I'm going to wrap things up here. Did anyone else want to say anything before we close? I think where we've been going for a while, I guess I got to pee.
OK, ok, OK.
Hello and welcome to the five thirty eight Politics podcast. I'm Gail. Last week, the Biden administration announced its next big legislative push to point three trillion dollars in spending on infrastructure and jobs. It would be paid for over 15 years by raising the corporate tax rate from twenty one percent to twenty eight percent. And Democrats are hoping to pass it by sometime this summer. We're going to discuss what the public thinks of the plan and what the challenges might be in getting it passed.
We're also going to take a look at how the Republican Party is reacting to its recent electoral losses. Oftentimes, when parties lose elections, they do some soul searching and try to figure out how to make themselves more appealing to American voters. Democrats did that after 20 16 Republicans did that after 2012. It's a process that goes back decades.
So are Republicans conducting any 20, 20 postmortems and if not, why?
Here with me to discuss, our senior politics writer Perry Bacon, junior Perry Galen. Also with us is politics editor Sara Frost and said, hey, Sarah Palin and managing editor Michael Cohen.
Hey, Mike. Hey, Gail. And so let's begin with Infrastructure. Biden's plan, which the administration is calling the American jobs plan, includes six hundred twenty one billion dollars in transportation spending, which makes up twenty seven percent of the plan, according to The Washington Post. It also includes things not traditionally thought of as infrastructure, like four hundred billion dollar expansion of care services under Medicaid.
We'll get into what any sticking points might be.
But to kick things off, let's ask one of our favorite questions, which, of course, is good use of polling or bad use of polling. So Biden and his administration have adopted an idea of bipartisanship that is very polling driven.
They say that because their initiatives, most recently infrastructure, have a chunk of Republican and independent support behind them, that they are bipartisan, even though they have not gotten and are unlikely to get any support from Republican lawmakers.
So I'm curious what people think. Is this a good or bad use of polling?
It's an interesting gambit, I have to say. I think the American public here is a bit smarter that if no Republicans vote in favor, this isn't really bipartisanship, no matter how you spin it. And are Democrats more so than Republicans, at least according to a January? People really want bipartisanship. That said, Perry's done a piece looking at the covid-19 relief bill and what we learned from that and how Biden's moving forward. And you're right, he is pitching himself as unity does not mean bipartisanship.
Infrastructure historically has been a really popular bill in which both parties, generally speaking, get to find something that they want, some good pork and barrel. It looks like it will be the case this time around, probably just with Democrats. The conventional wisdom seems to point to this being another example of budget reconciliation as opposed to a bipartisan bill. And it is popular. It is not as popular as the covid relief bill, which I do think opens up some potential problems for Biden in the sense that depending on how this plays out in the media, you know, is it does it become this narrative that it's oh, it's more than infrastructure, it's remaking the fabric of our society, or is it?
No, we're building a lot of crumbling bridges. We're helping with affordable housing. We're getting people college tuition who need it. I don't think it's as clear cut as covid-19. And I don't think that they can spin it as bipartisanship if Republicans don't vote for it. So bad use of polling.
I think it's a bad use of polling, too. I mean, it's good for Biden and he should do whatever he wants to do. So the Republican voters have done two things here. One is apparently in some polls, some Republican voters say, I like the covid-19 bill. I like the new structure Bill. The other thing, on the other hand, the Republican voters unanimously voted for Republican members of Congress and Donald Trump almost unanimously. So it's hard to say which of those actions should be value more, who they voted for or what they said in polls.
I think it's sort of obvious to me that is who they voted for. It's like the polls suggest there's some number of voters who like the covid-19 bill but also voted for Republican House candidate. But it doesn't require brain surgery. To think that the Republican House candidate was going to vote against the covid-19 bill when it came through are going to oppose most of Biden's agenda. We just did this whole thing for eight years. My view generally is like if you're going to say you're going to unify the country eight times in a speech, do that.
Otherwise, don't say it. But don't read what unity means after you realized, you know, like he's saying something that the country is hard to unify. It may be ununified. And I sort of feel like lying about it is inevitable. And this is what I feel like happened on January 20. I agree that you should look at who voters voted for more than what they tell pollsters in terms of issue positions as like the meaningful indicator of where voters are.
But bipartisanship as defined by will the other party vote for your bills, bills the majority party supports and has put forward is essentially means bipartisanship is not possible, as Perry put it.
Unity is not possible. Now, maybe Biden should have said that.
Maybe Palin should have said, you know what, unity unity is not possible. And instead of saying we need to end this on civil war, he would have said we need to win this uncivil war. I actually think there's a pretty good argument for that.
But knowing that one, as Sarah mentioned, polls show voters want bipartisanship, whatever that means, including lots of Democrats and to the media is obsessed with whether something is bipartisan.
And they tend to define whether a presidency is succeeding or not.
One doesn't accomplish its legislative goals, but to how much is it doing to win over the opposing party? So as a political gambit, as a political use of polling?
I actually think it's pretty clever by the Biden administration to try at least to redefine bipartisanship in this way, not what will Mitch McConnell get behind, because Mitch McConnell isn't going to get behind anything, but rather what do voters support?
And look, with the caveat aside, that he's right, Republican voters voted for the Republicans who are now opposing everything. With that covid aside, I didn't really has pursued agendas that are really popular across the board or at the very least divide Republicans rather than draw a unified Republican opposition at the voter level.
So I think it's a political good use of polling, if maybe a little bit of a redefinition.
If Biden said my agenda is popular, I think that's supported by evidence and true. I think the unifying and bipartisanship I disagree with what we've seen in the last few years now. It's like when one party has unified control, House or Senate presidency, they push things that are going to be more on their side. Then like we had bipartisan bills that passed in twenty, twenty last year, uncovered and so on. That was because you have divided government one.
Secondly, the Democrats will do things that help their constituents with a Republican president and the opposite doesn't happen. So I think there is a potential for bipartisanship in some contexts. But Biden to me sort of knew what he was getting into and defined unity in a way that I think popular is fine and bipartisan unity is is not the same as sort of not ideal in the discourse to me and that it's not truthful.
