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Can’t Both Parties Lose?

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States:



Is everybody in politics crazy these days? A Politico reporter attended the first meeting of the Obama Foundation in Chicago. These people have lost their minds. Excerpts:

There was a morning meditation and yoga session, and an evening community concert with Chance the Rapper and The National. And in between breakout sessions with titles like “The Adventure of Civility” and “Who Narrates the World?,” people took pastel-colored chalk and filled out a blackboard customized with “I hope _______.” (Samples: “we speak better and listen,” “Americans will see each other,” “my nephews can escape toxic masculinity”).

“Therapeutic,” said one attendee. “The sanity bubble,” said another. An alternate reality, all the attendees at the kickoff of Obama’s new foundation acknowledged, some with nervous snickers, some with big, relieved belly laughs.


Obama spent two feel-good but amorphous days making pop-in appearances at sessions and watching with bemusement, first as people didn’t realize he was in the room, then at the wave of squeals and applause that swept over as they realized he was there. José Andres was at the hotel bar. Prince Harry was on stage, in jeans.

“Is there space among the woke for the still-waking?” author Anand Giridharadas asked in a New Agey opening speech that touched on the “magic” of connectivity and the “starfish illusion.”

Of this, Matthew Continetti writes:

As racially and sexually diverse as the crowd at the Obama Foundation summit may have been, everyone at the breakout session on “Who Narrates the World?” had, I’d wager, the following in common: a college or postgraduate degree, the mark of distinction and privilege and wealth in our society

The Democratic Party

today. Yet most Americans do not possess such credentials, and live very different existences from those who do. Recently I asked an elections expert to describe the modern analogue to the “Dayton Housewife,” the prototypical swing voter of the late ’60s and ’70s behind the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. My friend told me the median voter is a believing Catholic woman with children who works part time, attends Mass sporadically, dropped out of college, lives in a household earning between $50,000 and $65,000 a year, votes in general election years, and resides in the Columbus exurbs.

Do you suppose that our hypothetical Westerville mom would write on a chalkboard that she hopes her son will be rescued from “toxic masculinity”? Or cares in the slightest about José Andres? She probably voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 because he talked a good game, has a nice family, and sympathized with the challenges of working people. But then Obama’s second term brought no real improvement in her prospects, and a lot of ancillary cultural and social upheaval besides. Developments that Clinton promised to accelerate, while reassuring the public that the economic picture had brightened itself.

“Obama and Clinton,” writes Stan Greenberg, “lived in a cosmopolitan and professional America that wasn’t very angry about the state of the country, even if many of the groups in the Clinton coalition were struggling and angry.” But Bernie Sanders, and later Donald Trump, was angry, and offered alternatives that, however flawed, at least seemed to acknowledge the crisis. So the Obama coalition fell apart. And as long as Democrats prefer the safety of the sanity bubble to the realities of America in 2017, that coalition is not likely to be put back together anytime soon.

Right. The Politico reporter noticed that the Obama crowd didn’t talk much about real-world problems. This is about right for liberal elites. This is the kind of thing that stimulates the Woke:


The standard left-liberal response is old-school Thomas Frank: “What’s the matter with Kansas? Why do you people keep voting Republican when it’s against your economic interests?” The answer, in part, is, “Because you Democrats are powered by insane people who think that there are 40 genders, and are determined to personally and professionally ruin anyone who dissents. You liberals are the kind of people who demonize straight people, white people, and penis-having people (unless they don’t actually have a penis, but claim that they’re male anyway, in which case they are messiahs). You actually expect us to trust you with power?!”

Meanwhile, in the GOP, there’s a tax bill, the terms of which most Americans — including most Republicans — will not like, says Damon Linker. Check this out, about GOP voters:

Though the first of two recent polls from the Pew Research Center reveals that a plurality of Republican and Republican-leaning voters support lowering tax rates for both corporate (41 percent) and household income over $250,000 (36 percent), the numbers on the other side are significant. Fully 55 percent of respondents favor raising corporate taxes or keeping them at their present levels, while 59 percent support leaving unchanged or increasing rates on high-earning households.

That’s a portrait of a sharply divided party.

Put the 55 to 59 percent of Republicans who oppose cutting taxes on the rich with Democratic voters (who do as well), and you’ve got a Republican Party trying to pass an unpopular tax bill that flies in the face of the forces that elected Donald Trump — who supports a bill his own voters oppose!

