A look back at 2017’s “People to Watch”

This year’s first post on Political Orphans described seven prominent, but under-appreciated figures who seemed poised for a breakout year. Here’s a look at what each of them accomplished in 2017.

Ben Sasse

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse was one of the first major Republican figures to openly denounce Donald Trump and he never wavered. If anyone in the GOP was going to take a principled stand to rally opposition on the right, it seemed likely to be him. Well, he didn’t.

It’s hard to properly summarize Sasse’s aw-shucks, nice-guy appeal. He appeared in a popular photograph at mid-year chatting with Senators Schumer and Cotton while sitting on a railing in his gym shorts. Approachable and unpretentious, he might appear to be the perfect foil for Trump.

There’s something slightly off about this shtick. It starts out informal and “real,” then quickly turns into a façade hiding just another Republican. His affable tweets about Nebraska football or his kids kind of lure you in, then he repeats Republican talking points as if they were genuine insights, reminding you that you’re the mark in this grift. Ben Sasse is probably the favorite politician of people who use terms like “awesomesauce” and “cool beans,” the kind of just-plain-folks who shy away from the spicier dishes at Applebees because they seem too “edgy.” Under the challenge of a genuine historical moment, Sasse has hid himself behind a veneer of politesse. It turns out that his opposition to Donald Trump was about nothing more than manners. He is the patron saint of people who place their individual ease above every other value.

By lending his credibility to the Republican brand, Sasse has become a key source of cover for the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans. Sasse has made it OK for “nice” people to support a rabidly destructive political party, thereby making it more difficult for courageous opponents to marshal a resistance. Along the way, he has been a guaranteed vote for every insane project of this administration, from packing the bench with incompetent judges to funneling wealth back to billionaires.

Sasse’s routine repeats the tactics of “respectable” figures who undermined civil rights reformers in the Fifties and Sixties. We’ve largely forgotten, but “nice” people consistently opposed Dr. King when he alive, faulting his impolite methods and impatience. They were quick to condemn to the Bull Connors of the world, and just as quick to criticize those who resisted him. Nice, polite, white people all loved Martin Luther King after he was dead. Moral high ground is cheap once someone else has bled to secure it. Sasse likes to stay on secure ground.

After spending this entire year as a reliable bulwark of the Trump administration’s legislative agenda, Sasse did what nice people always do when courageous people take a stand. He had the gall to criticize Sen. Flake for donating to Doug Jones’ Alabama Senate campaign. Sasse had been running his signature bit, pretending to take a stand on Moore without taking any risks. Then Flake made his very public donation to Doug Jones. Sasse responded by not only criticizing Flake, but subtly repeating the most empty, outrageous excuse used by Moore supporters:

Because the opposition to Doug Jones in Alabama was about partial birth abortion. What a dick move.

If nothing else, Sasse has at least taught us a lesson that could save our country in 2018. Niceness in the face of evil is a form of fraud. Tyrants love to be opposed by nice people because they channel potential dissent into a mushy, smiling complacence. In 2017, when we needed him, Ben Sasse was busy being friendly and selling books.

Russell Moore

While much of the evangelical movement was throwing its weight behind Donald Trump and Roy Moore, Russell Moore put his ministry on the line to defend his beliefs. Having earned scorn from other Baptist ministers in 2016 for his pointed opposition to Trump, Moore began 2017 with a fight to keep his job as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm. He won that battle without compromising his prophetic voice.

Moore is becoming an American Bonhoeffer, chiding the devout for their compromises with power and keeping a flame of moral conviction burning. He began the year fighting the Trump administration’s Muslim ban and he ended the year rallying evangelical opposition to Roy Moore. In between, he held his ground on matters of conscience against increasingly virulent opposition. Russell Moore was one of the stand-out figures of 2017.

Erica Grieder

This was a tough year for voices in the middle. A journalist and author with deep Texas roots and an appreciation for Rick Perry-style Republicanism, Grieder found herself isolated by the GOP’s Trumpian turn.

It looked like this might be a promising year for someone with her talents and interests, but it appears to have been a transition time for her. She left Texas Monthly late last year and didn’t find a reliable new platform until the fall, when she began writing a column for the Houston Chronicle. It was a quiet year.