Yeah, it's my agenda is popular is a clearly true statement. My agenda is bipartisan, as much work.
And as I say, it's an interesting question because I think one thing we saw in the last four years, particularly among Republicans, was they moved away from the fiscal conservatism. Right. Like there was a brand of populism that extended to economics within that as well. And was one reason, I think, at least among Republican voters, that the covid relief bill was so popular. And I think what is interesting about this bill is its infrastructure. And that historically has not been a contentious type of bill that isn't passed through bipartisan measures.
And one thing I just wanted to flag for listeners, because this was a new fact for me and editing a story was that the last Congress was actually pretty bipartisan, 15 major laws. And now granted, this is categorized in a poly sci way. But this is like covid really spell's this was something to do with climate change. Those were passed through with Republicans and Democrats voting. And I think if there's not even the attempt or effort to try to do that now on something like infrastructure, Biden continuing to signal that is unity, it's not unity.
I just think that sets up a problem for him politically.
It absolutely does set up a problem for Biden politically. But I also think there's nothing Biden can do about it.
It's like going into a basketball game and saying, hey, Philadelphia, seventy Sixers. You can only succeed in this game if the New York Knicks try to help you win. Right. There's no chance of that.
The Knicks are going to try to make the Sixers lose. Right. And so comparing it to the last Congress when there was a Republican president and divided government I don't think is a fair yardstick. I think we have every reason to expect Republicans in Congress are going to oppose everything Biden does. And so if we're going to talk about bipartisanship.
I think we need to either not talk about it and acknowledge it's not a thing or you not talk about it in this other way, which are, you don't think that even if the Biden administration and Democrats came to Republicans in Congress and said, hey, we want to pass an infrastructure bill, what do you want? Get it? I think the problem here is that it's associated with tax increases. I think if it was pure, like roads and bridges and ports and airports.
But that's not what Democrats want anyway. So the reason that there's no bipartisanship is because there isn't common ground on what an infrastructure bill should be if they just stuck to a very limited scope of infrastructure. I think there would be Republicans who voted for that bill.
I disagree with that completely and so do I. I think that would never happen.
I think Collins Murkowski like the usual suspects, if one Republican chances of bipartisanship, I mean, they literally wrote a health care bill based on what Mitt Romney had previously did and they acted like it was socialism. So, no, I don't think I mean, particularly in this environment, which makes Biden look successful. No, I don't think Bill Gates I mean, the bill really small, a six hundred billion dollar bill there was really bipartisan that Biden could say, look, it was bipartisan and it builds roads.
That would be great electoral juice for him. I doubt Mitch McConnell would hand him that kind of victory. I don't see any infrastructure bill. It would be with really any meaningful spending that Mitch McConnell would sign onto with his members for this reason will help Biden electorally do much interesting.
And then we'd be having a conversation about does one or two across the aisle votes count as bipartisanship, which I don't think it does that go right? No, I don't think it does that the current standard of bipartisanship.
Let's paint an ideal of bipartisanship as like the covid bills, which as that Democrats are willing to do, that Democrats are willing to give the other party a win if it helps their constituents and they think it's the right thing to do, that doesn't work the other way.
So let's define an ideal of bipartisanship as that.
As like. Significant numbers of members of both parties vote for something and significant numbers of voters from both parties support something that's the ideal.
So, yes, that's not going to happen. That's not going to happen. But then if it if I had to choose between significant numbers of voters from both parties, support something or Murkowski and Collins vote for something, I think the voters is the more meaningful thing. But under this circumstance, of course, you would have both. Right.
I also suspect Biden doesn't actually believe this himself. If he should. Bills start polling more negatively and have no Republican support, will he withdraw the bills or will he change his definition of why they should pass and say unity and bipartisanship are important? But these are fundamental values. I ran for president. The majority people voted for me. Like I don't even think he really believes this. Like most politicians at the end of the day would prefer to get their agenda done than to be bipartisan.
One hundred percent, I think you're right, 100 percent. And by the way, that might become a real issue the longer this infrastructure stuff is out in the public.
But the fact that both sides have been talking about infrastructure for decades and support infrastructure. That has to count for something that's at least the Gleen of bipartisanship, I think in all of this it matters the order in which Biden is going. Biden is proposing the most popular legislation first.
And so to Perry's point, he is just proposing more popular stuff and calling it unity or bipartisanship. And he will eventually get to things that he has almost no Republican support for. And then he will have to change his message, presumably, but at least the way that he's conducting his administration so far, it's like front loaded with the popular stuff. That seems to be the strategy. And this is the message surrounding that strategy. We should move on and talk about more of the specifics of infrastructure.
But like given this, that's a strategy. Final score on this good use of polling or bad use of polling, I would think good for him.
But I think bed and the normative sense saying, yeah, OK, but I think it's good, good, good political use of polling, good normative use of polling, bad consistent use of polling, because it definitely is shifting the goalposts.
OK, we're going to have to create an algorithm to give that a score. But so bad use of polling probably wins there and for bad if it comes down to it.
Yes. Yeah. All right.
Majoritarian rules here. Bad use of polling. Let's move on and talk about some of the specifics of the infrastructure proposal and what trying to get it through Congress will look like. We were just talking about the popularity of some of Biden's early proposals and they got their first piece of legislation, the American rescue plan, through Congress and signed in just 50 days. Debate within the Democratic Party was minimal and no Republicans voted for it. The Biden administration is now moving on to infrastructure and social welfare.
And do we think that this, even though it's popular to some extent, will be more of a challenge to pass than that initial American rescue plan? Yes, what I'm hemming and hawing on is at the end of the day, I don't think it will be because the Democrats largely seem to be the ones right now. And the story is talking about, I want this in the proposal. I want that in the proposal, and they're going to work it out.
