There has not been a single “aha!” moment for Republicans that causes them to separate themselves from President Trump. However, political self-preservation remains their (and all politicians’) main motivator. Seeing the president’s poll numbers crash after health-care reform went down to defeat was bad enough; seeing their own prospects crater may be enough to get some of them thinking about how to foreshorten the Trump ordeal.
The Quinnipiac poll reports:
“While still negative, the Democratic Party is ahead of the Republican Party in voter favorability: the Democrats get a negative 36 - 48 percent favorability, compared to the Republicans’ negative 22 - 64 percent favorability - a new low.
“If the 2018 Congressional elections were held today, voters say 52 - 38 percent, including 48 - 37 percent among independent voters, they would like the Democrats to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
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“Voters say 53 - 39 percent, including 49 - 40 percent among independent voters, they would like to see the Democrats win control of the U.S. Senate.”
The dip in polling in no surprise. Voters hate what the GOP is doing on health care. (”American voters disapprove 80 - 15 percent of the way Republicans in Congress are handling health care. Even Republicans disapprove 60 - 32 percent. Voters disapprove 64 - 25 percent of Republican ideas to replace Obamacare.”) By a 56 percent to 29 percent margin, voters say Democrats can do a better job on health care. Republicans have lost the edge even on taxes, with an even split - 43 percent to 43 percent - as to which party would do better on taxes. And most significant for the party that dived into the populist swamp, 55 percent say Democrats do better fighting for the working class; only 35 percent say Republicans do better.
This comes on top of Wednesday poll showing Trump’s overall approval down to 33 percent and his support among Republicans falling below the danger point (usually 80 percent) to 76 percent.
In a mere six months, the GOP has gone from being the beneficiary of a populist tsunami to being the party that wants to slash Medicaid, take away healthcare subsidies and give the rich big tax cuts. Congratulations, guys and gals, you’ve thrown away an impressive election victory!
It might be too late to undo the damage entirely, but the GOP might decide to avoid doubling down. What would that look like?
No tax cuts for the rich. Period. Bloomberg reports:
“White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s plan to raise the top income-tax rate for America’s highest earners could find some support among congressional Republicans as part of a populist message to sell a broader tax overhaul, according to one conservative lawmaker who has heard the proposal.
“Bannon supports paying for middle-class tax cuts with a new top rate of 44 percent for those who make more than $5 million a year, according to a person familiar with his thinking. The lawmaker, who asked not to be named because discussions are private, said the rate pitched was 42 percent, which would be acceptable to some conservatives, as long as it’s coupled with a low corporate rate and other changes like repealing the alternative minimum tax. The current top individual rate is 39.6 percent.”
The $5 million cutoff is an artful choice, insofar as it leaves alone upper-middle-class professionals (”country club Republicans,” who used to be the backbone of the party)
That would run up against a buzz saw of opposition from supply-siders and the hard right, but it would fundamentally change the class warfare dynamic. If Bannon succeeds in merely preventing any tax cut for the rich, he’d do his party a great service. I’m unconvinced, however, that GOP lawmakers will go along.
There are other measures that the GOP might propose (an infrastructure plan, a substantial job-training plan, inducements to high tech to open facilities in the heartland, etc.). However, nothing would be so powerful as to give up the GOP’s addiction to tax cuts for the super-rich. Hey, to GOP lawmakers, we’d ask Trump’s favorite question: What do you have to lose?
Jennifer Rubin is a Washington Post columnist.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post