Republicans for the first time last week appear united after passing massive tax reform and repealing the Individual Mandate. But, the law is deeply unpopular among the public and has been attacked by both the media and Democrats.
Some, such as my colleague here, have questioned why the GOP would focus on tax reform instead of other issues the President supports such as border security and immigration reform.
The answer is fairly simple as I have pointed out in a prior column, tax reform, especially tax cuts, unite the GOP. More than anything else, moderates and conservatives believe in a simpler and fairer tax code. They might disagree on spending, the deficit and taking care of the poor but on taxes they seem to agree cuts and simplicity are good things. That is why the GOP, against dismal public approval numbers, moved forward with tax reform. Plus, to be honest, tax reform is not a huge voting issue for the public but it sure unites the GOP Caucus and allows them to claim they did something this year.
Compare that to the host of issues President Trump supports such as repealing the ACA, putting in place immigration caps, spending on infrastructure and putting in place restrictive new trade policies. These issues might poll well today but they poll well in the abstract.
We have seen just how well rhetoric and policy on immigration plays among the public. For example, much of the hatred towards Trump among the Democratic base is because Democrats adamantly oppose the President’s agenda on the border. It would certainly be nice if Trump’s concrete proposals really polled around 70 percent approval but they do not.
We have a real life example of this in Trump’s proposed travel ban. On the campaign travel and even after the issue polled well. But, as soon as Trump implemented it the policy fell in approval.
This has nothing to do with the establishment vs. the rank and file or conservatives. Trump is tackling cultural issues head on and the way he is doing it is leading to his approval rating not being above 40 percent since his inauguration.
If anything, the GOP tackling such a vanilla issue as tax reform allowed them to avoid a divisive fight over cultural issues. The party is already earning the support of culturally conservative voters who side with Trump on immigration and dissatisfaction with the government. This tax bill is meant to help the party reach out and entice disillusioned voters with Trump the party wants them to keep their hard earned money.
Republicans would be smart to recognize there are issues they can find common cause with Democrats on. As my colleague above noted, the Amtrak derailment in Washington State should be a wake-up call to the party knee-jerk opposition to new spending will not serve the party well. Time will tell whether they have learned anything from it.
It is unlikely this bill will save the GOP from a bad midterm next year. Suburban voters are moving away from the party for the short-term and Trump’s base is only so big. But, at least, the party is not inciting any more rage.
The GOP tax bill is far from perfect. It does provide a significant tax cut for many families, poor and rich, you and old but the problem for Republicans is it is easy to vilify. Look at these big companies winning and you losing. How is that fair? But considering how badly Trump is polling due to his cultural issue based campaign perhaps Republicans thought it was a safer route.
Indeed, as my colleague Joshua Johnson noted, “The decision to leave in a provision that would allow the carried interest loophole for hedge fund managers doesn’t exactly jive with President Trump’s promise to represent the forgotten men and women of America.” He’s right.
At worse this bill will not make the GOP’s midterm situation any worse. I mean, we have seen how well cultural issues have played among the general public and we have seen just how united the GOP is on repealing the ACA.
The GOP’s first year of unified control of government has exposed deep rifts in the party that go beyond establishment vs. conservative and conservative vs. populist. They expose the rifts in a party struggling to govern which is likely to continue well into the future both parties.