I think the risks, though, tie back to how they're choosing to fund it with taxes and that messaging is going to be beyond what Democrats can control. I think they have the votes in the sense of like budget reconciliation to get it through. It's just not as popular as covid relief. And I think how this will be messaged particularly and how it will be paid for will overshadow. So I guess that's a long winded whip saying, yes, it is going to be harder.
It will be harder, but it will happen. Yes.
Yeah. I mean, you can already see that on the first bill, everyone was sort of Senator Manchin. There were very few people who are being as difficult as possible in terms of Democrats. You can already see people giving these absolutist demands, the moderates of New York and New Jersey saying if you don't have repeal the provision that makes it harder to deduct state and local taxes, we won't vote for it. You see people sort of saying, if my thing is not in the bill, I will not vote for it.
This bill also has a few more component parts to it. It's like a lot of things going on here, this tax policy, there's infrastructure, there's broadband. So I think the bill itself is a permanent bill. The last bill was temporary. A lot of the Kolby relief bill had stuff in. It was passed in 2020 as well, like the checks. So I think the other bill was actually more agreed upon in the substance as well. Also, now that most Democrats have you know, they voted for something.
Biden was for Biden's first thing out of the gate. Now members of Congress are going to throw their elbows around and say, I'm a member of Congress. Why isn't he listening to me? You're already seeing some of the ego stuff is normally plays out play out here. And this is bad for Democrats. The reason there's a study out that I saw on Twitter, what you find is that voters are turned off by the process of bill passing itself, endless discussion about horse trading and who likes this.
And members of Congress eating each other intrinsically will make this bill more unpopular. It sounds like the Democrats are planning on spending four months passing this bill. They spent about six weeks passing the last minute, less than that. So if you're going to spend four months and have every story ever being so, this is going to be unpopular even no matter what the details are. And I think this is kind of a big challenge. This is like how do you reduce some of the need for Congress members to do this feuding publicly?
Voters don't like legislative sausage making, but they do like bipartisanship. So, you know, it's almost like voters don't really know what they want to know.
But don't talk down to voters on this podcast.
I know, but what Perry just mentioned about the timeline here I think is really important. There was a ticking clock for the covid bill in that those benefits were running out or were going to run out. And there's not the same ticking clock for this. And so all indications and all reporting are, as SRN Perry said, that this is going to last a few months.
And the longer it's out there, history would suggest at least more unpopular it will get because voters don't like the sausage making and because there's just more time for opponents to attack it and for things to become unpopular.
Now, I will say that, like ultimately I agree with Sarah that I think it's likely to pass likely through budget reconciliation.
Because there aren't mutually exclusive choices in infrastructure in the same way there is and like health care, let's say, or on other issues.
And so I do think, for example, like different parts of the Democratic Party, care about different things in this law. But they don't care about what the other side cares about that much, so I think Perry mentioned or at least referred to you saw these members of Congress from wealthy blue states say, I'm not going to vote for this unless the state and local tax deduction is reinstated.
I think progressive members will oppose that in the sense that it's kind of a regressive tax wise.
And I don't think they're big fans of it, but I don't think they're going to make their vote contingent on it.
No, they'll make sure they get something else. Like they don't like salt, but they don't care if that means they'll get pepper.
Please, please, please, please cut that. No, that's.
No, but so. So, yeah.
So I think it's easier to please everyone in this way, but yeah, it'll definitely be harder than covid was.
I have a question here, though, because we published an article on the website a little while back by contributor Matt Grossman, who basically said it becomes harder to pass and legislation becomes less popular.
The more contradictions or controversy or tensions over the bill are covered in the media. But we saw right after this was proposed by Biden last week, moderates came out saying they wanted to reinstate salt deductions. Alexander Cortez immediately said that it was not enough and called for ten trillion dollars in spending. So Democrats are making this a very public fight already. Why are they doing that? If we know that having these tensions play out in public will ultimately make it harder maybe to pass this bill or make it less popular when it does pass because it's good for the politicians.
At the end of the day, AOC needs to be reelected, and that's on Brand for her. That is what she was elected to do in Congress. And I think that's just the dynamic is like a lot of individual members within Congress. Yes, they're part of the Democratic Party. But at the end of the day, they care a lot about their own political career. It's why Joe Manchin is constantly in the headlines in terms of what he will or won't support.
And again, I think that's why at the top here, I was like, oh, it's definitely still going to pass. It will all happen within reason. But I think if they chip away at it a little, that's more leverage, a little bit more bargaining chip, because Biden won't want it to drag out for a long time. But there's different incentives, I think, driving someone in Congress vs. Biden in the White House.
The other thing I would say, Glenn, is like there's disagreement and then there's disagreement. You know, if you remember Obamacare, you had members of the Obama administration taking like pretty rough shots at the progressive wing in Congress. I think the reporting suggests that the Biden administration is taking more of like, yeah, this is part of the process view of things.
And so does it help public opinion on the bill? Probably not. I don't think this kind of low level disagreement will have much effect. Now, if it gets amped up a lot, then maybe it has more of an effect.
It is not my experience. And members of Congress or politicians know much about political science research. So the idea that they know what Matt Grossman or that idea in general is and in my experience has been they also their ideological views and their electoral views line up equally. They you know, they told one of them evidence shows the longer you drag it out, the worse it up. They would say I'm wrong because they're motivated reasoning to take over. I don't think that they actually know or even would change their behavior if told a five month process is worse for the bill no matter what.
Also, there are normative reasons to have a longer process. You might actually want more discussion, like should the corporate tax rate be twenty one, twenty eight. Thirty to twenty four, I don't know. But maybe we should have like two weeks of hearings about that. But that's going to be slow. I mean, so there are reasons as a member of the public that I actually would want the bill. Like I haven't had a hard time telling you exactly what's in the stimulus bill because it passed really quickly.
Obamacare, we all knew, oh, my God, so much about it because every part of it was debated for four months.
And this bill is going through the normal committee process regularly.
It's good, I think, in a normal. Yeah.
