Remember when you were a kid and had to a pass a “talking stick” to have your say in class? Well, welcome back to elementary school – because our best and brightest in government apparently need to resort to grade school tactics to have an adult conversation. During the Democrat’s trainwreck of a government shutdown, Senator Susan Collins invited twenty of her colleagues from both sides of the aisle to a meeting to discuss terms – only to find that they couldn’t make it through an exchange without shouting over each other. Collins then leapt into well-meaning action and brought out a Maasai leadership stick that Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota had given her years before. In a move familiar to every kindergarten teacher and overworked babysitter, she then insisted that speaking should be limited to the person who held the wooden stick. This went as well as could be expected – until another senator threw the stick into a glass elephant, chipping it.

Yeah. Writers at SNL couldn’t make this stuff up.

But this particular episode is only one story among many in the saga of the disastrous three-day shutdown that resulted from the Democrats digging in their heels during budget negotiations. The whole mess began when the Dems decided that they wanted to force a last-minute  DACA-replacement bill down our throats. The drama resulted in a drawn-out and pointless ordeal where – and here’s the crazy part – hardly anything of substance changed. The shutdown ended on January 22nd, when the president signed a short-term bill to fund the government until February 8th. The legislation included six years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but noticeably lacked any formal mention of DACA. Instead, Senator Mitch McConnell promised a “level playing field” on immigration – promising language to be sure, but nothing that binds the party to action.

Now, DACA is an issue for another blog; I myself have some serious qualms about it. But I think that the furor over DACA and the resulting shutdown says a lot about the fractured state of Democratic leadership. After three days of posturing and empty negotiation, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer blinked; he accepted a resolution that not only tossed DACA to the curb, but also passed over any actual promise to address the issue. Other Dems are furious. According to polling data published by The Hill, a full 39% of voters believe that Democrats “deserve the lion’s share of blame for the shutdown.” Moreover, the party’s recent failure stands to have serious repercussions down the line; as Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the hard-left Progressive Change Campaign Committee commented bitterly after the resolution passed:“These weak Democrats hurt the party brand for everyone and make it harder to elect Democrats everywhere in 2018.” Whether you support DACA or not, you have to take note that the Democrats’ failure to successfully make a stand on the issue reflects a weakness of leadership and a dearth of political influence. In a way, the talking stick incident stands as a metaphor for Democratic leadership: it’s ineffective, ridiculous, and ultimately as broken as a chipped glass ornament. Republicans won this round – and it’s only reasonable to assume they will do so in the future.