William Barber II

This was a transition time for Rev. Barber as well. After leading the Moral Mondays movement for four years as the president of the NAACP in North Carolina, Barber stepped down in May. He is preparing to tackle the most ambitious goal of the civil rights movement. In his new role, Barber hopes to revive Dr. King’s unfinished “poor people’s campaign,” uniting low income Americans across racial lines in a national social justice movement. That work should begin to bear fruit next year, when the campaign plans to organize protests nationally.

Amy Klobuchar

Minnesota’s senior Senator was overshadowed for much of 2017 by the theatrical brilliance of her colleague Al Franken. That won’t be a problem anymore.

Klobuchar has been pragmatic and reliable, but not very prominent. That may change going into 2018. Both of Minnesota’s Senate seats will be up for election next year. Klobuchar is unlikely to draw a serious challenger, leaving her free to use that campaign as a test for a 2020 presidential run. Though everything seems to be falling her way, 2017 was largely a quiet year for Klobuchar.

Evan McMullin

Evan McMullin made a name for himself in 2016 as a thorn in Trump’s side, heading a conservative third-party challenge for the White House. He never let his foot off the pedal. McMullin has been a relentless critic of Trump and complicit Republicans. Meanwhile he’s been working to convert the energy of the #NeverTrump movement into a grassroots ground-game with an organization called Stand Up Republic. It’s unclear how far they’ve gotten. Much of this kind of grassroots investment will remain untested until later next year. But it’s been heartening to see conservatives show some spine in resisting this administration.

Avik Roy

In some high school or college class, you may have been required to read Faust. Roy probably didn’t. For whatever reason, Roy seems to have decided he could get more accomplished by staying close to Paul Ryan and the GOP than by opposing their antics. It hasn’t been a great bet.

Roy, who brought me on at Forbes as a blogger, broke from the Republican party very visibly last year over Trump and the rise of white nationalism. He seemed positioned to lead a pragmatic, intellectual opposition to the party’s transformation into a Neo-Confederate nightmare.

After the disappointment of the election, he decided to contribute his considerable insights, talents and credibility to the Republican ACA repeal effort. Even if the bill had passed, it’s hard to imagine what Roy might have gained from that move. Not even the best, smartest people can squeeze positive outcomes from their collusion with Trump-era Republicans. Advice from Republican strategist Rick Wilson hangs over any conservative faced with a similar choice: “Everything Trump touches dies.”

The biggest players in 2017 were figures I didn’t see coming. It was a very big year for women in particular. More on that to come.

73 Comments

    1. And you know what Mary? This regime will likely follow through with that, because there is no one to stop them.

      I have said it before. I am shocked that the rest of NATO, or the UN, has not formed a wet team to deal with the global crisis of an evil madman having his finger on the nuclear button.

      1. Repubs still have a mess on their hands to pass the national budget and to raise the debt ceiling. Sen. Susan Collins – how are you feeling about that promised help to stabilize the ACA now? What about CHIP funding? The $81B in disaster funding? And, while the GOP balks on these programs, they are trying to get support to increase funding for the Pentagon? This is incredibly sloppy fiscal management.

        https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/20/congress-government-shutdown-2017-trump-306655

    1. My basic feeling is that these corporations are cooperating with T to get really good PR. Of course the big Con Man is making the best of it. After these deals are actually analyzed we will probably find that they are not as big a deal as they are being portrayed. Furthermore, we will find that these are one time deals for the most part. In general these are not wage increases, except where the $15 an hour minimum wage is being implemented. That was probably in the works anyway or it is a minimal increase.

      In general, I agree with Mary regarding the source of these funds. In reality, we will find that the average worker will be worse off due to the increase in inequity, the increased taxes many will have, and the efforts to cut back on the entitlement programs. One can be sure that the corporations will be very sure to increase shareholder value. That after all is the primary focus of corporate governance. Pfizer announced a huge stock buyback today plus an increase in dividends. Others will be sure to follow. Historically, whenever there has been a big tax cut for the wealthy and corporations, the benefits to the working classes have been minimal. Regarding the return of cash parked overseas to the U.S., when that has happened in the past, the vast majority of the money went to the shareholders and the executives.

      My name is Tom and I am a doubting Thomas.

      1. First TM – I wish to express my concern for the Amtrak tragedy in WA. Things like this should not happen.

        Second – as for Wells Fargo, ATT – Principles at these companies have been quoted as saying that they will use the reduced corporate tax rate to buy back stock and reward shareholders (and likely their CEOs). I think the comments today are a classic case of (crudely stated) “sucking up”. Seems it works with this man in the White House.

