Commentary: The GOP's Big Issue Under the Surface

Jul 4, 2017

Republicans are riding high.  They hold the presidency and both houses of Congress.  They are four for four in special House elections.  Congressional Democrats are not even good obstructionists, not to mention getting any of their legislation passed.

Perhaps what Democrats need to do is heed Napolean’s maxim: Never interfere with the enemy when it is in the process of destroying itself.  While it is far from obvious that the GOP is self-destructive, I suggest that there’s an issue that might do them in over the next couple of elections.

You may recall a few months ago when Nordstrom marketing fake-muddied blue jeans.  Shortly thereafter Nieman-Marcus advertised “distressed” hightop sneakers.  You could buy the jeans for $425 and you could buy the sneakers for $1,425.  I don’t know about you, but my next pair of jeans will cost maybe $40 and they’ll get muddy the old-fashioned way, and my next pair of athletic footwear will cost maybe $100 and they’ll also get distressed the old-fashioned way. 

My mother says that people who pay ridiculous prices for anything have more money than sense.  But these items of apparel are perfect symbols for today’s political and cultural environment, and this environment is a potential trap for the GOP.

For decades Republicans have been seduced by tax cuts.  They argue that lower taxes stimulate the economy and create jobs.  The evidence is mixed at best.  The state of Kansas is Exhibit A for how this idea can be an epic fail.  But then we know about Jayhawks.  Maybe they thought tax cuts meant free money.  Or maybe that the Big Eight Conference would come back -- I don’t know.  But I digress.

Tax cuts are the centerpiece of all the important legislative proposals are making.  But it’s not just tax cuts – it’s tax cuts disproportionately for the wealthy.  The Republican Obamacare repeal and replace will reduce access to health care for lower and middle income Americans.  The ensuing lower costs to the government will offset the tax cuts to the wealthy in order not to balloon the federal deficit.  And Republicans are just getting started with tax “reform.”

When lower and middle income Americans – much of President Trump’s base – figure out that the rich are getting richer on their backs, they will not be amused.

The problem is that Democrats are a long way from exploiting this.  Once upon a time a Democratic rallying cry was “Republicans are the party of the rich.”  It was true enough, it was all millions of voters needed to know, and Democrats won most of the elections.  Now Democrats are also a party of the rich – Silicon Valley, Hollywood, lots of Wall Street – so they are compromised.  They also have to spend a lot of their time and energy tending to their needy identity groups.  So Republicans are consuming most of the political oxygen.

As for myself, I need a break.  I think I’ll go shopping for some jeans and sneakers.

Happy Birthday, America!