Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Bruce Bartlett, the former Reagan and Poppy Bush aide who now says that "the Republican Party needs to die," reminds us of the GOP's long game in this New York Daily News op-ed, which was published just after the appalling Senate tax bill was approved by the Budget Committee:
So why are Republicans so obsessed with slashing taxes?

... The main reason is that a huge tax cut cements Republican policy into place even if Democrats regain control of Congress and the White House.

In fact, I think many Republicans know and expect that they may lose control of Congress in 2018 and the White House in 2020. Their tax cut will ensure that the era of Democratic control will be brief and unpopular....

Republican deficit hawks, who are now AWOL, will suddenly reappear the moment Trump signs the tax cut. The media will be filled with reports from leading authorities about how the deficit endangers the country in a variety of ways, arguing that action must be taken immediately.

But taxes will be off the table because of the tax pledge. Therefore, all deficit reduction must come from spending cuts. And of course, defense cuts will be off the table. Therefore, the bulk of cuts will have to come from so-called entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare because that’s all that will be left.

After a Democrat wins in 2020, he or she will be browbeaten into supporting a tax increase just as Bill Clinton was. Once that happens, Republicans will be off to the races. They will retake control of Congress in 2022 just as they did in 1994. A Republican President will win in 2024 and make privatization of Social Security a prime goal.

... the long-term Republican plan to shrink government will continue.
It's a vicious cycle. But what if the cycle doesn't cycle, because of another Republican scheme -- the one that limits Democrats' political power by monkeying with the electoral process?

I think Democrats have a good shot at retaking the House in 2018 -- but even if voters choose Democrats over Republicans by a large margin, Republicans will still have a shot at retaining the House or limiting the Democrats' new majority to a tiny handful of seats. And it's unlikely that Democrats will take the Senate next year, because so many more Democratic than Republican seats are in play.

And how likely is it that Democrats will win the presidency in 2020? Trump's popularity is low, but it's still not close to Nixon-in-1974 or Bush-in-2008 levels. GOP vote suppression techniques are only likely to expand with Trump-picked judges rubber-stamping them in the courts. Combine that with Democratic infighting, and add in the mainstream media's habitual willingness to retransmit right-wing smears of prominent Democrats, and I think a Democratic victory in 2020 is far from assured -- yes, even if Trump is running for reelection, and yes, even if Trumponomics has made life miserable for ordinary Americans, and yes, even if Robert Mueller has demonstrated that Trump colluded with the Russians. Heartland tribalism will ensure that Trump wins the majority of the white vote even under those conditions. He really might win the Electoral College yet again.

On the one hand, Republicans are reducing Democratic electoral victories to the bare minimum. On the other hand, Republicans are assuming that Democrats will win every once in a while with a mandate to clean up Republican messes, after which the Dems will be blamed for the national malaise that Republicans engineered, with the result being results in a return to GOP control. I wonder whether these two Republican schemes are working at cross purposes.

If Republicans never lose power, eventually it's going to be impossible even for white heartland tribalists to blame anyone but the GOP for the godawful state of American life. The bad news is that that moment might not come until Year Six of a Trump presidency. The good news is that the backlash might be huge.

Then again, the anti-GOP backlash was huge in 2006 and 2008. Democrats got some things done, but not nearly enough. It's still the GOP's country, as it has been since the 1980s. I don't know when that will really change.

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