    2. AT&T and Comcast are currently receiving hate mail for their role in getting the net neutrality rules revoked. Wells Fargo has been swimming uphill in six feet of mud for the last two years as it’s been revealed that they falsified accounts (they were also one of the biggest Banks to take property after defaults during the housing crisis). Boeing is getting shit on internationally after leading the administration to raise a tariff on a Canadian competitor’s plane (the size and service style of which Boeing doesn’t even compete). They also operate out of an area that’s going up to $15/hour minimum wage anyway, so they don’t technically have to do anything out of the ordinary to raise wages statistically.

      I couldn’t tell you if deeply unpopular businesses or businesses in the middle of a bad PR cycle latching on to a deeply unpopular bill for the PR boost will work — toward the popularity of their business, the bill, or both — but it does let the jabberwocky being spittled out of 45’s mouth get echoed on rightwing media to discredit Democrats for claiming that the bill won’t help working class Americans. So we have more peat fog to muck up discourse at the very least, and that serves the agents of disreality well.

      In terms of practical effects of any economic quality, this is sound and fury, signifying nothing. Wait til 2020 to see if the recent slight uptick in wages continues.

      1. Aaron,

        A minor correction – the 2018 minimum wage in Washington will be $11.50. Seattle is in the process of implementing a $15.00 minimum. SEATAC has a $15.00 minimum. The Boeing plants in Washington are generally under the state minimum. However, virtually all of the Boeing workforce in Washington is unionized with a strong union. If there are wages that are below $15.00, they are few.

        That is not necessarily true of Boeing plants elsewhere. For example the South Carolina plant, which is the 2nd 787 plant is not unionized.

        Realistically however for Boeing raising the minimum to $15.00 has no significant cost.

  1. This is a bit off topic, but this morning I read David Brooks column from the Dec 18, NY Times. What I found noteworthy about this particular column is that David mentions several policy ideas from conservative think tanks, that might actually have some positive impacts for the middle class. While I very possibly and likely would disagree with some of the ideas, they are actually good faith efforts to improve the situation for the working and middle classes. I also noted that they all require an activist federal government, some more so than others. I can not dream of the present Republican party actually pursuing any of these ideas. If the R’s in Congress were to actually propose them the D’s would actually consider them and there could be a real debate. Rather the R’s pursue bills like the tax cut and the repeal of the ACA that hurt the middle and working classes. All the ideas the R’s have are designed to “comfort the comfortable, and afflict the afflicted”. I long for an R party that would actually propose ideas such as these. At one time we actually had such a R party.

    The link is: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/18/opinion/republicans-taxes-voters.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion-columnists&action=click&contentCollection=columnists&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=9&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

  2. On the importance of voting, this little update from VA (copied from WaPo):

    “Democrat Shelly Simonds emerged from the recount as the apparent winner in the 94th District of the House of Delegates, seizing the seat from Republican incumbent David Yancey. A three-judge panel still must certify the results, an event scheduled for Wednesday.

    Of the 23,866 votes cast in the Newport News district on Election Day, Yancey held a tenuous lead of just 10 votes going into Tuesday’s recount.

    But five hours and much nailbiting later, after painstaking counting overseen by local elections officials and the clerk of court, Yancey’s lead narrowed before it gradually disappeared and then reversed, allowing Simonds to beat him by one vote.”

    One vote. What difference does that one vote make? The House of Delegates is now tied 50-50, rather than the GOP having a slim 51-49 edge. They’ll have to play nicer if they want to get anything done.

    One vote.

      1. Simonds opponent, an incumbent Republican, has the option to not accept the recount and take this to the Va Senate where the GOP has a slim 2 vote majority, 21-19 over Democrats. Bear in mind that there are 3 other contested results that were close that are also undergoing recount, however, none were as close as Simonds race.

      2. Yep – they challenged one of the ballots….looked at it and decided that even though more than one candidate was marked, the voter “intended” to vote for the Republican.

        I.kid.you.not. That took the winning single vote from Simonds and posted to the Republican candidate and now there is a tie! And, that tie? It will be broken by a drawing conducted by the VA Election Board….I can’t wait to see how that turns out. There is no way it ends well. For the record, IMO, a ballot that marks for more than one candidate should be thrown out – regardless of party or candidates. Ms. Simonds must feel royally screwed.

        https://www.npr.org/2017/12/20/572337301/judges-erase-one-vote-lead-in-virginia-throwing-state-politics-into-disarray

  3. So now that the wealth diversion deal is a fait accompli, just how long will it be for Joe Voter to feel the impact? Correct me if I am wrong, I doubt it will have much real economic impact before the 2018 election cycle, other that the political spin going both ways.