Well, look, if there’s one thing you can expect of a pro-life party, it’s that they will protect adoption. Wrong! 

The bill includes a host of other changes that will affect taxpayers in different ways. For instance, it repeals certain tax


credits, including a 15 percent credit for individuals aged 65 or over or who are retired on disability. Right now, those individuals can claim up to $7,500 for a joint return, $5,000 for a single individual, or $3,750 for a married individual filing a joint return.

The House bill would entirely repeal that tax credit. It would also repeal the adoption tax credit, no longer allow deductions for tax preparation and repeal credits for alimony payments. And deductions for moving expenses would no longer be allowed.

So, the Republican plan would raise taxes on retired disabled people, and end the adoption tax credit, which was passed in an effort to encourage people to adopt orphans.

Orphans! Who wrote this bill, Monty Burns? In an illuminating thread, J.D. Flynn, head of the Catholic News Agency — not a high-paying job — talks about what the loss of the adoption tax credit would mean to families like his. He and his wife adopted two Down syndrome children. Here’s the first tweet on a thread I encourage you to read:


It continues, in part:

Click here to read the entire thread, in which Flynn explains how the adoption tax credit makes it possible for families to adopt children who would otherwise languish in orphanages.

I expect that pro-lifers will burn up the phones to Capitol Hill with demands that the GOP remove this provision in the bill, and that the GOP will do so. But the idea that it could ever have been put in there in the first place shows you what the priorities of the Congressional GOP is: serve the interests of the party’s donor class, not the interests of ordinary conservative voters. Starfish illusions everywhere.

Jonah Goldberg has a short, funny piece about how both parties are broken. Excerpt:

The second source of passion is the angry, sanctimony-besotted identity politics popular on college campuses and a handful of left-wing websites. The DNC’s data-services manager recently sent out an email soliciting applications for new hires in the IT department. She cautioned that she wasn’t looking for any “cisgender straight white males.”

If you want to know how Trump was elected, ask yourself how a laid-off, cisgender, straight, white, male coal miner who went back to community college to learn computers might react to that.

Again, you wouldn’t be crazy for thinking the GOP is like a runaway fire at a soiled-diaper-reclamation center. And I’m sure I’ll have opportunities in the near future to expand on that. But the important point is that dysfunction isn’t zero-sum. Right now, the best argument Republicans have is “we’re not Democrats,” and the best argument Democrats have is “we’re not Republicans.” Like two punch-drunk pugilists leaning on each other in the twelfth round, if one falls, the other may well fall too.

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving lot.

UPDATE: At least we’re getting good judges out of this. “But Gorsuch” et alia is doing all the work right now.

UPDATE.2: Reader jz says:

This article is extremely unfair to the Republican tax plan. I’m not saying it’s what I would have written, only that what’s written here is cherry picking and taking out of context the bad parts. I’m no expert, but the below is based on my limited research.

– Completely leaves out that the plan will leave rates the same for millionaires. Yes, those earning between $260k and $1M will get a tax break, but not income over $1M. Those making over $1M a year are a huge part of the Republican (and Democrat) donor class Rod mentions.

– There are also some important rate changes at the low end – income between $24,000 and $76,000 (filing married) will now only be taxed at 12% instead of 15%.

– Completely leaves out the doubling of the standard deduction. This is a massive oversight by Rod. Most middle class families will take advantage of this, and as I understand it, it will reduce their tax burden. This will cover the loss of some other special interest carves out that are going away (SALT being the big one).

– Completely leaves out the increase of $600 per child for the child tax credit. This will obviously directly impact those who need it most – working families.

Admittedly the Adoption credits is pretty galling. Hopefully they fix that. I would also reduce the income bracket taxed at the highest rate to something like $600k. The State and Local tax deduction changes will hurt some people (but remember the doubling of the standard deduction, increase in child credit, etc), but SALT is just about the worst policy in the world. Why would we incentivize tax and spend liberals to raise taxes by having low tax states subsidize it? Just awful policy. If California and NY want to tax the heck out of their people, the voters in Cali and NY should be the ones to pay for it. The corporate rate is something that had to happen IMO. Hopefully they eliminate all the massive loopholes to cover some of the tax revenue. But other countries are absolutely taking advantage of our business tax rate, and it’s causing real problems with companies unwilling to bring profits to the US.

Rod – you can’t just look at the top line rates…I have no doubt you’re a lot smarter than that.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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