Hurricanes And Healthcare: GOP Can't Catch A Break

The Republican Party roared into 2017 as triumphant avengers, having pulled off major upsets to win control of the House, Senate, and Oval Office. However, instead of pushing through conservative reforms as promised, the GOP has stumbled through the spring and summer without a single notable legislative victory. Obamacare has not been repealed, there’s little talk of the controversial border wall anymore, and Trump is listening to Democrats on raising the debt ceiling. A growing number of moderate Republicans appear poised to retire after 2018 rather than seek re-election against an aggressive Democratic Party…or fight a Trumpian right-winger in a heated primary.

But President Trump is still trying to score some of the home runs he pointed out during his campaign, especially tax reform.  As the conservative base begins to grumble about lack of successes in Washington, the stakes grow higher and higher. If Trump cannot put some points on the board soon, competitive districts may flip to the Democrats. Few people voted for the former real estate tycoon because of his political experience (there was none), but rather his insistent promise that he was a natural winner and could deliver.

For the macho man who wrote Art of the Deal not to have made a single one in almost eight months in the White House, while his party controlled Congress? Not good. And it doesn’t look like it will get better: Nationwide trends appear to be favoring the Democrats, and will weaken any Republican drives to push through tax reform.

First, Obamacare ain’t dead yet, despite conservative insistence that the law would crash and burn. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 was the third straight year where the number of Americans without health insurance decreased. The percent of uninsured Americans declined from 9.1 to 8.8 percent last year, giving Democrats a feather in their cap. While not exactly statistics to crow about, the fact that Obamacare is still moving in the promised direction will continue to galvanize Democrats against future Republican calls to dismantle the law. Having suffered a couple of bloody noses in this boxing match already, even a loudmouth like Trump is likely to sit out the next round.

Second, the two hurricanes that have devastated America’s Gulf Coast, Harvey and Irma, have fired up Democrats about both fiscal policy and climate change reform. While Republicans have spent years stubbornly insisting that global warming and man-made climate change are myths, record-setting disastrous storms are swaying public opinion. Even Texas Republicans may be thinking twice about blasting climate change science as bunk. Florida, an invaluable swing state, may be over its small-government honeymoon with Republican governor Rick Scott as it seeks federal aid to help recover from Irma. 

Devastating natural disasters have a way of making pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstrap conservatives a little more socialistic.

For now, Democrats appear to be holding their fire on climate change, perhaps waiting to see whether or not the Trump-led GOP will soften its tone as we head into autumn. The minority party may be seeking a détente: If Republicans relax and decide to stick with Barack Obama’s policies for a while longer, the Democrats will stop taking relentless easy shots at the beleaguered President and other stumbling conservatives, such as possible porn-liking U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. By this point, both parties are undoubtedly exhausted from almost two years of constant political combat.

Despite being the minority party, Democrats have facts and momentum on their side, which the GOP can hardly deny. Obamacare isn’t collapsing, the increased incidence of extreme weather is ironclad evidence that man-made global warming is harming our climate, lots of moderate Republicans are ready to exit stage left and hand over districts to Dems, and Donald Trump’s lingering Russia scandal is only getting worse. Given these threats, it is in the GOP’s best interest to extend olive branches rather than take off the gloves.

Trying to ram through conservative tax reform, which would benefit the wealthy and do little or nothing for the middle class, will make the Republican Party look extremely out of touch at a time where millions of Texans and Floridians are struggling to rebuild. Cutting tax rates on high earners and corporations will slash government revenue at the exact same time that most voters are calling for increased infrastructure spending. “You’re leaving Houston and Florida out in the cold,” Dems will tell Trump in front of a national audience. “While billionaires get tax cuts, you’ll be slashing spending and leaving those who lost everything in Harvey and Irma destitute.” 

Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Paul Ryan should read the tea leaves and realize that they’ve got no more gas left in the tank for 2017. It’s time to take a break, time to tap out. Conservative tax reform is not something that Americans want. We want a President in the vein of FDR and LBJ, who will use expansionary fiscal policy to rebuild our devastated coastlines.  Tightening our belts and going on a budgetary diet is not something America can stomach right now.

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