    But what about the 2020 cycle? Will this monstrosity’s effect be felt by early 2020?

    1. Judging from the poll #s on this bill, plenty of people already don’t like it and don’t want it. It won’t effect anyone’s taxes until next year’s filing period. But Ryan is talking like he’s serious about safety net destruction next year. If so, that will bite people first, I suspect.

      1. The immediate impact will be dulled through delay which, of course, was strategic due to mid-terms. But, many people who do financial planning will learn about the impact of the tax cuts that will hit in their 2019 tax bills. As an example, doctors and lawyers are not treated like accountants and architects in so far as their tax status is concerned. Why? Carve outs that benefit special constituencies will be fair game for media exposure. There will be plenty of exposure of the problems within and unfairness of this tax cut bill..if, the public chooses to listen. I wish I had more confidence in their attention to detail. Most, I suspect, will be very superficial in their assessments.

        The big picture is what this tax bill will do to America’s tax system and economy, as pointed out in this New Yorker piece.

        https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-gop-tax-bill-is-unworkable

      2. Mary, reading that New Yorker article makes me realize what one of the results of most Americans being so inward looking, or in more blunt terms, idiots ignorant of world current events and history.

        Seems there was some country not too long ago that set the financial markets reeling because they could not service their debt. That country had major liquidity problems because the citizens made a prolonged habit of not paying their taxes or simply defrauding the tax man.

        Look up what was happening in Greece only 2 or 3 years ago. Now, that was the result of prolonged huge deficits driven by many years of the gov’t not collecting taxes due. But that New Yorker article sets up the U.S. going down the same path.

        Now, maybe that is what the extremists want. They are setting up the States for a economic catastrophe just like when Bush handed Obama the grenade and said “see ya, good luck”. Can you imagine a situation in 2020, where by some miracle the Democrats actually win the presidency and either the House or Senate. The economy is crashing, the tax base is shredded, and the Democrats are now faced with slashing entitlements and raising taxes, just to stave off a market meltdown or depression.

        Guess who will be blamed?

    2. I believe passage of the GOP Tax Cut Bill will be felt in the 2018 mid-terms. It will be “our” job to inform those who don’t spend as much time studying politics about what this tax bill does going forward. And, there is so much more that we can and must point out. No one is going to create an 8 point Blue Wave by wishing. We will have to work for it. No whining – hard, steady work. That’s my commitment – and it started November 8, 2016. The media doesn’t like what is happening any more than most Democrats do. They understand what is happening and they will keep the pressure on. What we have to do is make sure people are paying attention.

      1. So much is going to happen between now and then, it’s impossible to tell what issues will be front and center when Nov ’18 finally rolls around. That said, color me a skeptic that a tax cut of a couple hundred bucks (comparative bread crumbs, tbs) will have voters thinking that things are all sunshine and rainbows all of a sudden.

        One thing we *can* be near assured of is that it’ll be a referendum on Trump, and that thought should make Republicans very concerned indeed.

    3. Dinsdale,

      We don’t even have to look outside the country.

      http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-steyer-kansas-tax-cuts-brownback-california-20170622-story.html

      “Kansas embarked on its trickle-down experiment in 2012. Brownback slashed taxes across the board, calling his plan “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” Five years later, the state’s economy is on life support, and government expenses are expected to outpace income by $1.1 billion through June 2019. Instead of a poster child for the small-government theories championed by economist Arthur Laffer, tax reform activist Grover Norquist and the rest of the Republican Party, Kansas has become a cautionary tale about what happens when you expose their economic ideas to sunlight.”

      Oklahoma, too.

      http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/history-of-tax-cuts-catches-up-to-oklahoma-as-state/article_ec192755-9cd7-5067-a61c-79f25ed382d4.html

      “Now the once-unwavering confidence in the wisdom of lower taxes has given way to a growing panic over how to pay for basic services such as schools, health care and public safety. Revenue has fallen about 20 percent short of budgeted needs for the third year in a row.

      The situation has deteriorated to the point where highway patrol troopers have been warned not to fill their fuel tanks, and drunken drivers have been able to keep their licenses because there are not enough administrative workers to revoke their driving privileges. Nearly 100 of the state’s 513 school districts have moved to four-day weeks.”

