Through various timing gimmicks, the GOP tax bill tries to maximize profits from voters and donors. For voters, many of the tax cuts will end in a few years. The benefits for most voters will be minor.
On the other hand, the wealthy and business will see immediate and permanent benefits. As many have pointed out, provisions like the “Corker Kickback” will also personally enrich GOP Congressional members and the Trumps.
To counter Trumptax, Democrats will have to be strategic, focused, and bold.
Democrats plan to launch a full-scale “assault” on the tax bill over the next year. However, the battle should not end in 2018; it should be the first of a three-stage attack to gut the tax bill.
Timing for 2018
For Democrats to prevail in this messaging battle, they must be clear about the tax bill’s impact.
Two simple messages might resonate with voters. First, Democrats could put the tax bill’s impact on debt in per capita terms. A focus on personal debt burden could be particularly meaningful for youth and parents.
Second, Democrats should press individual GOP candidates at every occasion on how much they have personally benefited from the tax cuts. If Democrats are too polite to do this, hopefully media will investigate and pose penetrating questions.
Of course, if Republicans are stupid enough to go after entitlements in 2018, that would also present excellent ads for Democrats. Imagine a commercial contrasting the benefits for the wealthy with cuts for seniors or children.
Timing for 2019
Initially, it seemed as if Democrats faced a challenging November 2018 electoral landscape. Though the outlook is rosier now, by the time of the 2018 midterms, a lot can change.
In 2019, the strategy might have to change for Democrats if they are unable to wrest control of the Congress. They may have to publicize and block the GOP measures aimed at cutting services to the poor and middle class.
If Democrats prevail and control Congress in 2019, they will have to contend with a wounded Trump. Conscious of re-election realities, he might be willing to compromise to scale back some of the tax cuts.
Timing for 2020
By 2020, the Presidential election will be on everyone’s minds.
Democrats should force Trump to release his tax returns so voters can see the impact of the tax cuts on his income. Democratic-controlled states should make it a condition for presidential candidates to release their returns.
Further, if by 2020 the rosy forecasts of the Trump-GOP tax cuts’ impact on the economy don’t materialize, Democrats should pound relentlessly on this theme.
However, Democrats should not just focus on the negative. Candidates must put together plans to “repeal and replace” the tax bill. These measures should be designed to be simple and draw independent support.
In sum, whether the Democrats are fighting a Republican Congress in 2018 and 2019, or Trump/Pence in 2020, winning messages will vary according to timing.