(Image: Martin Falbisoner, Creative Commons)

The partial government shutdown—which has officially become the longest in history—underscores the crisis of leadership that the United States currently faces. Donald Trump has brought the complex operations of the federal government to a grinding halt in the name of his campaign’s promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Even immigration hardliners agree the wall is bad policy, but that hasn’t stopped Trump and his allies from betraying their responsibility to govern by holding the government hostage in the name of this wasteful vanity project.

Nonprofits are working overtime in order to provide for their constituents during this difficult period. As SNAP recipients face a lapse in benefits, nonprofits across the United States are gearing up to provide for an even greater number of individuals desperate for food in the coming months. On top of this, furloughed Federal workers have turned to food pantries to receive basic needs items, putting even more strain on nonprofit organizations.

While burdening nonprofits by pushing more people into precarious economic situations, the shutdown has simultaneously put a financial squeeze on the entire sector. Take, for example, domestic violence shelters. Many of these vital organizations receive grants from the federal government via The Violence Against Women Act. As a consequence of the shutdown, shelters face an extreme funding shortage. First Step, a shelter in Harrisonburg, Virginia, relies on federal funding to cover 40 percent of its expenditures. Candy Phillips, the organization’s executive director, offered her thoughts on the shutdown’s impact on victims of domestic violence: “We don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s scary to me.”

There are no sound justifications for the government shutdown. Democracy revolves around debate and consensus, not hostage-taking. If the architects of the shutdown fail to reopen the government without preconditions, it only reveals their contempt for their own constituents.

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