Happy New Year. I’m not going to make any predictions for 2018. After the election of Donald Trump, I no longer trust my predictive abilities. Instead, I’ll try to point out some things that will be happening over the next 12 months.
First, at the national level, Trump will continue to dominate social media and headlines. The Mueller investigation into Russian tampering and the Trump campaign will continue to play large. We’ll probably spend part of the year on the brink of a constitutional crisis, waiting for Trump to fire the special counsel as the investigation gets closer to the White House.
Republicans in Congress start the year feeling their oats. After a sputtering and embarrassing start to 2017, they ended it with a bang by passing tax reform. The legislation is highly unpopular right now, but the GOP believes they can sell it to Americans.
It might be harder than Mitch McConnell and company believe. Tax reform may have been on the minds of Republican donors and conservative ideologues, but it wasn’t a top priority of most voters. Health care, dissatisfaction with government, racism and immigration are all more important to voters than taxes.
Democrats could botch the debate by claiming the bill raises taxes on most people when, in fact, most people will get a small tax break, at least in the short term. Their argument should be that the tax bill has little impact on middle class families while blowing a hole in the budget and giving a windfall to the wealthiest Americans. That’s the truth of the matter and that’s believable.
Trump’s spat with the North Koreans is getting scary and something will have to be resolved this year. Lindsey Graham put the prospect of a pre-emptive strike against the Hermit Kingdom at 30% and 70% if they test another nuke. Military advisors say they don’t see a diplomatic option at this point. The whole affair underscores why we need confidence in our leaders’ mental stability.
Now that Republicans have returned to massive deficit spending, they’re about to tell us that we need to make cuts to pay for those tax cuts that benefited their donors. Look for some sort attempt to cut Medicare and reduce Social Security benefits. Rest assured, they won’t ask the wealthy to pay more to close the deficit. They’ll take from services that help the poorest among us–those with the least political clout.
Congress will need to address DACA, the program that allows undocumented immigrants brought here as children to stay in the country, by March 8. If not, we could see massive deportations of young people, many of whom have no memory of their country of origin. I suspect they’ll work out a deal but we could see a lot of drama leading up the deadline.
While Republicans are feeling better after passing their tax bill, Democrats are preparing for an electoral wave in November. They have candidates in all 20 Republican held seats in Congress. The election of Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama and wins in Virginia have the party energized. They have little reason to give Republicans any help on legislation since voters overwhelmingly are holding the GOP responsible for everything happening in Washington.
In North Carolina, we’ll finally get our legislative districts resolved. The court is hearing arguments to determine whether to use the maps Republicans drew this past summer or use ones drawn by the so-called special master. Since Republicans seemed to thumb their noses at the court and brought back their gerrymandering expert to draw the maps, I suspect the court will use those drawn by the master. That would be better for Democrats. If the judges rule that way, expect the GOP to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The GOP will also try to insert more partisanship into the court system. They have a bill floating that would make every judge in the state’s term expire in 2018 and then run in gerrymandered districts. They’ve already shrunk the Court of Appeals to get rid of some Democrats. Now, they want to get rid some more judges, especially since the state had the audacity to elect a Democrat to the Supreme Court in 2018.
We’ve seen this behavior throughout the GOP’s tenure in NC. They’ve redistricted county boards of commission and school boards to rig them more for Republicans. Now, they’re doing it to judges. They’re quite simply undermining the electoral process for partisan gain. That’s authoritarian.
And Republican tax cuts are going to lead to a budget shortfall this year. Instead of asking the people who have fully recovered from the recession to pay more, the North Carolina GOP will say we need to cut more services that protect the poor and help the middle class. Cooper will ask for more revenue but he won’t get it from the folks with veto proof majorities.
The election in Virginia House of Delegates energized an already excited electorate. Democrats are having a banner recruiting year for legislative candidates and they already have competitors for all the Congressional seats. Expect May to have some interesting primaries and expect Democrats to stay energized. It’s a Blue Moon election with nothing on top of the ticket in North Carolina. The side with the most energy wins these elections. The last one was 2006, a Democratic wave year. The one before that was 1994, a GOP wave election. November could bring big changes to our politics.
That’s what I see off the top of my head. It should be an interesting year.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >