Republicans claiming victory over the imminent passage of their tax bill should understand the limits of that victory. They got a policy victory, not a political one. They haven’t done anything that will assuage the voters’ dissatisfaction with Congress.
According to a Quinnipiac Poll, only 29% of voters approve of the plan while 53% disapprove of it. A plurality of voters, 41%, believe it will increase their taxes while only 20% believe it will lower them. By 22 points, independent voters believe the plan benefits the rich at the expense of the middle class. Only Republicans disagree with that assessment. Passing the tax plan isn’t likely to help Republicans next November any more than passing Obamacare helped Democrats back in 2010.
The poll indicates the hyper-partisan nature of the electorate with Democrats and Republicans mirror opposites on almost every position, but independents are largely siding with Democrats. Donald Trump’s approval rating is underwater 58% to 35%. Only Republicans give him good marks and they approve by 82% to 11%. The generic Congressional ballot favors Democrats by 14% with independents choosing Democrats by a margin of 44% to 36%. The political environment is bad for the GOP and the tax bill may be hurting, not helping.
On less overtly political issues, independents side with Democrats, too. By a margin of 43% to 36%, independents say Democrats more closely share their values. Only 16% of Republicans believe having more women elected officials would make the country better off. Sixty-five percent of Democrats and 42% of independents believe it. Only 26% of Republicans believe the Russians interfered in the elections while 85% of Democrats and 58% of independents do.
And Gallup says the number of people who identify as Republican is falling. Since the election last November, the number of people who consider themselves Republican dropped from 42% to 37% in monthly averages. Self-identified Democrats or Democrat leaning independents has held steady at 45%. So Republicans aren’t just losing the support of independents, they’re losing the support of Republicans.
The polling news isn’t getting better for Republicans. The political environment favors Democrats and the GOP is losing support of independents. While the GOP donors and establishment can celebrate their tax plan, they’ll need to pass something next year to offset the negative response to it.
Democrats, for their part, should take a long view and see if they can welcome disaffected Republicans and Republican-leaning independents into the fold. They have an opportunity to rebuild their shattered party but they’ll need to acknowledge that they need to make room moderates, especially in districts where more progressive Democrats can’t win. Otherwise, they’ll score a victory next November but probably won’t be able to build the broad-based coalition necessary to govern for a sustainable period.