The Senate passed a tax reform bill early Saturday that gave Republicans a rare legislative victory amid a recent famine of achievements.
The bill was passed on a strict party-line, with no Democrats casting a vote for it.
Like all major legislative packages that come before Congress, there was a lot of heated rhetoric voiced against it before its passage. Tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the poor. Puts America further into debt. It won’t help our economy at all, etc.
These are all typical complaints about Republican tax plans. But what was unusual was the reaction to the passage of the bill by many prominent liberals.
Judging by these responses, you would’ve thought the GOP had just enacted the forced resettlement of all millennials into gulags.
“America died tonight,” bemoaned liberal journalist Kurt Eichenwald on Twitter. “Economic suicide adopted to feed the insatiable greed of donors, who have been refusing to dole out $ to GOP until they got their tax cuts. Voters fooled by propaganda and tribal hatred. Millenials: move away if you can. USA is over. We killed it.”
That tweet netted over 17k retweets and nearly 35k likes.
“And that’s it. By a vote of 51-49, taken at nearly 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning, the U.S. Senate has just voted to gut the U.S. tax code, with implications for every American,” tweeted progressive meteorologist Eric Holthaus. “A bunch of old white men are applauding as democracy dies in the darkness.”
Holthaus followed up that upbeat tweet with a call for revolutionary action. “$1.5 trillion over 10 years could have launched a full-scale assault on climate change, a transformation of our economy to put us on a path to solving this century’s biggest problem. Instead, it will go straight to the bank accounts of the ultra-wealthy. Take to the streets.”
Both tweets earned over a thousand retweets and several thousand likes.
“Is there any going back after this #TaxBillScam? To America? Does it matter now if Trump is impeached? There’s no America now. Not the one we knew. Sorry, feeling real despair this morning,” lamented comedian Patton Oswalt following the passage of the tax bill.
That tweet earned over a thousand retweets and over 11k likes.
Disgruntled Republican political strategist Bruce Bartlett went on MSNBC Saturday to declare the tax cuts were a “rape” of lower-income Americans.
But the hottest take of them all came from Father James Martin, a communications official for the Vatican.
“The US will soon face the consequences of a #TaxBill that takes money from the poor to give to the rich. Those who voted for it will face consequences later, when they are judged. Do you think Jesus’s words about being judged on how we care for the poor don’t apply? Think again,” Martin tweeted.
That threat of eternal damnation for cutting the corporate tax rate earned over 8k retweets and over 20k likes.
You could say that these folks are only some cranky outliers while the rest of the bill’s opponents stayed level-headed and very reasonable in their critiques of the bill. But that notion is belied by the thousands of people who were retweeting and liking these insane statements.
They also represent how the Left argues against issues. Remember that the favored argument against the GOP’s replacement for Obamacare was that it would literally kill thousands of Americans.
For the tax bill, some liberals argued in full seriousness that it would kill hundreds of Americans because the reform package makes alcohol cheaper.
There are a lot of credible critiques to be made against the tax reform package, but viewing it as the assassin of American democracy and the enslaver of poor people are not among them.
However, those hyperbolic arguments not rooted in reality make for more powerful rhetoric than debating the nitty gritty of corporate tax rates. Saying a bill will lead to a fascist takeover by old white men is much more emotionally gratifying than arguing over why the economy isn’t hurt by a high corporate tax rate.
It was the same situation with the health care bill when Democrats warned Republicans were trying to liquidate thousands of people.
These arguments don’t lead to civil discussion, but they do activate the progressive base and reaffirm steadfast opposition to Republican policies. Many liberals and centrists may bemoan the loss of civility before the onslaught of Trumpism, yet they are as equally guilty of poisoning public rhetoric themselves.
Mr. Civil Centrist Joe Scarborough took time this weekend away from complaining about how both sides won’t work together to spread fake news about Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch not caring if kids die.
There are a few lessons for Republicans to draw from the hysteria surrounding the tax bill. For starters, hopes that a return to civility anytime soon are severely misguided and should be discarded.
After Republican congressmen were shot at during baseball practice and one representative, Steve Scalise, nearly died, both Republicans and Democrats said they hoped the violence would encourage both sides to be more civil. A week later, Democrats went straight back to calling Republicans murderous racists. (RELATED: Republicans Delude Themselves With Demands For More Civility)
There is nothing to be gained by wishing for civility’s restoration outside of a few bad faith retweets from liberal pundits.
The more important lesson for Republicans to learn is the need to create captivating arguments for their policies that can appeal to people’s emotions. Their opposition knows exactly what they’re doing when they warn of democracy ending and people dying. It trumps any boring argument put forward about the percentage of economic growth that will take place with tax cuts.
Republicans managed to get a victory on tax reform, but they lost bigly on health care due to their inability to make appealing arguments to the public. Hopefully, the hyperbole of their political foes convince them to sharpen up when it comes to time to pushing the RAISE Act through Congress.