I hope this is true

Chait on the political impact of the tax cuts:

Probably nothing has done more to erode Trump’s public standing than the consistently plutocratic cast of his domestic policy. The tax cut is the second-most-unpopular major piece of legislation in recorded history, behind only Trump’s other major domestic initiative, the health-care-repeal bill…

Democrats have nothing to fear from making repeal of the Trump tax cuts for the rich a defining party plank. On the contrary, they have a great deal to gain. The bill is a cash grab by the wealthy, driven by the demands of the Republican donor base, and stuffed with targeted favors for insiders with lobbyists. Many more are sure to surface. The more they talk about it, the more Democrats can drive home the message that Trump’s economic populism was a fraud.

In the 2020 campaign, Democrats are inevitably going to propose new social spending. Reporters are inevitably going to ask them how they plan to pay for it. Republicans have given them an easy answer: Repeal the Trump tax cuts for the rich.

Part of me says if Democrats play their cards right, this can, indeed, be very effective politically.  I think part of that is hammering on some version of “tax cuts for rich instead of middle class” pervasively and relentlessly.  Presumably that gets through to some people even if they are worried about sharing a bathroom with a trans person.  So, yes, I hope Chait is right about this, but I’m a lot less confident about these things after our country elected Trump.

  Of course, most Republicans are going to buy the Republican version.  Here’s the latest from Gallup:

That said, this is Republicans only winning over (most of) their base.  And given the (seemingly) shrinking Republican base, I’ll take it.

Photo of the day

Few photos more dramatic than fire at night.  Atlantic gallery of latest California wildfires:

A truck drives along the 101 freeway as a wildfire continues to burn in Ventura, California, on December 5, 2017. 

Jae C. Hong / AP

My sexist reference letters

A friend shared this on Facebook and I was a bit taken aback:

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I get that there’s an innate bias where many might credit women with hard work while praising men for innate intelligence.  And I definitely get that we shouldn’t be labelling women as compassionate, warm, etc., but, seriously, cannot write that my students are conscientious and hard-working without being sexist?!  I write lots of references for grad school and based on my experience, I’d say success is far more dependent upon being conscientious, hard-working, and self-disciplined than being “knowledgeable” or “confident” or “insightful.”  Plenty of smart people go to grad school and law school– the most successful ones have the non-cognitive skills that would be seem to be off-limits.  I’m all for encouraging people to be aware of and avoid subtle bias in writing reference letters, but I refuse to give in to a world that says that hard work, dependability, and conscientiousness are not terrific personal characteristics that any male or female benefits from.

Is Trump scaring away “Republicans”?

The latest Party ID trend data from Gallup:

Democrats Have Typically Led in Party Affiliation

The Republican number is the lowest it’s been since the end of GWB’s presidency, but it’s hit upper 30’s several times in recent years.  So, the series is about noisy.  That said, best explanation is that under Donald Trump, fewer Americans want to consider themselves Republican.  Now, many of them have likely decided they are “independents” who still support the Roy Moore’s of the world, so we’ll just have to see.  And, this number could certainly rebound.  But heading into 2018 this is more good news for Democrats and at least a little evidence that Trump is doing lasting damage to Republicans.

The broken party

Nobody has been better chroniclers of the Republican Party’s shift to a nihilist radicalism than Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann.  Great Op-Ed this weekend entitled “How Republicans broke Congress.”  Could be, how Republicans are breaking American democracy.  So depressing.  Should you choose not to read all of it (you should):

First, beginning in the 1990s, the Republicans strategically demonized Congress and government more broadly and flouted the norms of lawmaking, fueling a significant decline of trust in government that began well before the financial collapse in 2008, though it has sped up since. House Republicans showed their colors when they first blocked passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Plan, despite the urgent pleas of their own president, George W. Bush, and the speaker of the House, John Boehner. The seeds of a (largely phony) populist reaction were planted.

Second, there was the “Obama effect.” When Mr. Bush became president, Democrats worked with him to enact sweeping education reform early on and provided the key votes to pass his top priority, tax cuts. With President Barack Obama, it was different. While many argued that the problem was that Mr. Obama failed to schmooze enough with Republicans in Congress, we saw a deliberate Republican strategy to oppose all of his initiatives and frame his attempts to compromise as weak or inauthentic. The Senate under the majority leader Mitch McConnell weaponized the filibuster to obstruct legislation, block judges and upend the policy process. The Obama effect had an ominous twist, an undercurrent of racism that was itself embodied in the “birther” movement led by Donald Trump…

Third, we have seen the impact of significant changes in the news media, which had a far greater importance on the right than on the left. The development of the modern conservative media echo chamber began with the rise of Rush Limbaugh and talk radio in the late 1980s and ramped up with the birth of Fox News. Matt Drudge, his protégé Andrew Breitbart and Breitbart’s successor Steve Bannon leveraged the power of the internet to espouse their far-right views. And with the advent of social media, we saw the emergence of a radical “alt-right” media ecosystem able to create its own “facts” and build an audience around hostility to the establishment, anti-immigration sentiment and racial resentment. Nothing even close to comparable exists on the left.

Mr. Trump’s election and behavior during his first 10 months in office represent not a break with the past but an extreme acceleration of a process that was long underway in conservative politics. The Republican Party is now rationalizing and enabling Mr. Trump’s autocratic, kleptocratic, dangerous and downright embarrassing behavior in hopes of salvaging key elements of its ideological agenda: cutting taxes for the wealthy (as part of possibly the worst tax bill in American history), hobbling the regulatory regime, gutting core government functions and repealing Obamacare without any reasonable plan to replace it… [emphases mine]

We have never suggested that Democrats are angels and Republicans devils. Parties exist to win elections and organize government, and they are shaped by the interests, ideas and donors that constitute their coalitions. Neither party is immune from a pull to the extreme.

But the imbalance today is striking, and frightening. Our democracy requires vigorous competition between two serious and ideologically distinct parties, both of which operate in the realm of truth, see governing as an essential and ennobling responsibility, and believe that the acceptance of republican institutions and democratic values define what it is to be an American. The Republican Party must reclaim its purpose.

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