So I want to lay down a polling marker here because we are saying that to some extent this could become less popular if things drag on. So morning consult with Politico did some polling last week on this and they found that 54 percent of Americans support infrastructure improvements that are matched with tax increases. Twenty seven percent support infrastructure improvements, but without tax increases and then six percent don't support infrastructure improvements. And then 13 percent said they didn't know.
And when you look at independents and Republicans, thirty two percent of Republicans said they support infrastructure improvements with tax increases. Fifty two percent of independents said they support increased. Structure improvements with tax increases, so the foundation of this bill is popular, but as we mentioned, it's going to be discussed a lot publicly. What are the sticking points that you think could, if it works or become less popular over the coming months, be those things?
So, OK, as you were just saying, Gaylan, tax hikes are less popular than infrastructure in the abstract.
Now, even that, I think is a little misleading, like that morning consult poll found that a plurality of Republicans supported infrastructure without any tax hikes, which basically means funding the bill by borrowing, which I think you'd have every Republican come out against, and I think you'd see public opinion there change. So I think that's a little misleading.
But in general, the funding portion of this bill, how it's funded, is less popular than the spending part of this bill, which is totally normal.
And there's a lot of detail, I think, still to come out about exactly how this would be funded.
The main two mechanisms we've seen so far are by raising the corporate income tax from twenty one percent to twenty eight percent.
This basically like halfway reverses what the Trump tax law did, which dropped it from I think thirty four, thirty five percent to twenty one percent.
And then the other one is by a tax increase on people making over four hundred thousand dollars.
It's a little unclear which of those is more popular or less popular. The more accountable you mentioned Gaylan showed fifty seven percent of all voters supported a tax increase on those making over four hundred thousand versus only 47 percent. Who said that the hike in the corporate tax rate would make them more likely to support the infrastructure bill. But that's the soft spot here is the funding mechanisms. There are some Democrats who who have come out and said we shouldn't pay for this.
It's an investment in the future. It should be funded by borrowing. I don't know whether Republican attacks on the bill for just borrowing a couple of trillion dollars would be more potent than Republican attacks on the tax hikes. That's an interesting question, actually, but that's the soft spot in this bill politically.
I think the tax is actually giving tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy. I think that's not that unpopular.
It's popular. I think, in fact, it's not just not that unpopular. Isn't it actually popular among a lot of people?
I think it's generally popular, but I'm reading polls. I'm just being cautious here. But I think particularly increased taxes on the wealthy are generally pretty popular. So what I think the danger is with the Democrats is a four trillion dollar bill, which is what I think we're going to talk about eventually is inevitably going to include some spending. The Republicans have four months to look for four trillion dollars in spending and buying something that seems wasteful. I think they'll be pretty effective at that.
And I think once Fox News sort of finds whatever is the boondoggle and repeats it daily and so on, then mobilize public opposition pretty quickly. I think getting Republican this bill in the 80s by highlighting what was perceived as wasteful spending will be easy, is my guess. And I think that's where the problem, because, I mean, the Democrats are clearly they were the media's on infrastructure with the reality. This is like a green new deal slash left wing bill, slash infrastructure, slash care, slash college education.
Like there's going to be a lot of stuff in this bill, some of which is going to seem like not the most urgent of tasks for the country.
Yeah. Morning Consult had also done some polling that looked at some of the individual measures. And overall, they're pretty broadly popular with seven and 10 supporting and that stuff like climate change, expanding the country's electric vehicle, charging network, taking other steps to electrify the transportation sector. But then, you know, one thing to note is there are also two provisions to reduce tuition at historically black universities and colleges. Right. And even offer free tuition. And you see a drop off among Democrats, but then also really solidified opposition among Republicans.
And so to Perry's point, do they do men on that? Is that like reparations, which we know that even Democrats sometimes say, oh, that's a little too far for me, actually, in terms of policy. And I do think this bill in particular in a way that covid-19 also perhaps that really still changed what was or wasn't a stimulus payment in terms of other legislation went through. This extends beyond what we think of infrastructure. Right. And so how much do Republicans use that as a talking point?
And is that even a problem for Democrats or, you know, right now, more funding for affordable housing is really popular. Over 60 percent, close to 70 percent want that. And so does that change with messaging?
I do think parents are right that the specific spending in this bill will be the soft spot.
I do think as the details of different funding mechanisms. Come out and we sort of get more granular than just like raising the corporate tax rate taxes on the rich. I think there could be some detail there that is harder for Democrats to sell. What is the rich how far down does that income bracket go, etc.?
The other thing I would just say, though, on the attacks on this bill that I've seen so far, which are along the lines that Perry and Sarah describing that are just like this is a Democratic wish list. Some have been more effective than others as maybe the way I would put it. I saw one member of Congress make this argument that this isn't really about infrastructure.
And then they cited the like money that's earmarked for electric car charging stations.
That kind of does seem like infrastructure to me.
There are parts of this that seem less like infrastructure, maybe the home care stuff. Right.
Like trying to raise the wage of people who do in-home elderly care. That's not exactly roads and bridges. I also think that Democrats have an argument to make about that. There's like a real compelling argument that that is infrastructure.
That's the human infrastructure you need. Right.
To be clear, Biden's calling this the American jobs plan. And so his answer to that is also just going to be that that's a large part of the American economy and we need to create those jobs and pay those jobs better so that people can go out and work because their family members are taken care of. I will say that on this question. I think this is going to be a big debate. We've already seen it come out. There was an article in The Washington Post from the fact checker that was fact checking the claim from the GOP that only five to seven percent of Biden's plan is for, quote unquote, real infrastructure.
And there's a bunch of different items in here. They added various things together. They found that about a quarter was for transportation infrastructure. The single biggest item in here like loan item is that four hundred billion for expanding care under Medicaid. So, you know, if folks want to dig through all of the different line items and see what percent is for what, I would suggest that folks go look at that article in The Washington Post. But, yeah, I think there are different ways that you add it up.
