January 22, 2018

Republicans Running Scared

Mitch McConnell. Photo credit: Mother Jones

The tax bill recently passed by the GOP-led Congress just might hurt Republicans more than it does us – and they know it. They know it about all the crap they are pulling.

The corner the Republicans painted themselves into at the moment is getting smaller each day. In any ordinary circumstances, the tax bill legislation that was passed would be seen as a major accomplishment that showed Washington working to produce something that will benefit the country and maybe even the world. Instead, the bill and how it was produced are some of the clearest signs that the Republicans are being drained of power so thoroughly, that it resembles the last thing from a healthy political party.

The tax bill is breathtaking in how heartless it is. It was a given, but the bill would shower the rich with money. It could imperil drinking water for millions of Americans. It’s spiteful to disabled Americans. It keeps the carried interest loophole. It balloons the deficit by over a trillion dollars over the next decade, when that money could be used for so many different things. It provoked an astonishing prediction from a United Nations official. There are so many other horrible things that this bill does, but there wouldn’t be enough space to share them all.

But it’s also how the bill came about. Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee changed his vote to a “yes” without us knowing exactly why. It passed without the Republicans allowing for people to know what they voted for. It freed the shackles of senators like Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, who think that Americans don’t invest because of three things. Again, I could cite other examples but there’s not enough room for that.

The reactions all around are mind-boggling. John Cornyn from Texas bragged about eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Donald Trump, predictably, gloated to people at Mar-a-Lago about what they’ll be getting out of the tax bill. Susan Collins from Maine now has her reputation ruined by this bill, and accusing the coverage of her as “sexist” doesn’t cut it; while I think that sexism and misogyny against women who are right-wing and conservative are unacceptable, anyone who does something that actively causes harm to millions of people opens themselves to derision. There are other nauseating examples to choose from, but…you know.

In some ways, this unforgivable betrayal is refreshing. There’s nowhere to hide now, not when the health insurance program for kids CHIP hasn’t had its funding reauthorized. The shock election in Alabama didn’t change the breakneck pace the Republicans were on. Paul Ryan gets to look forward to the kinds of program cuts that would make Charles Dickens twitch. The Republicans are finally showing their true selves, even if their hopes of saving their asses in the next election cycle because of this are debatable.

Of course, the Democrats are far from blameless. Their shenanigans might actually have helped this tax bill to get passed. Given that the government could’ve been shut down, the Democrats could’ve killed the tax bill and force the hand of the Republicans to pass anything they wanted. Instead, they buckled. Now we’re stuck with this.

But in the end, this says more about the Republicans than anything else. No one in politics has been as bleakly honest as Representative Chris Collins from New York about what the tax bill meant in terms of donations. Indeed, a view that I share with at least one writer is that the Republicans are aware that their fate is drawing to a close. In fact, they might have made a miscalculation for the ages. Because of the weird way that American politics works, over half of the state government elections (at least with their governors) taking place on the midterm elections. A common nugget of knowledge with the midterms is that they’re seen as a referendum on the governing party or president. So even if the Senate is staved off from a surprise changing of the guard, the House and especially the states aren’t so lucky. Though some still raise the specter of gerrymandering to dampen the hopes of a Republican slaughter in November, few could’ve predicted how well the Democrats would fare in the Virginia House elections, regardless of the recount fiasco. The Supreme Court will decide the fate of partisan gerrymandering soon, but they can’t erase the tax bill and how Democrats plan to use it. This election is likely to bring doom to the Republicans, and the tax bill will partially influence that.

However, the long-term spells even worse news for the Republicans. Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona may lament how Trump’s approach for support is incredibly narrow (a bit rich coming from someone who voted for the tax bill), but this situation they’re in is their own fault. One potentially overlooked factor that will haunt the Republicans is how ageism is poisoning the party. Not factoring in the tax bill, Millennials have a spectacularly bad view of the Republicans. At a time when the Millennials are emerging as the largest voting age demographic in terms of sheer numbers, their views on the world spell danger for the Republicans or Donald Trump. Of course, nothing is set in stone, but these findings can’t be ignored.

In short, the GOP tax bill is less of a legislative triumph and more of a desperate last chance to accomplish the unthinkable. It’s hard to figure who exactly this bill is for, beyond the incredibly rich. It screws over the people who voted for the Republicans, it helps obliterate at least one of their long-standing tactics, and will likely make the party even more toxic to long people. Some think that the “starve the beast” mentality will ultimate reward the Republicans in the end, but not if people don’t vote for them. Perhaps it’s still too soon to figure out what the true effects of the tax bill are, but the Republicans might consider themselves lucky if they survive long enough to see those effects.

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