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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Sargent: How GOP Tax Bill Gives Dems Leverage

In his Plum Line post, “How Democrats hope to make Trump pay for his awful tax plan,” Greg Sargent observes:

One looming challenge Democrats face is to close what you might call the “pluto-populist gap” — the vast disconnect between how working-class whites perceive President Trump’s instincts and intentions on the one hand, and his full-on embrace of the congressional GOP’s plutocratic agenda on the other.

Democrats are set to go up on the air with a seven-figure TV ad buy targeting House Republicans in multiple districts with a lot of working-class whites — as well as in districts with more college-educated whites, I’ve learned. The animating idea is that the GOP tax proposals — which will be featured in the ads — are likely to prove toxic among both those constituencies, and particularly among those working-class whites who switched from Barack Obama to Trump.

As for the content of the ads, Sargent notes,

The goal of the ads will be to hit two messages. The first is that the GOP changes to the tax code themselves would be enormously regressive, showering most of their benefits on the wealthy while giving crumbs to working- and middle-class Americans or even raising their taxes. The second is that these tax cuts would necessitate big cuts to the safety net later — the ad references $25 billion in Medicare cuts that could be triggered by the GOP plan’s deficit busting — further compounding the GOP agenda’s regressiveness down the line.

Sargent quotes Geoff Garin, pollster for Priorities USA,  who  explains “polling shows that this combination alienates working-class whites, particularly Obama-Trump voters.” Garin adds that these voters “find big breaks to corporations and the wealthy especially heinous when the flip side of that means cutting Medicare and Medicaid.”

Garin cites polls by Hart Research and Global Strategy Group, which indicate that “when the GOP tax plan is described to non-college-educated white men — Trump’s base — they oppose it by 58-34. Non-college-educated white women oppose it by 61-24.” He calls the tax bill “the ultimate betrayal of the Trump promise to working-class voters — that he would be on their side” and “a huge vulnerability for Republicans in those kinds of districts with working-class whites.”

It can be argued that Trump’s approval ratings indicate his base has been whittled down to the hard core, non-persuadable part of the white working-class, along with equally non-persuadable upper middle class and wealthy ideologues. And the 2017 special elections indicate that Trump’s tanking polls numbers are accompanied by considerable collateral damage to his fellow Republican office-holders.

In light of the extremely regressive GOP tax plan, however, it would be political malpractice for Democrats to abandon appeals to white working-class voters in the midterm campaigns. This is  especially true for Obama to Trump voters, who have an immediate pocket-book interest in the tax bill.

What will remain debatable up until the final day of the midterm campaign is how to allocate Democratic resources — investments in time, money and energy between winning support from white working-class voters vs. turning out base voters and the ‘rising American electorate.’ These are unavoidably-tough decisions, which will vary in difficulty from campaign to campaign.

Whether Republicans are able to pass their tax plan or not, it seals their party’s identity as wholly dedicated to enriching the already-wealthy at the expense of working people of all races. That’s a great gift to Democrats.

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