And so far it looks like if you only consider, quote unquote, real infrastructure to be roads, bridges, ports, airports, things like that, then it is about a quarter of this bill. One question I have here, and this gets up like a broader maybe realignment or tension within American politics right now, is that historically we would think of business interests being at odds with the Democratic Party and their attempts to raise corporate taxes.
Because what we see happening right now is I think Joe Biden and Democrats have in mind that there are two different bills that they're going to propose. The first one is the American jobs plan, which is more infrastructure spending, and they're going to raise the corporate tax rate in order to pay for that. There's probably another bill that's coming down the pike which is more focused on social welfare spending, health care and things like that. And they would plan to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to fund that.
There might be some push to try to combine those two bills. But I think for now they're trying to keep them separate. So in this most immediate bill, the American jobs plan, we see the corporate tax rate being proposed that it's raised from twenty one percent to twenty eight percent. Are corporations going to come out strongly against this because they don't want to see their taxes raised or has some of the realignments that we've seen in American politics? Are they changing the calculus for business interests like the Chamber of Commerce or others to make them more aligned with Democrats and not really want to fight publicly with them?
So my impression is they're going to try to kill it.
Quite so 10 years ago, the corporate interests may have been more anti Democratic Party and really tried to kill. My sense is in part because the Democratic coalition is sort of there's more suburban Democrats who represent upper income areas where the Democrats were upset about. Of those same people will figure out a way probably to oppose a corporate tax increase or to shrink from twenty eight to twenty four. So I think it might actually be not that easy and not require the businesses to do much to sort of fight them.
Because, as you say, I think the Democrats are closer to the business community than they were 15 years than the business community, I think is further from the Republican Party right now because of issues like the Georgia voting law and so on.
Yeah, I mean, there's been so much uncertainty in the last four years, which is always tough and hard for businesses. But there does seem to be some reporting at this point that the business community might take more of a hike in taxes for a more protectable stance on things like trade and tariffs. The Times had a piece on that, and they also highlighted that Biden's approach to immigration will be better for businesses because in a global economy, which is what we use and can't always put America first and prevent immigrant labor from coming to the country for jobs, particularly in the tech industry.
And so there's been some reporting to that. But I have to agree that Perry's right in the sense that they're going to be pressuring behind the scenes. I don't think it's going to be this big active push. Maybe in a few months it will be at least at this stage it won't be. And I do think, you know, in the same way you saw moderate Democrats pushing back on salt, they'll also be pushing if the individual tax rate on those making four hundred thousand or more becomes too onerous.
So you'll see a subtle pushing in that regard.
Yeah, there was this article that I think Sara was referencing that was like corporate America is torn because they like Biden's more predictable governing style, but obviously they don't want their tax rates raised. It's not like Biden is saying, hey, if you don't support this infrastructure bill, I'm going to start behaving like Trump was a corporate. America can get both. They can get both the more predictable government. They already have the immigration policy. They want the trade policy they want, and they can try to kill this corporate tax hike.
Is there maybe a little do they want to be less open about it? Yeah, maybe because I think there's more risk to them in being associated with the Republican Party these days. But I still think the Sarah and Perry are right.
They're going to fight a raise in taxes under the Obama administration. Democrats really worked hard, especially with the ACA, to match dollar spending to dollar of taxes raised in this initial plan. They are trying to go that route, paying for eight years of spending with 15 years of tax increases. But it seems like long term when they include changes in health care spending and social welfare more broadly, that they don't actually want to cover it dollar for dollar. Why is that?
What has changed that that's no longer a priority for Democrats in the way that it was under the Obama administration?
I think they've seen that one, like Republicans have been so hypocritical about the evils and dangers of deficit spending and amassing debt that I think Democrats think that's kind of less political risk in those attacks being leveled against them.
I think there's also genuinely been a shift in like the wonk policy wing of the Democratic Party and how they view deficit spending, where there's just less fear of hyper inflation and that kind of thing. So the covid relief bill was not paid for, right?
Not paid for. It was paid for, but through bonds.
I do wonder with this bill, with the infrastructure bill, be easier to pass if they didn't try to pay for any of it with anything but deficit spending?
Yes, it would be easier to pass because I mean, this is one of the interesting things is Galen was hinting at earlier, increasing taxes on the rich is actually incredibly popular, depending on how you define it. Like the wealth tax is quite popular. They are not doing that. The reason taxes on the wealthy that include this is the wealthy have a lot of power to block, you know, campaign donations, back room, door and so on.
But in reality, if you look purely at the polling, the deficit doesn't matter. People just want to screw the rich and not just the Democrats. And so in reality, if you want to make a bill more popular, you should figure out how do you tax Bloomburg Sorrow's all the rich people of every party. And that would actually be popular by doing it so that that would be something that would be good politically in terms of popularity. May not be good in that Bloomberg might take away his donation to the Democratic Party.
And this is a great question. But in terms of raw voters, I think voters who care about deficits, they do hate the rich.
I was going to say, I think given that the covid stimulus bill did increase the deficit so much that if Democrats didn't make any attempt to try to pay for it in some measure, that would be another talking point. There's already talking points about inflation this year could be catastrophic. I realize, though, that I think Mike is right, that the wonk wing within the Democratic Party has changed their tune a bit on that front, because there's this idea that Democrats didn't do enough in 08 for economic recovery then.
And I think the stance has been, well, we had to do more this time around to spending up the deficit wasn't the issue, as you both said. But I think in particular with infrastructure, too, if the numbers don't exactly add up, there will be this moral argument that our bridges are crumbling, our roads are in vast disrepair, and it's been ages since there has been a federal government bill for infrastructure funding. And I think they want to match it dollar for dollar because the deficit is really high right now.
But to your broader point, I don't think that that is the end all that it once was in politics.
All right. Well, we'll see how this debate plays out, but let's move on and talk about the GOP 20 20 autopsy or lack thereof.