      Oh hell yeah. Let’s do this nationally.

      1. As much as I want to believe that the majority of Americans are cognizant of the negative impact of this tax cut bill (and by extension, the GOP and T), realistically, we are in a strong economy and I have a grudging respect for the Republicans messaging ability. The cuts won’t hit before mid-terms and the GOP has $100M in its hip pocket to defend the 30 “must-have” seats to retain their majorities. Those of us who are informed and committed to taking back both Congress and the WH, are going to have to work like hell to educate the rest of America who seem to live with political blinders on. Republicans are expecting a Blue Wave. Let’s make it a tsunami.

  4. I subscribed to the White House email list back when a guy who could complete full sentences occupied the Oval Office, and I never unsubscribed though I tend not to read them anymore. I get the hint from the subject lines what the emails have to say most of the time.

    Today’s subject line was, “A Return to Principled Realism.” Considering that 45 is the embodiment of anathema toward principles and reality, on a denotative, fundamental level the only way that headline could not be a lie is if he chose to resign.

    Among the various ways that this administration is disheartening, it’s also a reminder of how empty words can be when you realize that all it takes is a person completely unconcerned with their meaning to undercut their usage by applying them to anything. It creates an epistemological threat because without agreements on the meaning of things, the use of language to communicate is itself at risk.

    It’s already beyond surreal how good people on the right are at wars of words. If they applied half as much effort toward recognition of their constituents as they did toward spin, the United States would still have that Reaganesque City on a Hill appeal. But it’s beyond spin to destroy the words they’ve weaponized.

    We’ve already learned that conservatism doesn’t mean anything on any fundamental level. Any claim a conservative had to any unit of principle has been systematically disproven by their next election cycle. But the messy nature of ‘isms’ are such that they’ve only really worked as an identifier for in-groups and never as a concrete system of ideas and values. This becomes especially true the narrower the ‘ism’ is. Put two communists in a room together to learn how little either would on anything, at any level. Now try to find two people who call themselves ‘anarcho-syndicalists’ and do the same. There is no True Conservative, and if you’ve ever seen two Tea Partiers try to debate each other rather than some street journalist or an invisible Obama on a chair, you’ll see how little clue either of them has about what the other believes.

    But undercutting the very concept of principles and reality, that’s a harsh dismissal of language to the degree that defines us as human.

      1. You can be principled about reality. The scientific method is one principled way of observing reality.

        Principled realism would, like the scientific method, allow for certain principles and beliefs to be revised pending substantive contrary information.

        But I will acknowledge that realism is still an -ism and that realism isn’t the same thing as reality.

      1. I’m not unimpressed with the threat of the Sinclair Group to civic discourse, it’s just that taken in context of the shift of televised media over decades it’s just a continuation of a very long curve. Without a return to the Fairness Doctrine and a significant roll back of telecommunications laws since at least 1993, there’s really no stopping our airwaves being taken over by rich people with an Opinion.

        The reason why those changes won’t happen is two-fold: one, because the Republicans will never, ever lift a finger to do it, and two, because it’s a big ask of the Democrats to do for a declining medium viewed by increasingly fewer and older people in narrower markets. Essentially the Internet renders the concept of limited bandwidth moot, so it’s really disingenuous to claim that equal time be required due to broadcasts’ limited real estate.

        What non-rightwing people can do to combat bad media is produce, pay for, and provide better media. The government isn’t going to be able to meaningfully regulate bad media away, and we don’t want them too because then Trump, Ajit Pai, etc. get to decide what media is ‘bad media’, and they won’t decide it’s the Sinclair Group.

  5. Your blog introduced me to Russell Moore, and that’s much appreciated (although, now I keep getting them confused: Russell Moore, Roy Moore, and Roger Moore, oh my!)

    I’m not a Christian and yet I deeply respect people like Moore who actually try to live by Christ’s principles. I’m impressed that despite the vitriol that’s been directed at him by other evangelicals, he’s still managed to maintain a positive voice exhorting people’s better angels rather than just chastising people for their moral failings. I doubt I’d be so patient myself…

    I really liked his recent article about how ludicrous the bumper sticker “If Jesus had a gun, he’d be alive today” really is:
    https://www.russellmoore.com/2017/12/11/37949/
    (tldr: Jesus actually *is* alive today. And he *wanted* to be crucified for our sins. He had the entire power of God and legions of angels on his side. Do you really think he needed a gun if he wanted to fight his crucifixion?)

