to the streets to demand that Congress give Dayglo Gollum his wall and his SotU address and whatever else he wanted, but they didn’t. And so did the people who were indirectly harmed by the shutdown. I assume the effect was greatest in D.C., but people who relied on money spent by people who work for the government felt the strain too.

2. Everyone who provided support to government workers who were out of work or working without pay. I don’t just mean undersung heroes like people at food banks, Chef José Andrés — who will continue to provide free meals to federal workers for another week — or the Association of Flight Attendants, which picked Sen. Mitch McConnell up by the balls and banged his head on the ground a few times.

I’m also thinking of friends and family of furloughed workers who helped out somehow. Maybe they paid a spouse or partner’s half of the bills. Maybe they took someone out to lunch or bought groceries. Maybe they called every so often to say what’s up and listened to the reply no matter how long. It doesn’t matter. If you helped someone going through this, I think you deserve some credit for yesterday.

3. Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. What more can I say?

4. The other Democrats in the House and the Senate who stood firm. A lot of people expected them to fold and they didn’t and now those people are sad and that’s great. I’m sure a few Democrats needed a bracing talk and perhaps a flash of brass knuckles from Pelosi, but they held the line.

Like I said, I feel like I’m missing someone, so please pop it in the comments.

Update: A few people are insisting that airport workers were calling in sick as part of a coordinated effort and not because they were actually sick or otherwise unable to get to work. This might come as a surprise to air traffic controllers and TSA agents who were already struggling at the beginning of the year. But I do admit there’s one factor I didn’t consider: They were going to jobs that did pay.

A union official, however, said that while some employees are upset about the pay, officers have said they are calling in sick for more practical reasons. Single parents can no longer afford child care or they are finding cash-paying jobs outside of government work to pay their rent and other bills, for example.

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