Republicans in Congress, as well as people surrounding Donald Trump’s inner circle in the White House, clearly know something. They’re trying to get everything they can, looting the store, taking everything off the shelves like it’s the end times. The walls are closing in as the special counsel investigation continues unabated ― causing some in the GOP to to try to damage it ― and as the Resistance becomes supercharged, expanding the Democrats’ chances of making big wins in 2018.
The GOP has even lost its last fig leaf of moderation―Maine senator Susan Collins―who’s been having a meltdown in the past few days after being exposed in much of the media, having voted for the Trump tax scam and not received in return promised votes on shoring up Obamacare markets. (Now GOP leaders are telling her they will come in 2018...sure.) Collins, who voted for Trump’s most misogynistic judicial nominees, hostile to a woman’s right to choose, has devolved into claiming she’s now a victim of an “unbelievably sexist” media, sounding every bit like what the alt-right would call a whiny snowflake.
There’s been much speculation about why Republicans would pass an enormously unpopular tax bill knowing that the narrative of a tax bill at the time of its passage usually doesn’t change later, no matter what the reality turns out to be.
Many have pointed to the White House and GOP leaders wanting a win of any kind, and needing to placate donors ― and even being honest about it ― taking a risk with voters. That’s certainly true for some. Others have pointed to GOP senators, some of whom are leaving Congress, benefiting personally from the bill, the most notable example being Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee flipping his vote after additions to the bill benefited real estate investors like himself (He has adamantly denied this).
I’ve been saying for a while that much of the motivation, however, also seems to be desperation among many Republicans who see the handwriting on the wall. Between the Russia investigation and Trump’s plummeting approval, they know Trump will fall, or that they will soon lose control of the House and possibly the Senate ― or both.
Democrats must stay committed and determined because of a very real shot at beating the crap out of the GOP in 2018.
This would explain why even White House officials like Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House economic advisor Gary Cohn backed a plan that will hurt Trump with his base and will further his downfall: These Goldman Sachs alums, too, stand to benefit greatly from the tax bill, and they likely see that this might be the last thing they get before the Trump administration collapses. Cohn has certainly both criticized and mocked Trump enough behind his back (in addition to faking bad reception to hang up on Trump) for us to imagine he is not acting in Trump’s best political interests.
Trump, too, is clearly freaking out about the Russia investigation and is desperately trying to cling to his base, no matter what the costs. The reckless announcement to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, while it played well to several factions in Trump’s shrinking base, has caused reverberations around the world, forcing Mike Pence to cancel his trip to the Middle East, bringing a rebuke from the United Nations General Assembly and seriously raising tensions in a way that will come back to haunt Trump and the U.S.
Banning transgender people from the military (though courts have put this on hold) and the news reported last week that the Centers for Disease Control has been told by the Trump administration to ban in budget documents words and terms like “transgender,” “fetus” and “science-based,” plays to evangelicals ― whose support for Trump has dropped by 17 percent in a recent Pew poll ― but horrifies most Americans who can see signs of a turn toward fascism.
Trump's base has shrunk and slowly keeps eroding and nothing is bringing it back.
But while Trump may believe these desperate moves will help him, the GOP in Congress knows that Trump can’t win again by only playing to his decimated base.
Trump’s 2016 win ― without the popular vote and with Russian interference and James Comey’s recklessness ― was a fluke in which he won the Electoral College by less than 85,000 votes in three states; his base has shrunk (and slowly keeps eroding) and nothing is bringing it back. By placating some aspects of the base ― like evangelicals ― with the aforementioned actions, he’s actually scaring away others in the base, and GOP leaders see this. From Virginia to Alabama, they know the blue wave is building into a possible tsunami next fall.
They will use every sleazy tactic at their disposal, from voter suppression and ID laws to looking the other way of more possible Russian interference, but it may not be enough to overcome the wave. That will be compounded by the corruption and misjudgments of some of the candidates that the GOP’s base, often with the help of Steve Bannon and other extremists, will back in primaries ― as we saw in Virginia and Alabama.
All of this means that, as horrifying and demoralizing as the current climate is, and as damaging as this tax scam will be for years to come, progressives and Democrats must stay committed and determined because of a very real shot at beating the crap out of the GOP at the ballot box in 2018. And Trump may be taken down, either before finishing his term or in 2020 (if he’s not taken down by the GOP first in GOP presidential primaries).
Undoing the catastrophic damage that Trump and the GOP have created since the start of the Trump presidency will take years. Some of it may be impossible to undo, something the GOP is banking on. But it seems pretty clear that if progressives stay energized and don’t let up, Democrats will take back power. And it seems even more clear the GOP knows that.
Follow Michelangelo Signorile on Twitter: www.twitter.com/msignorile