But first, as I mentioned at the top, it is a long American tradition for a losing political party to do some soul searching after an election loss and try to readjust its messages and policies in order to be more appealing to voters in the next election. While some GOP leaders talked about a new direction for the party after January 6th, the talk has mostly died down. And if it is happening, it's mostly out of public view. Perry recently reported on why the GOP doesn't seem to be undertaking a traditional autopsy post 20 20 and find this piece on the 538 website.
I want to dig into some of those reasons here. So, Perry, just to kick us off here, what does the traditional post-election autopsy usually look like?
So there's been a lot of different forms of this. I think the most memorable was after the 2012 election, the Republicans literally wrote a document that became known as the autopsy. It laid out in detail. Here's why we lost. We need to do more appealing to female voters, people of color in particular. So you had this sort of most formal thing that happened. But after twenty sixteen, you had a lot of public discussion, a lot of talk about Democrats are too focused on racial and gender.
Issues from the center part of the party, the left that were not the Democratic Party, is not populist enough. All parts of the party said that we shouldn't beat Hillary Clinton just without any real primary. And even going back to like 1988, you had after that loss, you had a real formal discussion among Democrats that resulted in sort of move to the center, the new democratic movement. Bill Clinton was more moderate than Michael Dukakis had been. So you have a lot of different forms of that.
But in general, first what happens is a really broad public discussion that usually involves trashing the nominee, who lost in great detail Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton, to tell you that they were described in unflattering her the people in their own party who in November were like your great candidate and by December or even a week later were saying you were the worst candidate ever. How dare we nominate you? You are done to us basically. And Trump is not getting that treatment this time.
I mean, to what extent do you see a public debate about the direction of the Republican Party happening?
I don't see one at all. In fact, there was an autopsy last week that was put out to a high level Latino. Democratic strategist released the autopsy about why the Democratic Party, which, as you remember, won the House, Senate and the presidency while losing Martino's a little bit, losing some ground, but they won the Latino vote to overall. But had Democrats are studying the Latino issue very carefully and publicly and debating it publicly, I don't see much discussion there.
I'm not saying there are no Republicans. Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, there are certainly a few Republicans, but there's not like a party wide formal discussion, because if you had that, you might be able to say, here are the Republicans who are saying Trump blew it. Here is the criticism of Trump's campaign team. I'm not seeing a lot of them. After twenty sixteen, I read a lot of criticism. A lot of Democrats I knew were naming Robby Mook individually.
He was Clinton's campaign manager. There was a lot of criticism of people on Hillary Clinton's staff and Hillary Clinton herself and even Barack Obama to some extent. And you almost have none of the real score settling this time.
The other thing an autopsy, a real autopsy would require is acknowledging that your loss and and a huge chunk of the party, the majority of the party does not want to do that.
She doesn't believe that it lost family. No, I'm not sure that's true.
The people doing it wouldn't be voters doing the autopsy. Right.
Maybe some voters would particularly excited about politics, would do autopsies for for each party, but it would be party leaders. Right. And the party elites who are unwilling to acknowledge that Biden won.
I do think no. Better maybe. Yeah, no.
I mean, I keep thinking back to CPAC in February, which we've talked about it a lot. It's not necessarily the most representative conference of where the Republican Party is. Its straw poll in the past has been horribly unproductive, but it encapsulated what we're all talking about really well, you know, Trump was the keynote speaker. Everyone else who spoke praised him. There was a golden statue of him and there weren't any dissenting opinions either because they weren't invited or because they declined to speak.
And when they were mentioned, they were booed. And so I do think there's this open question of will trump himself be the leader of the party moving forward? And I think that's much more debatable. But his ideas and his approach to politics, that's not going anywhere. Ninety five percent who attended that conference said I liked President Trump's agenda, and that is why there is no autopsy report.
I just think so much of this comes down to the GOP's structural electoral advantages in the Senate and the House, in the electoral college, in many state legislatures, because what it means is. There's just a huge disconnect between popular will and the forces that are exerted on Republican politicians.
So you can describe in this piece Perry wrote that I edited, you can describe the twenty eighteen to twenty twenty cycle as absolutely ruinous for Republicans. Republicans were swept out of power. They lost the White House, the House, the Senate. They've won the popular vote for the presidency one time in the last however many years.
Multiple decades since nineteen eighty eight since nineteen eighty eight.
Or you can say well Republicans were about a couple of hundred thousand out of millions cast votes away from Trump, squeaking out Electoral College victory and staying in the White House. You move a couple of percentage points in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, this is what you write about.
And if David Perdue won about, I think it's like sixty thousand more votes in the Georgia runoff, then Republicans keep the Senate, not to mention they made a bunch of state legislative gains. And the reason that that electoral picture is so confusing, Trump can come so close to winning the White House while losing the popular vote by seven million votes, is that the GOP has these structural advantages which essentially make them mostly immune from the popular will and make them beholden to a much an electorate that looks much different than the country overall.
I think that's why you get a lot of Republicans looking around, not only refusing to acknowledge reality that Trump lost, but essentially saying everything's fine because for them, most of them, it is.
OK, I take your point, Mike, but also like when you look at the 2016 election, that was an extremely close election where Hillary Clinton was tens of thousands of votes away from winning and there was mayhem within the Democratic Party and there was a lot of soul searching about what to do. So there has to be another reason beyond just like it was close, they almost won. And you go through some of the rationales for why there isn't an autopsy happening within the Republican Party right now.
Can you like some of those other ideas? Because I take your point back and it's absolutely true from a structural perspective. But there are more forces at play, I think, to within the Republican Party that you can attribute to why this autopsy isn't happening.
So a couple of things that I wrote about was so one was like, if you were right after January six, McConnell was very clearly like, we get rid of Trump and we're tired of him. And he was sort of signaling that. But then you saw these. You're in Kentucky and a bunch of other states, censure resolutions that were passed, like the other words, in the Senate that attacked Republicans who voted for impeachment or hinted they would or anything.
