Monday, March 28, 2016


In The New York Times, Nicholas Confessore has written a long article titled "How the G.O.P. Elite Lost Its Voters to Donald Trump." Confessore's conclusion is that the agenda of Republican elites is fundamentally at odds with what rank-and-file downmarket voters want. He suggests that those voters simply aren't going to vote for establishment candidates anymore:
From mobile home parks in Florida and factory towns in Michigan, to Virginia’s coal country, where as many as one in five adults live on Social Security disability payments, disenchanted Republican voters lost faith in the agenda of their party’s leaders.

... While wages declined and workers grew anxious about retirement, Republicans offered an economic program still centered on tax cuts for the affluent and the curtailing of popular entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. And where working-class voters saw immigrants filling their schools and competing against them for jobs, Republican leaders saw an emerging pool of voters to court.

“They have to come to terms with what they created,” said Laura Ingraham, a conservative activist and talk-radio host. “They’ll talk about everything except the fact that their policies are unpopular.”
Confessore says that the stirrings of discontent were noticeable even two years ago:
In early 2014, a group of neighbors from a Florida mobile home community called Carriage Cove, near Daytona, took seats in a town-hall-style meeting with Representative Ron DeSantis, a Republican. It was a mix of Republicans and Democrats, almost all of them seniors living on fixed incomes.

They had come to ask Mr. DeSantis why he had put his name on a letter urging Republican leaders to take up Mr. Obama’s offer of a deal to overhaul Social Security. Mr. DeSantis seemed caught off guard, neighbors who attended the meeting recalled. He did not necessarily agree with everything in the letter, he told them. When they persisted, Mr. DeSantis left, explaining that he was not feeling well.
But did this become a serious problem for DeSantis? No. Even though he signed a letter calling for a Social Security overhaul -- something you'd think would be a political blunder in Florida -- he went on to win reelection in 2014 by a 25-point margin. He's now running to replace Marco Rubio in the Senate, and even though he's trailing in the GOP primary race, he's already lined up support from the Tea Party Express, the Tea Party-linked FreedomWorks, Phyllis Schlafly (who's backing Donald Trump in the presidential race), Citizens United, and Tea Party senator Mike Lee. A Florida political analyst quoted by Southern Political Report calls DeSantis "the man to beat" in the primary.

But maybe he'll lose a race he seems well positioned to win. What about a race in which a well-positioned candidate lost a stunning upset in 2014? Confessore writes:
In Virginia, an unheralded college professor from the Richmond suburbs named Dave Brat announced a primary challenge to Representative Eric Cantor, the majority leader. Mr. Brat attacked Mr. Cantor for his ties to Wall Street. But as the campaign heated up, Mr. Brat recalled in an interview, he began railing against his party’s immigration proposals. “I saw this very crony-ist aspect of the nation’s power structure pushing this agenda,” Mr. Brat said.

That message helped propel Mr. Brat to victory....
So Brat was a proto-Trump? That's not what we were told by The Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel after he upset Cantor:
Yes, immigration came up in this race, though it didn't get ugly until the end. It happens that Mr. Brat, an economics professor, spent the bulk of his campaign rallying voters to a traditional free-market, pro-growth economic agenda. It centered on a tough criticism of crony capitalism and a clarion call for a flatter and more efficient tax code.
In fact, Cantor tried to put together an agenda aimed at the middle class -- and Brat won while sneering at it, Strassel writes:
... [Cantor's] "Making Life Work" agenda made him a poster boy of that new GOP impulse to focus on populist initiatives that cater to the middle class.

Mr. Brat openly derided "Making Life Work," referring to its "catchy little phrases to compete with Democrats for votes." As he told Mr. Hannity: "I do not want the federal government trying to make my life work."
But surely Brat, like Trump, agreed that existing benefit programs need to be preserved -- right? Well, no:
Asked about cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance, Brat replied that he supported drastic reductions in payouts from social programs for seniors:
I'll give you my general answer. And my general answer is you have to do what's fair. Right. So you put together a graph or a chart and you go out to the American people, you go to the podium, and you say, this is what you put in on average, this is what you get out on average. Currently, seniors are getting about three dollars out of all of the programs for every dollar they put in. So, in general, you've got to go to the American people and just be honest with them and say, "Here's what fairness would look like." Right. So, maybe the next ten years we have to grandfather some folks in, but basically we're going to move them in a direct line toward fairness and we have to live within our means.
Brat took some heat for this statement, which implied a two-thirds cut in benefits -- but when he took to Facebook to defend his position on benefit programs, he sounded exactly like a Romney/Ryan Republican:
We must protect current seniors as well as those nearing retirement (those who are 10 years or less from retirement) from any changes to the system....