    That’s the type of stuff that makes me shake my head about evangelicals, and I’m glad someone as thoughtful as Moore is pointing out a better way.

      1. Mario Cuomo, the late, great gov. of New York, used to tell a joke about the difference between politicians and normal people: During a close election, a politician went to the Devil and asked him for help winning the election. The Devil told him “I’ll help you win this election, and in fact every election for the rest of your life. You’ll become the most powerful man in the world, but in exchange, you have to give me your soul.” The politician paused for a moment and thought hard about what the Devil said. Finally, he spoke. He asked the Devil, “What’s the catch?”

        Saying politicians like Sasse make a faustian bargain insults Dr. Faustus. He at least placed *some* value on his soul…

      2. Ha! Ted Cruz is working his Evangelical base hard. He’s signed on in support of the new Religious Freedom Broadcast Organization that is fighting “suppression of conservative, religious ideas” on the internet; and he lobbied successfully, for the addition of a voucher for k-12 to be added to the Tax Cut bill. Just in time for mid-terms….Guess Cruz has done the math and figures there are more Evangelicals in TX than there are public school teachers…

        http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Religious-conservatives-embraces-Cruz-tax-break-12439883.php

    1. Totally agree about Russell Moore. He is 100% right but unfortunately a voice in the wilderness right now. Some of the evangelicals are making noise about their “brand” getting damaged, but they’re still not getting it, if you applied their stated standards to them.

      The bottom line is that Trump is a defiantly unrepentant sinner, he’s not sorry about anything on his long list of rotten, selfish greedy, bullying deeds, he’s making zero effort to clean up his act, and any Christian who tries to rationalize that away exceeds my hypocrisy tolerances.

  6. I think this Rolling Stones piece is timely. May I also point out that this idea – pushing a bold, progressive agenda instead of “centering positions”, is exactly what was so appealing to Bernie’s supporters. I don’t try to change Republicans’ minds; I don’t apologize for my positions; and I don’t care what other people think about this choice. Republicans have been rubbing our faces in their trash for a very long time. I’m not having it. Sell that crap to someone else. I’ll say one thing for living in TX and being a progressive Democrat – it toughens you and that is fine with me.

    https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/democrats-have-momentum-heres-how-they-could-lose-it-w514204?

  7. It just boggles the mind! These guys do not even hide their contempt for the public behind closed doors! Corker switches his vote after they add a kicker to his wealth, a huge tax cut for him and Trump, not to mention kushner!
    This is really depressing! And next week Republicans will all be saying we have to cut food stamps and medicaid because of the deficits!

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/taxbreak-addition-needed-for-votes-cornyn_us_5a3708d8e4b0ff955ad42cb4?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

      1. Yes, and there’s a lot less than meets the eye in Sen. Rubio’s addition to the child tax credit. Because it’s a tax credit, it does nothing for people who don’t owe Federal income tax. Remember, that’s 47% of people.

      2. There were several late “deals” struck to secure votes: the child tax credit expansion; keeping tuition assistance non-taxable; retaining extreme medical deductions; and the real sly one – the special treatment for people who are real estate investors/developers (Think – Corker, Trump)…These are the ones I “know” about….Question is: What is the “pay for”? What does this do to the deficit? Will the temporary tax deductions roll off sooner to balance the numbers for Reconciliation eligibility? Will this bill be scored by CBO before it’s voted upon? Fundamentally, we really don’t know what is in this bill – no public hearings allowed.

        I totally am convinced that when the “real, final) numbers come out, as has been suggested by many, this will flag entitlements as the pay-for….I also believe this is why P.Ryan is saying he’s retiring after 2018…He won’t get elected dog-catcher if he follows through with his pledge to cut entitlements. Clearly, entitlements need to be studied and changes made to extend their lives, but that is not what I think Republicans have in mind. I also don’t support giving tax cuts to the wealthy while you’re cutting the safety net and beyond.

        May I remind all, that the Freedom Caucus has been silent (publicly), and the Debt Ceiling must be raised (or not) by Friday.

        Elections have consequences.

      3. The attack on entitlements will probably be done as part of the Fiscal 2019 Budget. That will enable the Republican Congressional leadership to figure out some method so the desired entitlement spending (particularly Medicare) reductions can be done using the reconciliation procedures to avoid the filibuster. Even doing that will be very difficult as the R’s will have only a 1-seat majority in 2019 unless there is another big shock.