And one of my cases is like basically I view politics as sort of the elite driven in some ways. And so if the McConnell level McCarthy was open to moving to. But the state Republican Party is the local activists, the groups like the Heritage Foundation, the Heritage Action Club for Growth, Fox News, that group of people that are sort of between McConnell and the rank and file voters, those people are really opposed to change. Like the Christian conservatives know, their agenda is unpopular, banning abortion, getting rid of Roe v.
Wade. They're not changing their agenda because they believe in a deeply resurgent Republican Party. The question is, do I change my views to help us win? Or are these views so fundamental to me and the way I see the world? Are we in an existential crisis? We're moving left means that I'm going to let the liberals take over the country and they're opposed to that. And they'd rather push a risky strategy that might not win then a strategy that will be more electoral viable.
There require a lot of compromises, like one of the you know, the Republican Party right now is fighting what they view as a sort of demographic cultural change that they are resistant to and they'd rather go down fighting than to sort of change over. So that's the broader point. And the second was you can't an autopsy and you can't criticize Trump and they can't criticize Trump because he'll primary them. So that's a big part of it. As you're seeing, Trump is primary and people already.
So the third part is they almost one. I noted that Republican voters are not really clamoring for changes. And I think that's part of you. Look at the polling. You look at Iowa, like if you have done a poll of Democrats in twenty seventeen, ask them, do you want Hillary is the nominee? I don't think there would have been a very popular idea versus a lot of Republicans are for Trump being the nominee. I mean, they don't want to change.
And the last thing is when I mentioned previous parties, you had the DLC in the 1980s pushing the Democrats to the center. You had George W. Bush, who was in the early in the late 90s, saying the Republicans should be compassionate conservatives, which implied that maybe Newt Gingrich was not compassionate. So you had that force. And to me, it would be hard to say. Who are the centrist Republicans, were they meeting, what is their organization like to me?
There's about a third of the Republican voters in the polls who want to move on from terrorism. There is a core Republican voter who wants to have Trump ism is not clear to me. There's any institution in the party this sort of galvanizing those people the way you had like like you had a big group of electability, Democrats who were saying, no, no, the left is going too far. I don't know where the entire Trump Republicans are really organizing themselves.
The other thing I would just add, and it's the difference I know has given, said that Clinton came close to winning in 2016. But the difference is Republicans have the advantage. So the onus was on Democrats. Democrats had to do something to overcome that disadvantage. Republicans don't really have to do anything. That's an exaggeration. But like, do you get what I mean, like Republicans have the advantage.
So the few efforts at like, what's the future of the party that you have seen are largely doubling and tripling down on Trump ism. You saw that Republican Study Committee come out with basically a plan that was like the Republican Party should try to make itself known as the Workers Party. And that was really explicitly saying we need to double down on Trump ism and expand on it because that coalition non college whites, in particular, noncollege educated white voters, is what gives them those structural advantages, particularly in the in the Electoral College.
So there's a big difference between having a five point head start just in terms of the incentive that sets up.
Kerry hit on something interesting where there was that short lived period, particularly right after the insurrection at the capital where, yeah, someone like McConnell was like, this is a step too far. 10 Republicans in the House ultimately voted for impeachment, which it's not much, but it's the most within a House impeachment vote. But then they were so publicly rebuked at the state and local level that that discussion just kind of died down. Like Liz Cheney, her position within House leadership had to be voted on.
There were members that wanted to kick her out for that. And what's interesting to me about that disconnect is the party seems to be grappling with this idea of I do think there's a faction who's like, I'm done with Trump. But what the party is not done with is what his politics represented. This idea of like he fought for us, this idea that, yeah, can they be the Workers Party? You know, they were small gains overall and we shouldn't read that much into them.
But they did do better among nonwhite voters without a college degree in twenty twenty. And yes, Democrats are now studying in particular what went wrong with Hispanic voters that fit that bill. But I think Republicans it's interesting. They're in this tenuous situation where Democrats in twenty sixteen had no problem saying, OK, Clinton, let's rethink it. She was unpopular. They're not doing that here in twenty twenty one talking about Trump. But that dynamic seems to be embedded in some of these conversations around Trump ism.
What is the party mean? And they're just not having them openly.
I would say there are two things that are changing that are worth noting. You know, we talk about this in a podcast, you and I, Galen, the sort of cancer culture, like everything is canceled, like that phrase is used by every Republican constantly. So they definitely figured out WOAK in cancer culture are good words to use in terms of that. So I think that's one thing. And I think that just watching Fox News and like in what they're saying, there's clearly an effort to promote new people, dissenters, Kristi Noem Ragab.
But I think no one on Fox is going to say we need a different candidate next time, because you can't say that because the audience loves Trump. But there's clearly an attempt to suggest there are other Trump like people who are not Trump that we can have with our candidate in 2024.
Yeah, I think that there is a little bit of an idea here within the Republican Party that like, OK, well, like Trump is might not have actually been that bad of an electoral strategy, but Trump kind of got his own way because he was such an eccentric person and he was so controversial. So they want to give the Trump ism without Trump a try before they truly change course. The other thing I wanted to bring up here, which gets beyond maybe just the structural advantages that Republicans have when preparing for this segment, I was looking through political science papers, trying to find research on when political parties change and why.
And there was a study actually done looking at European political parties back in 2013. So this is well before any of this was even relevant.
And they found that leadership dominated parties are far more likely to change their policies and messaging after election than activist dominated parties. And I think this gets somewhat at the difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party right now in that the Democratic Party is relatively top. Like leadership and the establishment within the party has a lot of power and within the Republican Party, that's not the case. As you all mentioned, Mitch McConnell and Liz Cheney didn't have the force of leadership to be able to redirect the party post January 6th because the activists prevent them from doing so.
And so I think what we see here is, is, yes, these electoral structural advantages is just the idea that Trump ism maybe did have some electoral advantages, but also fundamentally different parties.
It's a really good point, Gail, and a really interesting point. What I was actually going to ask is, you know, in that Republican Study Committee memo that was like recommending let's become the Workers Party, it actually seems like relatively smart electorally to me.
