This Alex Parenne piece made it onto my queue, aka backlog a couple of weeks ago. Then I saw it on Chris Hayes last night. The Long, Lucrative Right-wing Grift Is Blowing Up in the World's Face. It makes a couple of points I really agree with (ah confirmation bias). The first is how right wing media broke the Republican party:
Rather rapidly, two things happened: First, Republicans realized they’d radicalized their base to a point where nothing they did in power could satisfy their most fervent constituents. Then—in a much more consequential development—a large portion of the Republican Congressional caucus became people who themselves consume garbage conservative media, and nothing else.
That, broadly, explains the dysfunction of the Obama era, post-Tea Party freakout. Congressional Republicans went from people who were able to turn their bullshit-hose on their constituents, in order to rile them up, to people who pointed it directly at themselves, mouths open.
Now, we have a president whose media diet defines his worldview, interests, and priorities. He is not one of the men, like most of those Tea Party members of Congress, whose existing worldview determined his media diet—who sealed himself off from disagreeable media sources. He is, in fact, something far more dangerous: a confused old man who believes what the TV tells him.
The second is how the two parties behave:
Here’s the real, non-ideological difference between Republicans and Democrats:
Democrats by and large are convinced that no one actually supports their agenda, and they devote a not insignificant amount of time and political capital to explaining to their own constituents why they cannot pursue goals that a majority of them support. (“I supported single payer since before you were born,” says Nancy Pelosi, who has the legislative and leadership record of someone who may support single payer but clearly doesn’t actually expect it to happen in our lifetimes.)
Conservatives, especially those who came up during the Obama era, have, more or less, the opposite problem: They’ve convinced themselves that their agenda is hugely popular and that everyone supports them.
There’s actually been some research on this: Politicians—both liberal ones and conservative ones—believe that the electorate is more conservative than it actually is. Conservative politicians believe the electorate is much more conservative than it actually is. Once you learn this, suddenly a lot of things about how elected officials act make more sense.
The most important major divide among Congressional Republicans isn’t between moderates and conservatives, or establishment and anti-establishment politicians, but between those who know that their agenda is hugely unpopular and that they have to force it through under cover of darkness, and the louder, dumber ones who believe their own bullshit. And for those loud, dumb members, egged on by a media apparatus that has trained its audience to demand the impossible and punish the sell-outs who can’t deliver, those more tactical members are cowards and RINOs.
Jonathan Chait wrote Republicans Are Going to Wish Hillary Clinton Won
Imagine what the political world would look like for Republicans had Hillary Clinton won the election. Clinton had dragged her dispirited base to the polls by promising a far more liberal domestic agenda than Barack Obama had delivered, but she would have had no means to enact it. As the first president in 28 years to take office without the benefit of a Congress in her own party’s hands, she’d have been staring at a dead-on-arrival legislative agenda, all the low-hanging executive orders having already been picked by her predecessor, and years of scandalmongering hearings already teed up. The morale of the Democratic base, which had barely tolerated the compromises of the Obama era and already fallen into mutual recriminations by 2016, would have disintegrated altogether. The 2018 midterms would be a Republican bloodbath, with a Senate map promising enormous gains to the Republican Party, which would go into the 2020 elections having learned the lessons of Trump’s defeat and staring at full control of government with, potentially, a filibuster-proof Senate majority.
Instead, Republicans under Trump are on the verge of catastrophe. Yes, they are about to gain a Supreme Court justice, no small thing, a host of federal judges, and a wide array of deregulation. Yet they are saddled with not only the most unpopular president at this point in time in the history of polling, but the potential for a partywide collapse, the contours of which they have not yet imagined. The failure of the Republican health-care initiative was a sobering moment, when their early, giddy visions of the possibilities of full party control of government gave way to an ugly reality of dysfunction, splayed against the not-so-distant backdrop of a roiled Democratic voting base. They have ratcheted back their expectations. But they have not ratcheted them far enough. By the time President Trump has left the scene, what now looks like a shambolic beginning, a stumbling out of the gate, will probably feel like the good old days.
Josh Barro walked through why Tax reform doomed like healthcare reform.
