In a special election yesterday, Colorado voters approved an initiative relaxing the requirements of TABOR (short for “Tax Payers’ Bill of Rights”), a robo-system of fiscal restraints imposed by an earlier ballot initiative.Over at TPMCafe, I’ve already posted an analysis of the greater meaning of this partial rollback of TABOR, which represents an important rollback of the national conservative effort to force states into a fiscal straightjacket protecting high-income and corporate tax breaks at the expense of public investments.But I’d like to add a personal note.]A few years ago I went to Denver to speak at a Democratic legislative retreat, and thanks to TABOR, it was like travelling to a foreign country.Everyone there carried around little books detailing TABOR provisions. Every policy discussion began and ended with extensive comments about “TABOR compliance.” TABOR had clearly accomplished the main goal of its Washington advocates: radically constraining state legislative powers and priorities, not just in terms of overall spending and revenue figures, but in terms of the basic ability to conduct long-term planning and make long-term investments.In a very real sense, TABOR made the very bright state of Colorado “stupid country,” and its advocates hoped to spread the gospel of fiscal idiocy elsewhere.So yesterday’s vote, whatever else it meant, represented one proud state’s declaration of independence from a scheme that made legislative policymaking impossible, and made the normal process of budgeting irrelevant. And TABOR’s defeated proponents got one more important warning that limiting government without making open and rational choices about what government should do is ultimately a self-destructive and ant-democratic exercise.Hats off to Colorado voters, and for those who worked for the passage of this new initiative. Reforming government is one thing; getting smarter and more effective government for the lowest possible tax levels is always a good idea.But arbitrarily and mindlessly promoting arbitrary and automatic spending cuts, with no real attention to setting priorities for what taxpayers should support, is what TABOR was about. And changing that situation is critical all across the country for Democrats, and democracy.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
After watching Donald Trump’s wildly applauded address to this year’s CPAC conference, I wrote an assessment at New York:
In his rapturously received 88-minute address to the 2021 CPAC conference on Sunday, former president Donald Trump didn’t give his listeners what so many of them wanted: a pledge to run for president again in 2024 (though he teased the crowd with his obvious availability). But he vented his outsized spleen fully, and left no doubt that the future of Trumpism will be its past, revived and vindicated.
Much of the speech was rehashed from the brag sessions of the 2020 campaign, treating his administration as one long parade of unprecedented triumphs on every single front. Accordingly, Joe Biden’s extremely brief presidency was condemned as the worst in history already thanks to the 46th president’s reversal of the policies of the 45th (especially on immigration policy), which were one long parade of unprecedented triumphs on every single front. Viewers were left with the distinct impression that a near-utopian future for the country would be as simple as the replacement of Biden with — well, if not Trump — then someone with exactly the same policies and sterling leadership qualities.In tune with the reactionary atmosphere of this and every other Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump suggested that resistance to the plans of the hated opposition was enough of an agenda. Twice he asserted that Democratic governance would put the country on a short road to full-fledged communism. But it was remarkable how little he bothered to outline any ideas for the future other than the restoration of the recent past.
The one exception was his bloody-shirt demands for “election integrity” legislation in every state, which included a universal revocation of no-excuse absentee balloting (and all in-person early voting, since he called for a “single election day”) and universal voter ID requirements. It’s an audacious proposal, considering that 13 states (including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin) carried by Biden already have voter ID requirements, and fully 34 (including 12 states carried by Trump) had no-excuse voting by mail before the COVID-19 pandemic and the marginal liberalization of deadlines and procedures that Trump blames for his defeat.
Apparently Trump’s “landslide” victory required tighter voting rules than the country has had for many years. It’s unlikely a return to the spirit of the days of poll taxes and literacy tests is going to pass muster with federal and state courts (Trump, of course, blasted the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court that included three of his nominees, for lacking the “courage” to overturn Biden’s victory). But Republican subscription to this terrible assault on voting rights is another way that GOP elected officials can bend the knee to Trump.
Other than voter suppression, the future of Trumpism as outlined by its founder seemed to revolve around vengeance against RINOs, the ancient conservative epithet that now seems to be defined strictly by a lack of loyalty to Donald Trump. To feral roars from the crowd, he named every single congressional Republican who voted for his impeachment or conviction, suggesting that all must go before the GOP would be able to match the communist-bent Democrats in viciousness and self-discipline.
It appears, then, that Trump has determined to ensure that Republicans go into 2022 and 2024 as a political force dedicated to the restoration of his legacy with or without his personal leadership. For the most part, the dominant ideological movement in the party and the hallowed conservative movement is his. Indeed, one of the more unmistakeable phenomena of CPAC 2021 is the extent to which Republican activists now treat the conservative and MAGA movements as identical. And if he chooses to keep control of both movements, who can challenge him? The obvious successor to Trumpism is ever more Trumpism, and the obvious successor to Trump is still Trump.