opinion

What Would Mitch Do?

Democrats Must Be the Party of No

Time to take a page out of Mitch McConnell’s playbook and try to make Trump a one-termer. The surest way: Beat him and the GOP on tax reform.

Congressional Democrats need to start channeling Mitch McConnell from 2010, who said then: “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.”

Democrats, just swap in “Trump” for “Obama” and ask yourself when considering whether to support any Trump proposal: WWMD? What would Mitch do to defeat a president? And one huge step in that direction is an all-hands-on-deck fight to kill Trump’s “tax reform,” which is primarily a tax cut for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

Let’s be blunt—these are not normal political times. This is a war with Trump and his vision for our nation. And there will only be one victor. It’s either Trump and his collection of right-wing backers or the rest of us who embrace American values.

Consequently, Democrats must be motivated by two goals: First, taking the House back in 2018 to stop Trump’s agenda in its tracks. Secondly, taking every step needed so that we can joyfully watch a defeated Trump be led out the White House come January 2021.

This is all I’ve been hearing this week from progressives across the nation who called my SiriusXM radio show that airs nightly on the network’s progressive political talk channel. There, the responses were unanimous: Do everything possible to kill Trump’s tax cut. And they also urged progressives living in red states to call their members of Congress to press them to vote no on this tax cut that will greatly increase our deficit, which the GOP seems to only care about when Democrats propose new ideas.

“Just say no to Trump’s tax plan, just like you’d say no to drugs,” said one person. Another noted that Trump’s tax plan will help the wealthy but “not the people who clock in at the beginning of the work day and clock out at the end.” Another declared, “Letting the rich get out of paying taxes and requiring the middle class to pay more is non-negotiable.” (Factcheck.org found that the wealthy will be the big winner in Trump’s plan while some in the middle class will actually have to pay higher taxes.)

One suggestion that I loved was that Democratic congressional leaders should repeatedly declare that they won’t even discuss tax reform until Trump release his tax returns. Shouldn’t we know how much money Trump and his family stand to personally profit from with his tax cut plan to both personal and corporate tax rates?!

And the reality is that Trump and the GOP are keenly aware of how this tax cut is a do or die moment. Just look at their desperation. For example, at Trump’s speech Tuesday night before the conservative Heritage Foundation where he pushed for his tax cut plan, he invoked both Christianity and white supremacy to attract support. First, Trump used a racial dog whistle by denouncing attacks on removing statutes, saying he wants to “preserve our history, not tear it down.” And then Trump intertwined his tax cut for the rich with Christianity by claiming it’s a Christmas gift for them and then by repeating his recent demand that store employees be mandated to say Merry Christmas this holiday season: “I want them to say Merry Christmas!” 

Then there’s Ted Cruz who sounded alarm bells in New York City Friday before a group of wealthy Republican donors: “If tax reform crashes and burns, if [on] Obamacare, nothing happens, we could face a bloodbath.” Cruz ominously added that come the midterms, the GOP could see a “Watergate-level blowout.” (In the 1974 midterm election, the GOP lost 48 House seats and four Senate seats—if we saw same result in 2018, Democrats would control both chambers of Congress.)

And on Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham not only warned congressional Republicans but Trump himself of the consequences if they don’t pass a tax cut for the rich: “We’re all in trouble. We lose our majority and I think President Trump will not get reelected.”

Adding to the pressure are recent reports that some big money Republicans will ditch the GOP establishment and join with Steve Bannon if the GOP doesn’t reward them with tax cuts to make them richer. As the spokesperson for one such big donor told Politico this week, “If the gridlock continues in Washington” they will “consider new approaches to breaking the gridlock, including those proposed by Steve Bannon and others.” Seems some wealthy Republicans have zero qualms saddling up to Bannon who heads a media outlet that caters to white nationalists if it means more money in their already massive bank accounts.

The reality is that if the GOP caucus in the House and Senate can remain intact, they can pass Trump’s tax cut for their wealthy donors without a single Democratic vote. But even with Senate GOP using the budget reconciliation process so they only need 50 votes to pass this, they are worried. That’s why Trump, along with Ivanka and Jared Kushner, are wining and dining Democratic senators in Red States up for re-election like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp. But in reality, how many voters in West Virginia and North Dakota will be passionate about a massive tax cut for the 1 percent that offers only empty promises for the rest of us?!

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The Democrats shouldn’t play ball with Trump on this—even if Trump offers incentives like fixing the ACA. Trump is a serial liar who can’t be trusted. But Democratic leaders need to do more than say no—they need to use every means available to define the Trump tax plan for what it really is: A massive tax cut for the GOP’s wealthy backers that offers the rest of us the promises of a proven liar.

Yes, it will be challenging to stop this but so was defeating the GOP’s ACA repeal and yet we won there. And if we can win this battle, we are well on the way to winning the war.