Democrats Don't Have a Messaging Problem on Tax Reform. They Have a Reality Problem.

Posted: Feb 21, 2018 10:45 AM
Democrats Don't Have a Messaging Problem on Tax Reform. They Have a Reality Problem.

This is about as clean a political win as you're going to see these days, so Republicans are absolutely right to be pressing their advantage.  They've earned it.  They withstood weeks of withering and punishing demagoguery from Democrats and much of the press -- which also happened to be highly inaccurate and laughably hyperbolic -- and ultimately stuck together to pass a controversial and unpopular bill.  The legislation would hurt the middle class and bring about the apocalypse, Democrats argued.  Republicans countered that their plan would actually benefit the vast majority of American taxpayers and help US businesses.  The Republicans were right.  As people began to witness a parade of companies shelling out tax reform bonuses, stepping up employee benefits, boosting hourly wages, reducing prices for consumers, and expanding operations, support for the once-disliked law bounced dramatically, sailing 20 points northward across a swath of polling.  Democrats' fear-mongering was being shredded in real time, by indisputable and unspinnable events.  

But then the second shoe dropped: Tens of millions of workers looking at their paychecks and noticing a bump in their income, thanks to the very tax cuts Democrats insisted wouldn't help average people.  The succeeding law's political opponents thus began desperately flailing, dismissing bonuses and wage increases as "crumbs" and even mocking lower-income workers for being so stupid as to appreciate their own modest tax breaks.  The result, as Matt covered yesterday, has been another extraordinary surge in the new law's popularity:

Republicans now strongly back the plan, with Democratic opposition softening noticeably, but the real story is  independents -- whose support has spiked from the mid-30's to an outright majority.  Overall, between December and January, favorable views of tax reform gained 18 net points in the New York Times' survey series.  It jumped from deeply unfavorable to just shy of even.  The new February poll shows a majority in support of the plan, representing a net jump of eight additional points.  That's a massive 26-point swing in less than two months.  And I'd note that people are still in the process of discovering their tax cuts.  Even in this most recent Times survey, just 33 percent of respondents believe they'll see an income tax cut.  The truth, determined by nonpartisan analyses is that the overwhelming majority of taxpayers will see a reduction this year.  Some uncomfortable truths for each party:

I do enjoy this line in the Times' write-up of their poll: "Democrats have done little to counter the Republican messaging and concede it has had an effect."  How amusing.  Democrats did everything they possibly could to counter Republican messaging, screaming about Frankenstein monsters and the end of the planet.  It's events that have allowed Republican messaging to take hold.  Democrats tried and failed to slay an imaginary dragon, convincing many that the dragon was real.  But post-passage, "Republican messaging" is effectively synonymous with "reality."  The dragon is being exposed as fiction.  The most satisfying part of all of this is that the Left's over-the-top, expectations-setting rhetoric has undoubtedly helped the GOP policy, due to the "pleasantly surprised" factor.  Which is why the aforementioned flailing is getting even dumber.  Let's check in with the Dems' ace messaging guru:

Keep talking, Nancy.  No, really.  GOP leaders are correctly spiking the football, with Paul Ryan exuberantly highlighting the Times survey ("defying the skeptics" is a polite way of putting it), and Senate Republicans shining a spotlight on their Democratic colleagues' grave miscalculation.  This is the correct approach, not only because it's gratifying to point out how spectacularly wrong Democrats were about the consequences of the GOP policy (perhaps this lesson can be applied to healthcare reform, too), but because every story that highlights simple facts about the freshly-implemented policy pushes public support for the law even higher.  I'll leave you with this: