Nov. 05

Click for

New Senate: DEM 48             GOP 52

New polls:  
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: (None)

Previous | Next

Democrats Prepare to Resist Tax Bill

The Democratic Party, in their current role as the opposition party, are gearing up for the fight against the GOP's tax bill. The general plan is to run the same playbook they used in the very successful fight against the Obamacare repeal(s), though it remains to be seen how adaptable it will be.

The resistance to Obamacare was primarily successful for two reasons. The first is that the Democrats stayed completely unified, with nary a single member of the blue team breaking ranks. On taxes, however, they may not be able to summon that kind of solidarity. Moderate and conservative Democrats don't entirely hate the GOP tax plan, and some are signaling that they will give serious consideration to voting for the bill. That includes a number of Democratic senators up for re-election in red states, like Joe Manchin (WV), who said, "I'm not ruling out supporting it—heck, no. If I find a pathway forward, I'll be for it."

The other key to killing the Obamacare repeal was the outspoken resistance from rank-and-file voters, who overran town hall meetings, flooded Congressional phone lines, and otherwise brought all manner of pressure to bear. It is unclear, however, whether tax policy—which tends to be a bit more arcane—can trigger the same kind of visceral response. Especially so soon after the Obamacare fight, which may have left the grassroots folks a bit worn out.

So, the blue team may struggle to pull off Obamacare resistance v2.0. That doesn't necessarily mean the GOP has an easier path forward with taxes than they did with health care, though. While it's true that Democrats are more likely to break ranks, so too are Republicans. The several dozen GOP representatives in deep blue states will be particularly difficult votes to get. And while the grassroots may not be quite as vocal this time, the lobbyists will be much louder, and most of them will be pulling against the bill. Add it up, and the smart money says that tax reform ends up at the same place health care reform did, just by going a slightly different route. (Z)

Conservative Media Outlets Becoming Houses Divided

Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, the two most prominent American media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch, have had two distinct tasks for the last couple of decades. The first is to produce journalism. The second is to tote water for the Republican Party. Though these two things are rather at odds with each other, it's possible to somewhat reconcile them as long as a normal, grown-up president is in office. But that's not what we've got right now, with the result that both media outlets are developing some serious internal divisions.

Starting with the Journal, it is the case that the paper's editorial page has often espoused controversial positions. However, in the past few weeks they've gone all-out in slamming Robert Mueller and his investigation, arguing that he "threatens the rule of law," while calling for Donald Trump to issue a blanket pardon to anyone and everyone who may have been involved in, well, anything. "WSJ edit page has gone full bats--t," said one former staffer, while another opined that, "I feel sorry for every decent reporter at the WSJ for this claptrap from Rupert Murdoch's ever desiccated soul." The journalists at the paper, who are working hard to catch up to the Washington Post and The New York Times when it comes to coverage of the Trump administration, are indeed growing frustrated. "We could disprove half the stuff [the opinion writers] are saying if they just read our own reporting. It's like living in some alternate universe," said one current Journal staffer.

Fox News has much the same problem. The faces of the network—starting with Sean Hannity—are opinion brokers, and are almost all in the bag for Donald Trump. The news staffers, by contrast, try to maintain some semblance of neutrality. But even in the case of newspapers, the general public struggles to grasp the line between opinion and reporting, and with television that problem is much worse. The result is that the journalists who work at Fox feel they are constantly being undermined, and even humiliated. "It's an embarrassment," said one staffer. "Frankly, there are shows on our network that are backing the President at all costs, and it's that short term strategy that undermines the good work being done by others."

In the end, this is a fight that the journalists are going to lose. It's the editorials and opinion folks that sell newspapers and attract eyeballs, which is why there is a correlation at Fox between "how highly paid am I" and "how outrageous am I." Further, Murdoch (and sons) might not care so much about money anyhow, if they are able to effectively peddle their conservative views (think the media equivalent of the Kochs). So, many of the journalists at the WSJ and Fox will, eventually, throw in the towel, and both outlets will get even more partisan. (Z)

Bushes Blast Trump

Historian Mark Updegrove has a new book called The Last Republicans, for which he interviews both of the Presidents Bush. Neither of them had good things to say about the current occupant of the White House. "He's a blowhard," said Bush the father, while Bush the son weighed in with his opinion that, "This guy doesn't know what it means to be president."

It is not news that the Bushes don't like Trump. They are as old-school, genteel, establishment, "party of Eisenhower and Reagan" Republican as it gets. The Donald is none of those things. Further, the Bushes have very long memories, and will not soon forget the scorn and ridicule that Trump heaped upon Jeb Bush during the 2016 campaign. The only thing new here, then, is exactly how unreserved the Georges are being with their criticism.

Meanwhile, the thesis of the book—conceived when Hillary Clinton seemed to be a shoo-in—is interesting and worthy of examination. Essentially, Updegrove argues (and the Bushes agree) that the "party of Eisenhower and Reagan" may be dead. This sort of phoenix-like death and rebirth happens; the GOP of Lincoln wasn't much like the GOP of TR, which wasn't much like the GOP of Nixon. It could be that the Republican Party, going forward, caters primarily to rabble-rousing racists, reactionaries, and populists. Certainly, a Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) or a Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) senses that is where things are headed, which is why they're getting off at the next station. If so, it's probably not the best thing for the party's electoral hopes, or for the country as a whole. (Z)

Brazile Reopens Old Wounds for the Democrats

Donna Brazile, who was asked to take the reins of the Democratic Party when Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned in disgrace last year, dropped something of a bombshell this week. In a piece for Politico, she made some very provocative claims about the situation she found when she assumed leadership of the Democrats last year. Specifically, Brazile alleges that Wasserman Schultz was incompetent, that the Party was broke, that the Clinton campaign was keeping the DNC afloat financially, and in exchange for this service they were running the Party (long before this was obvious to outsiders).

Overall, Brazile paints herself and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as the victims here. There's no particular reason to think that she is being untruthful, but the revelations do invite some questions about her role in all of this, and exactly how much of a victim she is. First, for someone who laments corruption within the Democratic Party, how come she was willing to engage in similar kinds of shady behavior, most notably feeding the Clinton campaign embargoed questions in advance of the presidential debates? Second, how come she didn't do anything about the problems she discovered, beyond calling Sanders and venting to him? Third, how come she's bringing this up now? Perhaps she has a good reason, though the obvious explanation is that she has a book to sell. In any event, re-litigating this aspect of the 2016 campaign is not going to be a good thing for the Democrats. And while the Party might pull together in the 2018 midterms, it's very likely that the progressive vs. moderate schism is going to resurface when the time comes to choose a nominee in 2020. (Z)

Can the Democrats Recapture Obama-Trump Voters?

That is the question raised by a new piece in The Economist. The Obama-Trump voters, of course, are the folks who went for Barack Obama in 2008 and/or 2012, but for Donald Trump in 2016. Though they represent only 4% of the electorate, they have outsized importance because they are concentrated in the swing states of the Rust Belt. And the magazine's answer to its question is: It's going to be tough.

The problem, as author "Lexington" sees it, is that the Obama-Trump voters have cultural issues (I'm being left behind, America's not patriotic any more, my religion is being disrespected, etc.) and economic issues (jobs, loss of buying power, crumbling infrastructure, etc.). The Republicans are doing a better job of connecting on the cultural stuff, while Democrats are doing better on the economic stuff. And, at the moment, the cultural stuff is trumping the economic stuff (pun intended). The Democrats' problem is that it is nearly impossible to appropriate the Trumpian take on culture without alienating huge swaths of their base. So, they might not be able to win back the Obama-Trump folks, and they might not be able to derail a Trump re-election.

The blue team's current experience in Virginia would seem to bear The Economist out. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam has rural roots, a military background, and a folksy persona. If any member of the blue team should be able to connect with the Obama-Trump types, it is he. And yet, his support outside of the state's big cities is all-but-nonexistent. He appears to have been torpedoed primarily by his support for sanctuary cities (which is, in the end, a cultural and an economic issue, though mostly cultural).

These things being said, the Obama-Trump voters may be a lost cause for now, but the Economist is almost surely too pessimistic about the blue team's prospects. There are other voters available for poaching, among them college-educated Republicans. There is probably something to be gained by the Democrats positioning themselves as the party of multinationalism, in contrast to "America First" Trumpism (which has killed climate and trade accords, and inflamed tensions in Asia and the Middle East). As to Trump's reelection prospects, 35% approval is a hard position from which to win a second term. We must recall that an election isn't just about which factions support which candidate, but also which voters are motivated to show up and vote. With Trump in the 30s approval and 50s disapproval, it's looking like his supporters may have trouble dragging themselves out of bed on Election Day, while opponents will be at the polling places in throngs, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. (Z)

Democrats Attracting Lots of Women Candidates

While Donna Brazile's muckraking and the party's ongoing issues with rural voters are not good news for the Democrats, there are some hopeful signs that are showing themselves. Among those is the record number of women candidates who have declared for next year, motivated—it would appear—by loathing for Donald Trump, particularly his less-than-stellar history when it comes to how he treats the opposite sex.

Because the 2018 races are still taking shape, and there's still time for candidates to throw their hats in the ring (or to take them out), it's hard to put precise numbers on the trend. It is clear, however, that women are stepping up at all levels of government, from municipal all the way up to federal. A staggering 19,000 potential candidates have contacted Emily's List, the PAC created to help elect pro-choice Democratic females to office. She Should Run, a very similar advocacy group, has received 15,000 inquiries.

The one place where we can put precise numbers on it is Virginia, which has an election next week in which the entire 100-member House of Delegates is before the voters. A total of 43 Democratic women are running in the 100 races, an increase of 60% since the last House of Delegates election. Of the 43, 26 are running for office for the first time. Needless to say, whether in 2017 or 2018, having so many female names on the ballot certainly doesn't hurt the Party when it comes to appealing to women voters. And it's more evidence of the Democratic enthusiasm that could be Donald Trump's (or Mike Pence's) undoing in 2020. (Z)

When it Comes to Mother Mary, Trump Lets It Be

Politico Magazine has a very interesting, and thorough, piece about Donald Trump's mother, Mary. Given that she lived a long life (dying in 2000 at the age of 88), was a prominent member of the New York social scene, and had an even more prominent son, there is much that is mysterious about her, and about her relationship with The Donald.

Certainly, some facts about Mary Trump are crystal clear. She was a Scottish immigrant who came from humble roots. She had serious health problems during the President's formative toddler years, stemming from the birth of her fifth and final child, which almost proved fatal. She was no-nonsense, and a little aloof, particularly when around non-family members. She was much more religious than her husband Fred. She was the second shooter, stationed on the grassy knoll, when JFK was killed (this fact supplied by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX).

The crystal clearest thing of all, however, is that the son largely does not acknowledge the existence of the mother. Though the President speaks worshipfully of his father, almost to the point of fetishizing him, he rarely mentions Mary. On those rare occasions that he does talk about her, it's to repeat the same two or three vague platitudes, or to use her to promote some business project, like his golf course in Scotland. On his trip to break ground on that course, Trump made a big point of announcing that he was going to visit the house where Mary was born so he could get in touch with his "Scotch" roots (note: Scottish people regard Scotch as a drink, not a nationality). How much time did The Donald spend on the photo-op, er, deeply significant moment? A total of 97 seconds.

The obvious inference from all of this is that mother and son were distant from each other, and had a poor relationship (or no relationship at all). This is a conclusion supported, on some level, by the fact that Mary once asked Ivana Trump, "What kind of son have I created?" Beyond that fairly safe assertion, it is tempting to engage in some armchair psychologizing, and to propose that some of Trump's most notable personality traits might stem from his weak maternal relationship. The constant craving for approval, for example, or the abusive treatment of (some) women employees. However, psychology is an imprecise science in the best of circumstances, and Trump has never sat for any analysis, as he regards the profession with suspicion and disdain. So, we are left with only conjecture. (Z)

Back to the main page