The Journal's well-reported story amounts to this: President Donald Trump would like to sign a tax reform bill, but he and his aides have no vision for what the tax reform bill should say.
"Broadly, Mr. Trump wants a simpler tax code and lower business tax rates to stimulate investment and spur manufacturing," according to the WSJ.
That all sounds nice. But substantially everyone in Washington claims to be in favor of a simpler tax code that imposes lower rates on a broader tax base. Republicans and Democrats say this all the time, and yet, tax reform does not get done.
This is because, in practice, "simpler" means eliminating tax preferences that benefit various constituencies. When the specifics of "simplicity" get laid out, tax reform plans start to draw a lot of opposition.
He then expands on these four points:
- The White House does not like Paul Ryan's plan
- The White House does not have its own plan
- The White House does not know what its coalition is to enact tax reform
- All the White House knows is it wants Trump to sign a tax reform law
It's easy to extrapolate these points to every other issue. Matthew Yglesias does it, Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan is vaporware that’s never going to happen.
Donald Trump’s rambling, incoherent remarks on federal infrastructure spending during a wide-ranging interview with Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times have set headline writers abuzz with the desire to extract some kind of meaning and news value from his comments. “Trump says infrastructure plan could top $1 trillion,” wrote Marketwatch, while Reuters reports that “Trump says he may use his $1 trillion infrastructure plan as a political incentive.” The Times reporters who conducted the interview — both New Yorkers like Trump, and veterans of the city hall beat — wrote it up as a local story: “Trump Weighs Infrastructure Bill but Keeps New York Up in the Air.”
The truest line in any of this comes from Haberman and Thrush themselves, who observe that Trump’s “knowledge of complex policy issues can sometimes be lacking.”
And to the extent that that’s news, it’s the only actual news Trump made on infrastructure. His remarks make it clear that he doesn’t know anything about the substance of the issue or about the relevant congressional procedures. He doesn’t appear to be familiar with the related provisions of his own administration’s budget, and he isn’t putting in the time to lay the political groundwork for any legislation. The trillion-dollar infrastructure plan doesn’t exist except as a line of rhetoric.
Martin Longman comments on Chiat's post saying Washington Monthly | Trump is Failing for Same Reason That Boehner Failed.
In truth, however, almost no Washington Republicans voted for Trump in the primaries. The elite conservative intelligentsia never saw Trump as fit for office, nor did they see him as an ideologically acceptable conservative. They had reconciled themselves to a Clinton presidency and were gearing up to win the battle over the autopsy of Trump’s campaign. Most of them did not want Trump to win and we’re relieved that the polls indicated that he had no chance to win.
Chait is correct that rank-and-file Republican voters largely stayed with Trump, meaning that they “brought disaster upon their country.” This led Trump to make a fatal miscalculation. He thought he won with a partisan vote so he should be able to govern with an exclusively partisan coalition. That was incorrect because his victory was a victory over both parties, and the Washington Establishment didn’t accept him irrespective of which party they represented.
Trump needed a bipartisan coalition from the moment he saw the surprising Electoral College results, and he had a major repair job to do if he was going to find any space on the left after insulting every ethnic and minority group in the country, running an explicitly racist campaign, and being exposed as a sexual predator. That was the moment when he needed to begin an aggressive pivot in both his style and rhetoric and in his legislative proposals.
At least at the outset, he had some alternatives. He might have tried to gain support for a legislative agenda that, while distinct from his campaign promises, was consistent with it in spirit. There were coalitions of Democrats who might have helped him figure out an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership or ways to renegotiate NAFTA. He could have had support for an infrastructure bill that looked a lot like what President Obama had called for for years. Repeal and replace could have been softened into something less vindictive and more constructive. He could have consulted the Democrats on appointments to key administrative and cabinet positions.
In the end, this would have probably broken the House of Representatives in ways I have been advocating that it break ever since John Boehner discovered that he had to rely on Democratic votes to pass appropriations bills, pay the government’s debts, and keep the government’s doors open. Just as with Boehner, Trump’s true House majority would always have to be bipartisan if it were to be a majority at all.