For younger people, I propose phasing in a gradual increase in the eligibility age for receiving benefits. When Social Security was designed, the average life expectancy was 60; today it’s 79. The system wasn’t built for people living so long, which is why it’s running out of money. That’s why we need to fix it soon.

We also have to go after the egregious fraud that robs billions from Medicare and the Social Security Disability program.
Last December, CNSNews reported that Brat is looking forward to Ryanesque entitlement reform:
Brat advocates reforming, not cutting, the mandatory spending programs so they won't be insolvent by the next generation. That includes raising the retirement age for future beneficiaries.

"So we've got some heavy lifting to do." He noted that House Speaker Paul Ryan has "expertise" in both entitlement reform and budgeting, "so hopefully we can do that."
As for free trade, Brat once told Chuck Todd:
Yeah, I’m a free trader. After World War II, the GATT brought tariffs roughly from 50% down to about 4% or less today. And that’s been good for European trade with us. We set up our arch-enemies Japan and Germany after the war, started trading with them, and it enriched all of us. I have a win-win positive view about relationships with other countries that respect the rule of law. So we have to move forward on that front.
He opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but apparently only because he thinks Barack Obama is evil -- he likes globalism in the abstract:
“Trade is hugely important,” says Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va. “The move toward free markets [in China and India] has lifted 2.5 billion people out of poverty. That’s what we want to achieve. Everyone on this panel cares about every single person on this planet. But we just got done going through a major trust issue with President Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty.”

“So I am leaning heavy no [on the bill] because I don’t think we are taking into account these institutional concerns—the relationship between the executive branch and Congress,” he concluded.

... Brat said he would only vote for Trade Promotion Authority if Obama “gets rid of unconstitutional amnesty” ...
Oh, and he voted to repeal the estate tax, which applies only to millionaires.

So we're not living in a brave new world in which survival as a Republican candidate means rejecting every aspect of the GOP establishment's agenda. Hating undocumented immigrants is important, but beyond that, you can be a "new" Republican while taking positions that are only marginally different from those of old Republicans. Angry Republican voters will barely notice the difference. They just want to be told that you hate the old guard, that they're going to win now, and that someone they're angry at is going to lose.


Victor said...

'We may have some shortages in SS in the future, so let's cut the payments now,' says every conservative MFer!

Hey GOP douche-canoe's, how about eliminating the stupid cap?

Why do working stiffs give 12.5% of their total income, while A-Rod, Trump, Mitt, the Koch brothers, etc., have a free ride on any money above that cap?

Ya wanna boost our economy?
Charge 12.5% on ALL income, and give senior's and the disabled (like me) a raise!

Same old shit, same old party!
People aren't laughing at your idiotic old "Laffer curve" any more!
We'really crying and/or dying...

Steve M. said...

Hey GOP douche-canoe's, how about eliminating the stupid cap?


Feud Turgidson said...

Elected R to Government Employee: What can you do to cut your budget by 10%?

GE: Are you kidding? We need a 200% increase just to meet public expectations.

ER: I promised my voters I'd cut it by half. I'm being reasonable here! Again: what can you do for me?

GE: Look, Congressman - your predecessors already cut it in the 1980s, and and Congress and Bill Clinton agreed to freeze it in the 1900s, and then Dubya's yahoos came in and screwed it silly in the 2000s. It's already on life support. Cut it ten, twenty, fifty, or leave it be, it's still not enough to get the job done.

ER to press: I've talked directly to the bureacrats running the progam. They all agree that my bill mandating the program to be cut in half works no different than cutting it by 1%. My billl guarantees that we'll be providing exactly the same service to the public, at half the cost.

StringOnAStick said...

Erik Loomis at LGM has harped on the underlying problem here for years: the economy was transformed by automation and outsourcing, and neither party has come up with a plan for what to do for the workers and portion of society that has been marooned on the island of poor wages as a result. The Democrats at least want to address it, the Repubs just want to keep creating new hate objects for the base to focus on while the looting continues apace. A run on pitchforks is entirely possible if they keep this crap up, and they will.

Less than half the people in the US of age 50 or older have saved more than $5,000 for retirement; so exactly how well is all this "entitlement reform" supposed to work, other than elders dying in the gutters, as they did before there was SS? The fact that the republican voters support politicians who champion this idea rather than lifting the cap is a prime example that people can only think in the "now" ("I can hate, here and now!") than about the future ("gee, the only money I've got for retirement is SS. Eh, who cares as long as non-white people get screwed first").