        In previous comments, I have ranted about reconciliation being abused. I believe reconciliation procedures were originally developed to enable enactment of budget adjustments required due to unforeseen developments after the original budget resolution was passed without having to go through an extensive legislative process and being subjected to the filibuster . It was not intended to to bypass the legislative process for major policy decisions. Through the years, the reconciliation process has been modified under both parties so that the scope of legislation permitted under reconciliation has increased. But the Republican’s have been the party that consistently pushed the limits and have used reconciliation far more than the Democrats. Never has the process been abused as the Republican leadership in the 115th Congress has.

        The Republicans keep harping that the Democrats used Reconciliation to pass the ACA. That is only partially true. The ACA itself was passed under regular order. Reconciliation was used to pass some modifications to the ACA, that were required for various reasons. Once again the Republicans are stretching the truth, perhaps to the breaking point.

        This is just an example of the way the Congressional Rules are being abused and why I have stated that they need to be changed. I am not a fan of the filibuster. But IMO, if the leadership had used regular order for either the ACA repeal attempt or the tax reform bill, including public committee hearings and markups, neither bill would have reached the floor of either House, certainly not in the form they did. The filibuster would have probably not been an issue under regular order. But the leadership knew this so they resorted to the unilateral procedure that was used.

  8. I hadn’t had heard of Been Sasse until your People to Watch post. I assumed that some of your experience within the actual Republican party gave you better insight for sorting between the usual hearts and minds conservative propaganda* and the people who actually have ideas driven by responsibility and ethics, but over the last year I have watched you pivot away from such distinctions, which must have been painful, but it’s for the better.

    In all honesty I looked up Sasse’s Twitter after you referred him and found the same fat-necked old white man factory-pressed in wherever Republicans mint them (I’m pretty sure Alaska, hence the constant blanching and the always thin hair). I couldn’t tell what you were seeing in him.

    Will be interesting to see your People to Watch post this next year. I certainly will be watching them.

    * note that just because it’s propaganda doesn’t mean they don’t personally believe in their own hearts and minds. These people truly think ‘conservative’ is a set of principles regardless of their complete lack of them.

    1. The only comment I have is a true Alaskan would have nothing to do with someone like Ben Sasse. But generally Alaska does not send true Alaskans to Congress, even though they pretend to be true Alaskans. Murkowski is as close as they come, and she sold out. I am sure that the factory pressed Republican is manufactured somewhere else.

  9. I imagine the people to watch in 2018 will be McConnell, Ryan and of course, the puppet tyrant. I don’t see Chris’ retainer class stepping forward to lead the revolution when Mueller’s investigation is stopped (Cornyn today says the only way any results will be valid is if they exonerate the current regime).

    No, I see the tyranny continuing. Every day I think we are that much closer to the slowest moving coup being complete, and any pretense of democracy washed away when SCOTUS ratifies voter suppression, with the 2020 elections being put into serious doubt of happening at all.

    1. Dinsdale, take a chill pill (or two or three if need be) and have some faith in the greatest legal and prosecutorial minds this country has to offer. There’s no conceivable way Mueller and his team aren’t five steps ahead of anything and everything that Trump Kong and his ragtag team of banana throwing dimwits might think of to try and impede and/or stop the investigation.

      1. Ryan, ignoring what Schiff said this weekend, what odds do you place on this regime either firing Mueller outright or bogging him down with stonewalling tactics and a second special counsel to undermine Mueller’s work?

        And also, what do you see as the odds of the puppet tyrant simply pardoning flynn and any others charged with federal crimes (yes, I know that this regime has little control over state-based charges).

        I completely agree with you that the Mueller team is light-years ahead in intelligence, discipline, strategy, and tactics. But when the other side has shown the willingness to ignore all precedent, has the support of the House and the Senate behind it, plus three separate propaganda wings (fox, breitbart, sinclair), and is clearly willing to use the DoJ as a weapon, Mueller’s team can be stopped easily enough.

      2. Trump may yet pull a Saturday Night Massacre like Nixon and fire Mueller, but if he *did* do that, consider that his political end. Assuming too much, some might reasonably point out? Not at all, and here’s why:

        https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/12/14/poll-most-people-disapprove-of-trumps-russia-ties/

        As of right now, 4 in 10 Americans believe that Trump’s acted illegally in coordination with Russia, and at least 3 in 10 more believe that he’s acted at least unethically. In addition to that, a whopping 68% of Americans disapprove of the way that he’s responded to the investigation.