Now, you'd have to ignore some policy disconnects in terms of like the Republican platform and becoming the Workers Party in particular, their positions in terms of corporations and taxes and their positions regarding people of color.
You know, lots of people of color are working class. So you kind of can't be the white identity party and be the Workers Party.
That seems somewhat mutually exclusive, at least if you're like judging things on the merits.
But if they're trying to become like white populist party or like a what?
Like a white worker's party, there are a couple of lines in there basically about corporate America has never been so soured on the Republican Party. Right. And that's because of the insurrection and that's because of corporate America.
Lots of corporate America at least has had to get its act together or tried to get its act together or start to get its act together on issues of race and diversity and inclusion. Their employees are demanding it. Right.
You saw an effort in that Republican Study Committee memo to essentially turn that to the GOP's advantage and to say the Democrats are the corporate party.
See, these corporations are trying to get you to live your life a different way and and all of these things. And that seemed that at least electorally pretty clever to me, actually. Yes.
I think that particularly having watched how they're handling MLB, you know, baseball all star game has been moved from Georgia because the MLB objected to the voting law there. Yes, corporations are, in the Republican words, to work. And I think there is something to corporate. As Mike is saying, corporations are sensitive to the Democratic arguments on race and gender issues. So corporations are not overly popular with people in the first place. And so positioning yourself as a sort of not as corporate type party is probably smart.
I think then it gets into the economic issues. What is that agenda? But I don't know the answer to that. But I think, yes, in general saying you're for the working class and you're against WOAK and you're against Kinsel culture, I don't know what those count as a rebrand, but I think those are smart things to say.
And if they're a linguistic rebrand, those are useful ideas themselves.
The interesting part of it is they're having a bit of an autopsy. They can't name an autopsy. Right. It's like the Trump problem means they actually if the Republican Study Committee or the RNC will say we're having an autopsy to diagnose why we screwed up in twenty twenty, that would freak Trump out and then it would go nowhere. But there. So it's possible that they're doing more stuff that is harder to see happening.
I don't think so, because I think there might be more of this than I can see because that can happen in public.
I agree with that. And I think the way in which the media wants to cover it is in this sense that right there will be a report where it says Trump was a problem for X, Y, Z reasons, because that's how these reports generally go, for the reasons you say people like that can't happen. But that doesn't mean that this conversation isn't happening. And if they really can rebrand themselves as the working class party and I realize, you know, at least among non college educated white voters, that has been true for several elections.
Now, that would be a big pivot for the party, if that is the messaging. Again, what policies that generates, is there an uneasy coalition? Because as we know, it wasn't just noncollege educated white voters who backed Trump. A lot of affluent white business owners also backed Trump. But that pivot is interesting and I think it is happening.
So I do agree that the shift in voting along the lines of education that we've seen, coupled with kind of the racial and gender reckonings in corporate America, coupled with the kind of anti tech backlash in Republican circles, presents an opportunity to the Republican Party to try to brand itself as a more of a Worker's Party. I agree with that. At some point they will have to like I don't think you can be a.
Workers Party, if none of your policies benefit workers, but none but you know what I mean? Like, I think Republicans could emphasize policies that support families. What you saw Romney do, for example, and I think they could do that.
What I don't buy is that the post 20, 20 conversations around this are an autopsy in the way that past autopsies have been like the post 2012 autopsy recommended that Republicans do comprehensive immigration reform that would have been a big shift in the Republican Party.
Seems like anathema now to the GOP.
But there is nothing in the current GOP conversations around this that's equivalent to that level of policy shift. This is all about messaging and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
I don't know, though. I think we make too much to some extent of these autopsy reports. You know, like one of the big takeaways coming out of 2016 was Clinton shouldn't have done identity politics. But as Perry wrote for the site leading up, Biden did that just fine here in twenty twenty. And I realize that, yes, Biden was an older white man. Clinton was a woman. We can't discount sexism. And what that meant and why Biden, as the spokesperson for that, makes the message perhaps easier for more Americans to digest.
But then did we really understand the root of why Clinton lost? And 16? It seems like some of the forces that were at play in 16, at least among the Democratic Party, continued on to 2020. It was just maybe Clinton was flawed as a candidate for X, Y, Z reasons. And so to some extent, I wonder with these autopsy reports, how much of it really does ultimately shape the party moving forward?
I mean, the impolite autopsy after 2016 was pick a white guy. So I think the state never really stated explicitly, but that was often what was really happening. That was pretty spot on.
And that's why no one really thinks Betaworks should be president, except in that context where that all came from.
But anyway, in terms of the autopsy, so what's really made in my piece was if you told me on January 7th that the Republicans in Georgia will pass a law that makes it harder to vote and bans giving one of your people, I would have been like, they're going to make a little bit of a shift. They're not going to go further. So part of it is like in the context of what's happening in these states, I thought there would be a let's be a little less Trump in.
Let's be a little more in a certain way. I think that's kind of what I anticipated, was that there will be some reckoning in which Nikki Haley, Governor Nikki Haley was being interviewed a lot in that period in January 7th and back, like there was definitely a sense from Nikki Haley herself that there was more of an opening and now it seems like we're in the Santos bubble. And that goes to the fact that I think everybody thinks that now the party is looking for like Trump ism without Trump as opposed to something different.
Yeah, I think that's fair. Like the couple of weeks that we saw after January six where I mean, Nikki Haley even had some tough words when she addressed the RNC committee meeting where they were voting for future party leadership. And that has pretty much disappeared. So we will see to what extent any of that emerges. And we'll be watching the Republican Party for the next two and four years. So this conversation will not go away. But that's it for this conversation today.
So thank you, Sarah. Thank you. My name is Galen Drew. Tony Chao is in the virtual control room. Claire Bit, Gary Curtis is on audio editing. You can get in touch by emailing us at podcast at five thirty eight dotcom. You can also, of course, tweet us with any questions or comments. If you're a fan of the show, leave us a rating or review in the Apple podcast store or tell someone about us.
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