        Those are terrible numbers in and of themselves, but if Trump actually went nuclear and torpedoed Mueller, the floor would absolutely fall out and ’18 would turn into a political bloodbath for the GOP (which it may well anyways). Democrats would take back the House, likely take back the Senate, and their very first act would be to reauthorize Mueller as special counsel within a political minute.

        Trump’s between a rock and a hard place right now with no good options, and that’s precisely why so-called ‘conservative’ media and all the rest are engaged in a desperate ploy to delegitimize Mueller and the FBI, specifically *because* Trump can’t go that route.

  10. I am so glad you realize Ben Sasse is a total fraud. It’s also very encouraging what you realized about the abortion argument in the Alabama Senate race. I volunteered for (thanks to black people) senator-elect Doug Jones. Being on the ground there I can tell you with absolute certainty all the people who said they only voted for Moore because of abortion, would have voted for him if Jones was pro-life. They were always going to emotionally get to a place where they were comfortable voting for (and they all know, deep down this is a fact, I’m a southerner and I know when they are lying) a pedophile

  11. Ben Sasse’s (and others) niceness attitude relates to a couple of issues in the news today, sexual harassment and the gay baker case in front of the Supreme Court. What Frederick Douglass said in 1857 is relevant here: “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.”

  12. I paid attention to Avik Roy precisely because of your introduction and because of my interest in the health care issue. I had hoped he would offer a balanced perspective (choice of writers, his own analysis) etc., but was disappointed on all points. On one of my visits to Rep. Brady’s Conroe field office, when I mentioned his name to staff, they were so excited to note how much help he had been to Brady. That told me everything I needed to know about where his real interests were. I follow his Apothecary series but I don’t expect much balance from it.

    1. I read approximately 50% of his white paper on health care and set it aside. I realized that it would not provide reasonable affordable health care for the 99%. I’ve not been seriously tempted to go back.\

      The most influential reading for me on health care was “The Healing of America” by T.R. Reid, recommended by Mary. That plus the recent “debate” on health care, has convinced me that the only acceptable solution for America is a single payer system similar to Canada. While theoretically a Bismarckian (highly regulated insurance companies) system similar to Germany, and that prevalent in Continental Europe would work, the necessary governmental regulation and mandate that everyone have insurance, is not acceptable in America. Far better an entitlement system such as Medicare or Social Security. Even that is being attacked.

      BTW, I placed debate in quotation marks above because it was not really a debate. Rather it was more like the rich donors and the R’s trying to force something through Congress, but enough people rebelled that they were barely unsuccessful. That does not appear to be the case with the Tax Bill.

      1. There would have been a debate on the tax bill had the process evolved through regular order. When you’re not invited to the back room where the bill is being written, there are no committee hearings where bi-partisan discussion can occur, where only “key” lobbying groups are invited to offer their input – NO, there is no debate. Which I know you understand, but it is such a flagrant abuse of the democratic process that it’s mind-boggling.

      2. That is precisely the point. The Republicans are terrified of an honest debate, because they know that their policies will not survive. So they refuse to use regular order, abuse reconciliation rules, refuse to allow alternative opinions and generally use every trick of which they can dream. In plain English, they have turned Congress into a kangaroo legislature and use authoritarian measures. They even resort to outright bribery like they did with Corker and did on the floor of the House during the Bush II administration.

        As I said in the previous thread, the R’s have effectively done away with the filibuster, by abusing the reconciliation rules. They refuse to do it openly because of the bad PR, so they do it underhandedly.

    2. When I’d first heard about Mr. Roy in the Vox piece, the one in which he’d openly come to terms with Republicans’ deal with the devil and their open descent into racial politics, I had at least *some* hope that he might be an honest, open voice of conscience that would speak truth to power. Since then, what has this so-called “intellectual” been on the issue? Crickets, that’s what; instead opting to become little more than a mouth piece for conservative talking points on healthcare and not much else. I can barely even stand to listen to the man anymore when he *damn* well knows better than what he says.

      What a disgusting waste of talent and insight.

      1. I also was interested in Roy’s work. His stubborn contrarianism with regard to CBO projections was interesting, but fringy, but much worse on its face was his minimizing of the rushed, sloppy nature of the tax bill process (“The Declaration of Independence was written by hand” or somesuch).

        I still have a high opinion still of his one his affiliates, Scott Winship, but I won’t be extending trust to Avik for a long time.

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